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Sold a pup by Shatter’s dismissal of the anomalies in the GSOC bugging saga

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World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Unlike a loaf of bread from Griffin’s Bakery the weekly political column isn’t whisked out of the oven just before the Connacht goes to press every week. It’s more in the Delia Smith style of ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’.

Sometimes you are caught out by timing. Colm Keaveney’s decision to join Fianna Fáil was a case in point, coming just a little too late after this column was written to be commented upon.

Journalists hate when their newsdesks sit on exclusive stories they have or when editors delay in order to give them a good display. There is always the chance that one of their rivals will nip in first or the story will get overtaken by events.

Of course, that is all becoming a bit moot with the demands of online consumers for everything to be immediate. Tomorrow morning is an eternity away.

The demands of the deadline have demanded in the past that journalists have been forced to report on events that had not yet occurred as if they had already taken place – in the past tense. The reason? The event had not taken place by the time their deadline came but the publication hit the streets after the event was over. Usually in those situations, journalists have written ‘at the time of going to press’ to show it hadn’t yet happened when they wrote it but giving as last-minute an update as they could muster.

In extremis, journalists have taken the chance and reported on an event as if it had already taken place. I remember a long time ago writing for the Galway City Tribune that a funeral had taken place on the Friday morning (the morning we went to press). Later the photographer Joe O’Shaughnessy came in and said “haven’t you heard, that funeral was called off”.

Cue, shock and panic on my part. Joe was merely slagging, but also making a point.

The best known example in recent years is Toby Harmden of the Telegraph’s report on Saddam Hussein’s ‘execution’. The piece was straight enough and gave a very straightforward account of a very conventional execution. Problem was that he had written it up beforehand and the execution was anything but straightforward and conventional, with the event being videod as the executioners hurled coarse insults at the former Iraqi dictator.

That’s all a lead-up to saying that last week’s column was the victim of slightly unfortunate timing. It was written on Tuesday evening after Minister for Justice Alan Shatter had spoken in the Dáil but before one of the three Garda Ombudsman commissioners, Kieran Fitzgerald, had responded on RTÉ’s Prime Time.

When I heard Shatter give his account to the Dáil, my only reaction was ‘puff of smoke’ and “that story is over”. He quickly trotted though his account of the three breaches and described them all as if they were the most innocuous things in the world, completely explained away by innocent explanations.

But Fitzgerald gave an account on Prime Time that night that was the polar opposite of what Shatter had said. To listen to both accounts was almost like listening to outlines of two different events.

Anyway, my whole column last week was based on a wholesale acceptance of what Shatter had said in the Dáil (naive on my part, mea culpa, mea culpa). As it happened I was on Vincent Browne’s programme on TV3 that night and had a chance to go through everything that Fitzgerald had said. With a sinking feeling I guessed that I had been sold a pup.

And so that’s why I am begging your indulgence to retread that ground this week and look at all that was not said by Shatter, the omissions that made a material difference.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Housing policy can make or break Fianna Fáil’s future

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Faded glory...the Corrib Great Southern Hotel.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

When you approach Galway City from the east, you come across it as soon as you clear Merlin Park – standing out like a sore thumb; a sentinel warning us that buildings like humans fall victim to the ravages of time and to fortune.

The Corrib Great Southern Hotel is the city’s biggest eyesore and has been for many years. It’s a huge hulk of a building; vacant for many years, heavily vandalised, its windows smashed or boarded-up, its once-pristine grounds now overgrown.

Built in 1970, it’s long way away from its heyday when, in an era of optimism, it became the CIE-owned Great Southern Hotel Group’s most modern hotel.

We were kids when it was operating fully and it seemed to be thriving, as a hotel, wedding venue and for dinner dances.

All of that seems a long time ago now. The hotel has been vacant for a hell of a long time (since 2007) and in a way has become a symbol of Galway’s housing crisis.

