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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

By-elections can only offer small insight into next Dáil

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Polling station....by-elections won't reflect General Election result.

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

Christmas is always a time for recipes – so here’s a political concoction to stick in the oven and see what fully or half-baked result emerges next April or May. First you help whip up endless speculation on when the next general election will be held – and then add 100 Boris Johnson lies if you can get away with it.

Sprinkle this with Donald Trump insults, add a pinch of Leo Varadkar self-congratulation; a soupçon of Micheál Martin faux outrage, and a dollop of Mary Lou McDonald even fauxer outrage.

Beat all these together until it’s a murky paste – and repeat ad nauseam until April or May before popping it into the oven.

If it rises, it’s probably the Greens.

If it fails to rise, it’s everybody else.

We might have stalemate, but I will tell you for free that the composition of the Dáil will change.

The recent by-elections were interesting as they always are – but they are not the ‘be all and the end all’. In other words they tell you a little, but are not conclusive.

If Galway has a good league campaign in hurling or football, that will mean not all that much in the championship.

Even before a vote was cast, or a poster erected, in all four by-elections, we knew that Dublin Fingal was a good constituency for Labour and for Fianna Fáil and for the Greens (it used to have a TD there).

Wexford was also good for Fianna Fáíl and Labour (its leader is a TD there). Cork North Central was a Fianna Fáil stronghold. And Dublin Mid-West was a place where Fine Gael and Sinn Féin were strong.

The part of that we all missed was Sinn Féin. They had done so poorly in the local and European elections that there was an assumption, that like Solidary-People Before Profit, the part was on a steep downward curve. We underestimated the impact of the party’s sitting Dublin Mid-West TD, Eoin Ó Broin.

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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Murphy’s Law strikes three times for beleaguered Leo

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Political car crash... failed Fine Gael bye-election candidate Verona Murphy with Minister Charlie Flanagan at the Wexford count

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

It might have been Murphy’s Law or Murphy’s Stroke – but whatever, the Murphys added up to triple trouble for Fine Gael in the past week.  There was Verona singlehandedly destroying Fine Gael chances in the bye-elections with her ill-considered views on immigrants; double- jobbing Dara on his full Dáil salary and at least one foot firmly in Europe – and Minister for the House of Cards, Eoghan Murphy, who almost brought the government down this week with Tuesday’s vote of confidence.

Fine Gael;s bad week was brought sharply into focus when the four new TD’s Mark Ward, Joe O’Brien, Pádraig O’Sullivan and Malcolm Byrne were paraded into the House by their parties.

And while Government parties rarely win bye-elections, Verona Murphy’s capacity for self-destruction makes you wonder what kind of vetting Fine Gael did before choosing her.

She was a high-achiever with an interesting backstory and a prominent position as a spokeswoman for the haulage industry during Brexit.

But some of her views were bizarre. Her stuff about many migrants being Isis supporters, or of kids of two or three being indoctrinated, or of a need to ‘reprogramme’ them. These are the things you normally only hear at a Donald Trump rally.

And what about Dara? He announced his job in Europe two years ago and then announced in mid-2018 that he was not going to stand in the next election. Leo Varadkar wished him well and said he would be missed from the Dáil.

The problem was he wasn’t going anywhere. To quote the great Con Houlihan: “Forgotten but not gone”.

Murphy has held down what has been a full-time job with the European People’s Party (EPP) for most of the past two years. It has nothing to do with the Irish parliament or indeed the EU parliament.

In the meantime, the record shows that Murphy’s Dáil input has been reduced to near zero since the end of 2017, after he took up the role with the EPP.

However, he has still claimed his full salary of €94,500, as well as his full allowance of €51,600 per annum.

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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Britain’s dilemma boils down to who’s the least repellent

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Shake on it...Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn before their election debate on ITV.

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

The British General Election may be unique on one overriding level in that it’s almost the opposite of a popularity contest. Voters go to the polls on December 12 to choose their new prime minister – and will do so on the basis of which is the least repellent.

The first televised debate last week was revealing. Sure, the audience is packed with partisan supporters. Still, it was shocking to hear open and loud guffaws when Boris Johnson (a practised liar) proclaimed that truth was important.

There were equally high decibels of laughter when Jeremy Corbyn began to say that his stance on Brexit was very clear (in fact it is a non-stance).

We live in an age or irreverence and cynicism; the lighter fuel that has blown up respect has been social media. Anyone forwarding a view and having the temerity (or stupidity) to put it up on Twitter or Facebook can brace themselves for a long thread of gratuitous insults.

Those making it are a teensy proportion of the population, made up of angry and bitter people – and still, their views are somehow taken as a yardstick for public sentiment.

It’s not that politicians (or the media for that matter) are victims in all this. They have taken that cynical approach and refined it.

Look at Donald Trump and his administration. They spray lies around like confetti.

Lots of American media organisations have ‘fact checkers’. It doesn’t matter. By the time they respond, another whole stadium’s worth of porkies have been sent out, or “alternative facts”, as Kellyanne Conway memorably called them.

Many people see this British vote as a rerun of the 2017 election – but it’s not.

Sure, the conditions seemed the same at the start. There was a big gap between the Conservatives and Labour at the start, 17 points. However, by the time of the election in early June that year it had been cut to seven points.

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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