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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

Greenshoots of old politics begin to rear their heads

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Micheál Martin...last chance saloon on Taoiseach front.

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

The weekend marked a milestone in this political cycle – even if the 100 days since February’s General Election seems more like 100 years. This week saw glimpses of the ‘old normal’; some businesses and construction sites opening, a 30 per cent increase of traffic on the roads compared to the previous week – and a good old-fashioned political row between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

When an emergency hits, everything is put into suspension. The Government trying to steer us through the emergency hears no dissent in the ranks, or in any other ranks.

Given their prominence, it’s not surprising that Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris have done so well in voter satisfaction ratings. That’s not to be churlish or empty. I think both will look back at this period as among their finest hours as politicians.

That’s not to say there haven’t been mistakes – none more so than nursing homes or the 15,000 a day testing promise that turned into a saga. There have been shortcomings in meat processing plants and in some hospitals.

But overall, the emergency has been handled well and the dramatic drop in cases and deaths this week is a testament to that.

The row had its roots in the reality that the post-election landscape bears no relation to the conditions that led to the Sinn Féin surge in February, and almost consigned Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to the rubbish dump.

Fine Gael, as you would expect, is riding high in the polls – but that upsurge in support is a temporary phenomenon that will dissipate once the emergency comes to an end.

Sinn Féin is more or less holding its own – maybe a few points down since the beginning of the year.

The real bad new relates to Fianna Fáil. It is neither government nor is it opposition and that limbo situation has led to its poll ratings plummeting.

That’s why Fianna Fáíl is desperate to get into government – or at least the faction loyal to Micheál Martin is.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Recovery will be painfully slow into a different world

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Words of warning...GAA President John Horan.

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

Where will it end? The simple answer is nobody really knows. It’s like we’re wearing blindfolds in a darkened room looking for a door…with no handle. The Government has set out a road map for re-opening of the economy. It involves a gradual phasing-in of business activity. For those where they can get away with people not being in close proximity to each other it won’t be too bad. But for other sectors it’s going to be a nightmare.

Even when pubs, restaurants, hotels and airlines operate they will be a shadow of themselves.

Take airlines. How many seats on each airplane will have to be cordoned off? How are they going to manage herding people on and off the planes? How will they manage queues in airport terminal buildings? Will everybody’s temperature have to be taken? Will everybody be required to wear face masks? Will airlines still be flying to as many destinations? Will air fares face big hikes as fewer people fly and planes carry fewer people?

You can repeat that same exercise for each sector.

The pandemic has seen people adapt by creating new micro environments for exercise and discovery within their own 2km and 5km zones.

It’s okay having your home for an office if you live in a nice semi-d with a spare bedroom – but for poorer workers who share tiny cramped apartments or are living in bedsits, or who have to look after kids who don’t have access to laptops or tablets, it becomes a much more difficult proposition.

And if you work in a factory or in a face-fronting business it’s not going to be so easy. What are hairdressers and barbers going to do, or those who run small shops, or dentists, or physiotherapists?

Even with face masks, don’t count on getting your bouffant perm put into shape anytime soon (unless you are going over to the dark side and paying more for a sneaky cut).

Full contact sport will not resume until the autumn (that’s rugby and boxing). But even other team sports like the GAA won’t be coming back in any familiar guise anytime soon.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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New regime will need 100 weeks rather than days to make a mark

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Plenty to talk about...Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

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

In politics, people often talk about the first 100 days in power as that window in time when a new government makes its stamp, and shows the world its determination to follow a new direction. It dates from 1933 when Franklin D Roosevelt came to power as US president at the height of the Great Depression. He promised to begin implementing the key elements of his ‘New Deal’ within the first 100 days.

As history has recorded, it was to be the making of him and he served four terms as US President, dying in office in 1945.

But as for our prospective new regime, the first 100 days is meaningless in the current context.

For one, Covid-19 provides the time frame. Until it is licked, it does not matter what a new government will promise in the first 100 days, because if the pandemic lingers beyond that, no government-type decisions will be taken.

Last month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said we won’t have a government until the middle of June. I think he could be right. When the Greens decided at the weekend they would enter Government talks, party leader Eamon Ryan warned that the negotiations would take weeks rather than days.

We have been three months with a caretaker government during the worst crisis this government has faced in a generation – and once that hump is over, we then have to start worrying about Brexit again.

Paschal Donohoe warned last week that legislation will be needed for some of the latest stimuli he has announced for business. At the moment, the Oireachtas can’t pass any laws and is in an iffy constitutional position. It can only begin to pass laws when the new Taoiseach, whoever he or she is, nominates the eleven remaining members of the Seanad.

There has been talk that the Dáil could perform a technical sleight of hand and nominate Leo Varadkar as the new Taoiseach for a day to allow him make the nominations, and allow the Dáil and Seanad to pass laws, even in the absence of a government.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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