All the more so because it stands across a roundabout from the gleaming new Garda headquarters and also the wonderfully revamped GMIT.

It’s been due for demolition for a long time and has been on the derelict site register since 2015 – but no action has been taken despite statutory orders on the registered owners.

In one way, the hotel is a symbol of the inertia of successive governments in tackling the housing crisis in Ireland. The inaction in relation to it is replicated across the board in Galway and in all other Irish counties.

The roots of the current housing crisis have its beginnings in the Celtic Tiger years when local authorities stopped developing their own housing and left it to the private market.

A big part of the strategy was Part V housing, where developers had to earmark ten per cent of all new developments for social housing.

The second hammer blow was the recession. When the money ran out after 2009, one of the first casualties was capital funding for housing.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Labour’s awakenings will take time to reap any real reward

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Passing of the baton...Michael D Higgins with his successor Derek Nolan at the Galway West count at Leisureland.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The film Awakenings was based on the experience of the psychiatrist Oliver Sacks with patients who had contracted a disease called encephalitis lethargica during and shortly after World War I.

Thousands contracted it around the world. How they got it has remained a mystery but it could have been connected to the Spanish Flu outbreak at the time.

It essentially left them in a catatonic state, sleeping, unmoving, like zombies for decades. By the time Sacks came across a group of them in New York, they were all residents of an institution called the Beth Abrams Home for the Incurable.

That did not leave much to the imagination. Some of these people had been essentially sleeping for over 40 years.

He experimented with a drug called L-dopa, which had been used successfully for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.

The effect was extraordinary; the drug was like an electric shock that jolted the patients back to life and to sentient existence.

The ‘miracle’ had its drawbacks, however. After a while, it became difficult to control the patients as they became increasingly manic. Ultimately a tough decision was taken to withdraw the drug and the patients relapsed into their catatonic states.

All of that is a bit of a stretched way of saying ‘flash in the pan’, but life sometimes teaches us that success can be very temporary indeed.

There is a long pattern in Irish politics, for example, of a winner in a by-election going on to win a seat in the subsequent general election. However, less than six months after winning a by-election in Wexford, Malcolm Byrne of Fianna Fáil got turfed out in the general election.

Look at it the other way. Sinn Féin were the big losers of the 2019 local elections but turned the ship around completely less than nine months later. The lesson to be learned is success or failure is never a permanent phenomenon in politics.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Changing political landscape fast becoming Double Dutch

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Big winner...Ivan Bacik after her by-election victory.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Holland is so used to enduring a perennial political log-jam – where every election just digs you deeper and deeper into a rut – that they’ve actually come up with their own name for it.

It’s called Dutchification – when society has become so urbanised, and globalised, and fragmented, and lacking cohesion, that no party, or parties, can expect to win any more.

The former RTÉ journalist Peter Cluskey wrote a very interesting article last week about this continued electoral limbo they have in Holland, where he’s been based for many years.

And truth be told, the same is happening here; the day of overall majorities is long gone.

We have gone from having two large parties to having three medium sized ones (and with the demise of Fianna Fáil it could even by two medium sized ones, or one large and one medium).

The reality is that it will be difficult for the foreseeable future for any two parties to form a coalition, and it could be difficult for any three parties to do the same.

The old fealties to the three long-established parties have been blown out of the water.

The biggest pool of voters now has no permanent loyalty. They are the floaters.

And there is a growing ‘none of the above’ contingent too, possibly spurred on by the cynicism, empty populism and downright lies, of social media.

They will vote for a party that opposes the government. And once that party they support goes into government, they immediately withdraw their support for it. Short of coming up for an elixir that guarantees everlasting joyous life, these voters will never support a party in government.

I know it sounds cynical but if you talk to enough people around the country – as I always try to do – the person with a deeply cynical disposition and a hate of politicians is no longer a rarity.

Sinn Féin is the growing party at the moment and – from this vantage point – looks like it will be in government for the next spin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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