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Bradley Bytes

‘Sorry’ easy to say when Mayoral chain is on line

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Best of friends again: Frank Fahy and Padraig Conneely, pictured celebrating their election to Galway City Council back in May, have kissed and made-up after a recent row.

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to give you some insight into how politics works.  And in particular, we’ll look at the murky world of electing a city mayor.

You could be forgiven for thinking that mayors are elected on merit.

That city councillors are bestowed the honour of first citizen because their colleagues, who elected them, think they’re the right man or woman for the high profile job.

Not a bit of it.

Mayoral elections are the underbelly of local politics; the carbuncle on the backside of local politics.

They’re all about back-scratching and dirty horse-trading.

After local elections, a majority of councillors from different parties and none, club together to form a ruling pact. This pact decides who becomes mayor for the next five years; they divvy up the spoils.

Those who don’t get a mayoral chain, might get deputy mayor, or chair of a committee – each position brings prestige, responsibility – which gives them a sense of importance and of course more money.

Regular readers will recall that Fine Gael was to get one mayor out of the five in the pact in the current council. As Pádraig Conneely had already donned the chains, and Sean Walsh and Pearce Flannery were newcomers, Frank Fahy was a shoo-in for the chain.

But then all hell broke loose.

Pádraig got angry with the Oyster Festival tent; Frankeen said he was only mouthing off because Pádraig didn’t get any free tickets to the event.

Pádraig ‘I’m no freeloader’ Conneely took umbrage. Then he got even: apologise or else.

The ‘or else’ implication being that without an apology, Frankeen wouldn’t get Pádraig’s support for mayor; and Pearce Flannery, who has ambition not necessarily matched by ability, would slither into the mayoralty through the back door.

Hell would freeze over, we thought, before Frankeen would apologise. But the pull of the chain proved too much.

And now, in a Bradley Bytes World exclusive, we can confirm Frankeen has apologised. And better still, we have the apology:

“I refer to comments made by me and published in the Galway City Tribune on October 3, 2014 regarding my colleague, Councillor Pádraig Conneely. I wish to unreservedly withdraw those remarks and apologise to Cllr Conneely for any offence caused to him by their publication.

“They were not intended in any way to reflect badly on Cllr Conneely’s good character and reputation, and I regret that they may have been construed in that way.”

In that great old Irish tradition of ‘getting on’ in politics – if you see an arse above you, lick it; a face below you, kick it – Frankeen did a bit of kissing of Pádraig’s rear, and now his elevation to mayor is back on track.

But like Neville Chamberlain hailing the Munich Agreement as “peace in our time”, more storm clouds are gathering in the Fine Gael internal war between Frankeen and Pádraig.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway 2020 defenders’ mortifying muscle memory 

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

It’s amazing how quickly people try to re-write history. If Galway 2020 happened, say, 20 years ago, you could maybe blame fading memory to make allowances for the maroon-tinted glasses of those who defend it to the hilt.

But Galway’s term as European Capital of Culture concluded not 20 weeks ago, and the ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ brigade are out in force with propaganda that would make Donald Trump blush.

The defenders of Galway 2020 usually fall into two categories. There are people who work or worked for the organisation directly or indirectly and/or who contributed to winning the prestigious designation. And there are those who are deluded. Some fall into both categories – deluded and with a vested interest in Galway 2020’s reputation.

It matters not that the latest criticism of the ill-fated – and extremely expensive – project was contained in an official Government report, compiled by an office with impeccable credibility, the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Be it bar-stool commentary or analysis of the CA&G, the reaction to criticism is always the same. The defenders metaphorically stick index fingers in both ears, close their eyes and chant: “Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah”. This would be fine if it wasn’t the taxpayer who’s had to pick up the tab.

It’s like the defenders of Galway 2020 have an inbuilt muscle memory. They’ve spent so long defending Galway 2020 that, no matter what the new charge is, their memory system automatically kicks in.

And while the muscle memory that instinctively compels them to defend is, through repetitive use, as sharp as ever, their actual memories are mortifyingly short. Or maybe they’ve selective memory. Or both.

The few – and they’re getting fewer – who defend Galway 2020 often spout the narrative that but for the Covid-19 pandemic it would’ve been brilliant.

And to a casual observer, someone who never heard of Galway 2020 and its litany of problems from day one, maybe that explanation seems plausible. But the argument does not hold water.

The C&AG last week highlighted how Galway 2020 had planned to raise €6.8 million from the private sector. This figure was used in the bid book to persuade judges to give Galway the designation.

In the end, it managed to raise just €400,000 in cash, plus €500,000 in “in-kind” support.

Defenders’ muscle memory kicked in and they said, “Ah, but the pandemic, how could you raise money during Covid?”.

