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Sport and politics will always be a heady mix

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Pat Hickey...when sport and politics collide.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

There are a couple of default positions adopted by political types when they are under the cosh – a bad opinion poll, for example, is invariably followed by a line saying the only poll that matters is the upcoming election. And an incendiary statement? They were quoted out of context.  Then when all else fails, they will cast aspersions on the bona fides of the entire media profession by coming out with a classic like “a newspaper never refused ink”.

One of the most common is the blanket dismissal: “Sports and politics should never be mixed.”

My first recollection of the expression was in 1981 when an Irish rugby team went to South Africa. It created a huge stir in Ireland at the time with ferocious debates between the pro-tour rugby fraternity and the anti-apartheid movement.

Some players pulled out but a lot of the prominent internationals went on the tour, including the likes of Ollie Campbell, Fergus Slattery and Willie Duggan.

The sop the IRFU gave was that there would be seven games and the opposition would be multiracial. Essentially, that meant a token black player for the bigger matches.

A lot of the rugby types came out with the blunderbuss argument that these were just sportsmen going to play rugby. They didn’t care about politics – so cue the inevitable clincher: “Sports and politics should never be mixed together.”

But sport is political – and nothing was more political than the South African team during the apartheid era. It was a symbol of white supremacy and a regime that essentially treated black people as non-persons, or non-existent. Every international team that agreed to play the Springboks back then was giving another piece of legitimacy to the rotten set-up they had there.

So nothing is as political as sport – and the examples are legion.

Scroll back to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Hitler used it to stoke up ultra-nationalist pride and backing for his Nazi regime. He was reportedly furious when the black American sprinter Jesse Owens won the blue riband 100 metre sprint.

During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the basketball game between the US and the USSR during the Olympics became a proxy for the Cold War. Indeed, both super-powers boycotted each other’s Olympic Games over wider political issues.

In 1969, a disputed soccer match was the spark that led to a 100-hour full-blown war between Honduras and El Salvador.

During the Cold War, small countries like East Germany embarked on systematic doping programmes to falsely boost performance levels and make its athletes seem invincible. All of that was part of a complex political endeavour to demonstrate that its political system was superior to all others.

To read Harry’s column in full, please see this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

The only thing Boris Johnson actually believes in is himself

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Boris Johnson...clinging on despite all the odds.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

This is a column that is a little bit about a political question – and a lot about how political leaders manage to cling on to power. The political question is the Northern Protocol, and the leader clinging on – despite all the odds – is, who else, but Boris Johnson.

How he has managed to stay in 10 Downing Street defies all precedent. Many of his predecessors have fallen on their swords for much, much less.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Johnson has careered from crisis to crisis, disaster to disaster. When it was agreed by the EU and the UK, he hailed the Northern Ireland Protocol as a triumph.

As the Prime Minister he ousted, Theresa May, reminded him in the Commons this week when she was speaking of his low stock among international leaders: “Actually, I suspect they are saying to themselves why should they negotiate in detail with a government that shows itself willing to sign an agreement, claim it as a victory, and then try and tear it apart in three years’ time?”

That’s a good question. Johnson is now trying to destroy something he partly created. And the litany of other contradictions run deep. He spent weeks going around the place joking about Covid, shaking hands, and downplaying its seriousness. Then he caught it and almost died from it.

The number of deaths in Britain from Covid were among the highest, pro rata, anywhere. It would have downed another leader. But not Johnson.

In fairness, the British were the first to come out with mass vaccinations even though the decision to extend the time period before the first and second jab was not a great one in retrospect.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Varadkar/Doherty spat a portent of things to come

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar on his feet, attacking Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, in the Dáil last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

For those who watched in anticipation to see what would happen between Henry Shefflin and Brian Cody after Galway’s Leinster Final loss to Kilkenny, they were waiting for the type of tetchy encounter that happens on a regular basis in the Dáil.

Trading insults is part-and-parcel of parliamentary proceedings but there are occasions – and they have become more frequent of late – when they become visceral. It can happen when somebody needles or provokes an opponent into saying something personal.

The most infamous, of course, is Green Party TD Paul Gogarty telling Labour’s Emmet Stagg to “f*** off”. But there are legions of examples, including from those who were normally very good at keeping their composure in the face of provocation.

That included Bertie Ahern who was so riled by Gay Mitchell’s accusation of him putting up a smokescreen on financial policies in 1994 that he shouted across the chamber at the Fine Gael Deputy.

“Nobody’s smoke-screening,” he shouted. “Perhaps if you stopped waffling, if you stopped waffling, we might get some work done. You’re a waffler, you’ve been years around here waffling.”

The needle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin has been consistent for years, invariably following a familiar theme.

Sinn Féin accuses Fine Gael of being an out-of-touch elite, an old boy’s network, unconcerned about the plight of ordinary people.

In turn, Fine Gael accused Sinn Féin of being a party with shady finances, shady people and a shady past. When the going gets tough, it offers a menu of tax-dodgers, criminals, murderers, and murky finances that have made it the richest party in the country.

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

Refugee crisis leaves state holding political hot potato

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Minister Eamon Ryan...’really challenging situation’.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The picture at Moran’s Red Cow Hotel last weekend was not one that would lift the soul. It showed conference rooms being used to provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers, with mattresses scattered across the floors.

But it’s not a surprise; the numbers of refugees and people seeking international protection has gone through the roof in the first five months of the year.

There has been a 600 per cent increase in the number of people applying for international protection in Ireland in the first five months of 2022, compared to a similar period last year.

The number of people who have applied for asylum in Ireland in the first five months of 2022 is close to 5,000, which is almost twice the total of 2,649 for the entire 12 months of 2021.

This cohort of people is separate from the estimated 24,000 refugees who have been offered accommodation by the State or by private individuals.

You can’t but surmise that the increase in numbers is caused in part by the tough new policy in the UK where asylum seekers are being flown to Rwanda for processing.

In all there are 35,000 people (including those from Ukraine) in emergency or direct provision accommodation in Ireland in 2022, compared to only 6,500 people last year. The comprises 24,000 Ukrainians and 11,000 asylum seekers. It’s over five times the number, and it’s still only June.

That sheer volume has put authorities here under considerable strain to find adequate accommodation.

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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