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The final act has yet to be written in this Greek tragedy

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Tsiparis and Adams - mutual admiration

The events in Greece over the past few weeks are all too reminiscent of those of late 2010 when Ireland was being drip-fed on emergency liquidity by the European Central Bank and under enormous pressure to accept a bailout.

Think of a steamroller dangling above your head suspended by nothing more than a piece of string.

Except that Greece is already in a programme and the deal it is being forced to accept comes on top of a lot of seriously unpalatable austerity measures it has been forced to implement over the past five or six years.

As I write no deal is in place and the clock is ticking with its trio of international lenders (the Greeks refuse to call them the Troika) giving its government a two-day reprieve.

Meanwhile, the ECB has been meeting on a daily basis to extend emergency aid to its banks. There is a real fear there will be a run on its banks as depositors continue to take money out.

Michael Noonan was among two ministers at the meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers on Monday who reportedly raised the issue for the introduction of capital controls.

Now the Greeks have put a deal on the table which may or may not be accepted at the Thursday summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

The stakes are high; the Government must repay a €1.6 billion loan to the IMF by the end of June.

If it fails to do so, it will have a month in a kind of limbo situation where it will be officially in arrears. But if that is not resolved by the end of July, it will be in default.

The Greek government is reliant on its international lenders for support to repay the loan.

If it fails to satisfy the three institutions it will carry out the meaningful – and very painful – reforms they have demanded, what will follow is… well, to be honest, nobody knows.

The EU has been saying for a long time now that unlike the crisis in 2008 and 2009 it can sustain a big shock like a country leaving the euro or defaulting on its loan. You still wonder.

A Grexit will mean that a lot of Europe’s bigger countries and banks will be left on the hook with unpaid debt.

The knock-on effect, economically and politically, for such a seismic shock is just impossible to predict. Sure, the EU might be able to withstand it. But there are no guarantees.

As for the impact it will have on the Greek people; it’s not going to be good. It’s clear enough from experts to whom I have spoken the Greeks have put forward economic arguments that don’t stack up and have not been backed up by evidence.

But politically the Syriza government led by Alexis Tsipras has been as combative as they come. For months now it has been one against 18 others in the eurozone and equally one against everybody else in the eurogroup.

You have to admire its resolve and its willingness to indulge in brinkmanship – politically if no other way.

Sinn Féin hitched its wagon to Syriza early on and might regret it close to the next general election.

Gerry Adams said his party would not have capitulated to the will of the Troika but would have slugged it out through as many sleepless nights necessary to get an acceptable deal. We are seeing that strategy in action now.

It’s not true that Brian Cowen’s or Enda Kenny’s governments rolled over when Jean Claude Trichet said ‘non’. But they certainly did not a never-ending Lough Derg out of it.

So what will be the outcome?

For more see page 45 in this week’s Connacht Tribune, download the Digital Edition here or get the Connacht Tribune app from iTunes or Google Play

Harry McGee is political correspondent of The Irish Times; you can contact him via twitter: @harrymcgee

Connacht Tribune

Pandemic pushes playdates and pantos to peak of political agenda

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Dr Tony Holohan...’significant and rapid deterioration’.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The most senior figures of Government spent time this week considering a blanket ban on children’s playdates and attending pantomimes. In any other moment of time, the only place you might hear that banal proposition being floated would be on the stage of the Gaiety or the Olympia – and coming from the mouth of a wicked warlock or an evil stepmother.

But Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way we think about even the simplest of things and seemingly innocent of activities.

Oh no, it hasn’t.

Oh, yes it has!

Excuse my juvenile humour there, but what seemed trivial is now deadly serious.

A further 4,607 new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Monday evening. The following day a further 5,471 new cases of Covid-19 were reported. As of that morning,  there were 579 people in hospital with the virus with 122 of those in intensive care.

“In a very short period of time, we have seen a significant and rapid deterioration in the epidemiological situation, in the as-yet-unvaccinated five to eleven-year-olds. This has resulted in a sharp increase in incidence in this age group,” said chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly had said that the situation was actually looking more positive recently, but that was before the arrival of the new variant.

Omicron by name, ominous by nature; it’s more transmissible than Delta. And as we know, Delta was more transmissible than Alpha.

The only consolation is that, so far, the new variant causes only mild symptoms. But still, everyone is taking it really seriously. The World Health Organisation has advised those over 60 not to travel until such a time as the exact nature of Omicron is known.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Ireland’s waterways are not getting fair treatment

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Controversy...the entrance to Mutton Island.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The early years of my life as a reporter in The Connacht Tribune revolved a lot around water pollution – even though I did not realise its full import at the time.

One of the big running stories in the Tribune during my three years there was a protracted political wrangle over the Mutton Island wastewater treatment centre.

The row split the City Council. One faction wanted the secondary treatment facility to be built as quickly as possible.

The immediate irritant was a phenomenon known as the “Claddagh Pong” which occurred whenever there was fine weather, or when there was a neap tide, or when the water levels were low.

The other side did not want it built in Mutton Island at all. They said it would ruin the island and its historic lighthouse, that the causeway would be clogged by lorry traffic, and a better solution would be to run the sewerage system out to near the City Dump on Carrowbrowne, where a secondary treatment facility could be built.

That row sucked up so much energy and so much time and caused so much conflict.

The context behind it all was this. Raw sewage was being discharged from the city into Galway Bay. At the time, around 1990, the population was about 60,000. That was a disgrace and a scandal.

Unsurprisingly, the faecal coliform readings in the Bay at the time were sky high. When people went swimming in Salthill or Blackrock, they were essentially having a dip in the sewer.

Over 30 years later, the problem in Galway city might have been finally sorted but the same can’t be said for all population centres in the county.

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

Bleak January beckons if we lose the Christmas plot

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Micheal Martin.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harry.mcgee@gmail.com

This coronavirus is like a drunk leaving a bar; the minute we think it has finally left the premises, the doors swing open and it walks in again. Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke of a fourth wave coursing across Europe – and it’s affecting us, even more than anybody else.

That has spooked just about everybody.

For months we have been patting ourselves in the backs for being the best in class in Europe. Our vaccination rate of 93 to 94 per cent of everybody over the age of twelve is the highest in Europe by a considerable distance.

Yet, the number of infections here has skyrocketed in recent weeks, and with it the number of people in hospital and ICU.

When National Public Health Emergency Team forecasters gave their worst possible scenario to the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid on Monday night, they were talking of up to 12,000 cases a day.

Even with a much lower number of cases that require hospitalisation or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission, that is still scarifying.

How the hell is that happening?

There are a number of reasons. It’s clear that the vast majority of those who are getting very sick are not vaccinated or have suppressed immunity.

The proportion of people born in Eastern Europe who have taken the vaccine is much lower than the rest of the population. There must be reasons for this.

It could stem partly from the folk memory of compulsory vaccines when the States were under USSR control and part of the Eastern Bloc. It could be partly because of suspicions, culturally, of vaccines.

Certainly the uptake in those countries is far lower than in Ireland and those living here may be taking the lead from their compatriots rather than the Irish authorities.

There are other reasons too. Those under the age of twelve are not vaccinated and the Delta variant has been widespread among children – thankfully with few hospitalisations.

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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