This deliberately ignores Galway 2020’s own bid book, which promised to raise €4 million from the private sector pre-Covid in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It didn’t materialise, which shows the projected income from businesses was overinflated, or the private sector had reservations about supporting this project long before Covid.

This is just one implied criticism in the C&AG report, which doesn’t even mention the non-appointment of a Business Engagement Director, whose job – if the appointment had proceeded – would’ve been to tap the private sector for money.

Maybe the defenders should read the C&AG report. It might help to de-programme their mortifying muscle memory.

(Photo: The scene at South Park at the same time as the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture opening ceremony).

This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Colette’s cycling ‘cabal’ puts ruling pact in peril 

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Danger here! Galway City councillors, not a month back from summer recess, and already the ruling pact is in peril of falling apart. Or as one wag put it, “it’s in tatters – again!”

Unsurprisingly, plans for a temporary cycle-lane along the Salthill Prom are causing friction.

Or, rather, the decision by the ruling pact – or some members of the ruling pact – to opt not to have a debate about those plans at last Monday week’s Council meeting has caused ructions. The fall-out continues.

Having read the previous Friday’s Galway City Tribune, where journalist Denise McNamara had elicited all 18 Councillors’ views on how they intended to vote on the cycleway motion, Mayor of Galway, Colette Connolly (Ind) called a Zoom meeting of councillors. Not all of them though, just a select few.

It took place prior to the official City Council meeting, but excluded two councillors in the pact – Independents Terry O’Flaherty and Donal Lyons – who had indicated to the Tribune that they would be voting against the Mayor’s motion.

Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab) had splinters lodged in his backside from sitting on the fence when he told the Tribune that he would be abstaining in the vote; he too did not receive an invite to Colette’s cosy cabal.

As it transpired, Terry and Niall voted for the Mayor’s motion, and Donal stuck to his guns and voted against.

What has irked them, though, is they were not invited to the Mayor’s unofficial pact meeting by virtue of the views they had expressed in this newspaper days before the vote.

Former Mayor Mike Cubbard couldn’t make Colette’s cabal but it’s understood the others – Fine Gaelers and Greens – were there. The excluded trio felt that it was decided by the ‘pact within a pact’ to vote for the Mayor’s motion without debate. Not very democratic.

To make matters worse, at least two councillors who are not in the pact – including one from Fianna Fáil – was invited, while the trio who voted for Collette to become Mayor were excluded.

The King of Knocknacarra, Lyons, is miffed and has threatened to walk from the pact. McNelis, who had to hold his nose when backing the former Labour councillor to become First Citizen, confirmed he was considering his position, too.

“I’m deeply, deeply disappointed and I’ll be seriously considering my position with the pact. For a Mayor that preaches to the rest of us about transparency, and about how to run meetings, to turn around and exclude me and others from a meeting; to exclude people who supported her is deeply, deeply disappointing,” McNelis told us.

A bit rich from someone whose loyalty is best summed up by the nickname his colleagues gave him, ‘Three Pacts’. But he has a point. And with Donal nearly overboard, Owen Hanley outside the circle and Niall contemplating his position, the pact is in peril – again!

(Photo: Labour Cllr Níall McNelis who is “deeply, deeply” disappointed’ at being excluded from a meeting organised by Mayor Colette Connolly on the Salthill cycleway debate, says he’ll be “seriously considering” his position in the Council’s ruling pact)

This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council axes arts grants in the ‘Capital of Culture’

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

The amount of money awarded by Galway City Council in arts grants this year has been cut by about 6%.

Some €425,000 was distributed to arts organisations last year, when they were late receiving their cheques.

This year it has been confirmed that the grants will total €400,000 or €25,000 less than in 2020, when Galway held the Capital of Culture title.

Cynics might say that the extra 6% in funding last year was thrown at arts organisations in order to keep them quiet about the delay in distributing the funding.

Now, the local authority has reverted to the pre-2020 figure, not that you’d know from the press release issued by City Hall last week.

Funding to some groups was cut by half. Galway Choral Association is down €1,000 to €1,000; Galway Art Club is down €500 to €500; and An Taibhdhearc is down €1,000 to €1,000.

Brú Theatre lost 33% of its City Council funding, down by €1,000 to €2,000. Druid also took a €1,000 hit and was allocated €28,000 for 2021.

Macnas has suffered the biggest cut – it’s down by €5,000 from €24,000 last year to just €19,000 this year.

It was not all cuts. Westside Arts Festival was among the groups that got more money this year – up €600 to €3,000. But axing the overall allocation of arts grants is not a clever move by the local authority of a city that benefits so much off the backs of artists’ endeavours.

(Photo: Gilgamesh, a Galway 2020 commission by Macnas, which has had its arts grants cut by the City Council).
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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