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Triangulation to ensure FG gets the angles right

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Together but separate... Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton.

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

Triangulation – it sounds like something to do with the boy scouts or orienteering instead of what is now accepted as a standard political strategy.

The former US President Bill Clinton did not invent it but he perfected it. So did Tony Blair who used it expertly when creating the hybrid beast known as New Labour.

Now, in the Irish situation, there is clear evidence that Fine Gael’s strategists have decided to sprinkle it liberally over their concoction of policies.

So, how does the technique work? Well, firstly, it relies a lot on focus groups.

These are smallish groups of people selected by polling companies. They are representative of wider society so you get young, old, country, city, poor, rich, well-educated, poorly educated.

They are brought into a room and they talk about a range of issues, usually steered by a professional pollster. Those issues can range from immigration, to tax, to crime, to public services, to health. The name of the game is to tease out what the prevailing sentiment is on those key issues.

The second leg to the school is to scavenge your opponent’s policies. When the New Labour project was in full flow, the party essentially appropriated Tory Party policy on issues like, say immigration or crime. It would take the Tory policy, take on board what had been said by the focus groups, water it down a bit to make it more palatable to Labour supporters, and then sell it as New Labour.

New Labour was in many ways old Tory but with a nod to its own socialist background.

Thus its policies on crime (tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime etc) were almost indistinguishable from those of the Conservatives. As was its relatively hardline stance on immigration.

For Fine Gael in this context, it’s been a multi-pronged approach.

The first element is its relationship with Labour. The parties have been in coalition and both say they wish to go into government again. That said, they are not campaigning on a united front but as individual parties. So while they are partners they are also opponents in that sense.

And this is where you can see the triangulation and focus groups kicking in.

The funny thing is that both parties use almost exactly the same arguments when talking of the Opposition. Both present the choice as one of stability and continuing the recovery versus instability and chaos.

But each knows that they will be competing with each other too. Fine Gael has a sniff of an overall majority. People say it doesn’t have a hope of getting there. Perhaps that’s true.

Nonetheless, you have to factor in the following. The reality is that Enda Kenny is the only possible Taoiseach and Fine Gael is the only party big enough to bid for power. All other possible combinations just don’t seem to work (unless Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin do the unthinkable).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Covid casts long shadow – but vaccine is still winning the race

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Tony Holohan...concern at rapid rise in numbers.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

To channel Neil Young, Covid-19 is a little like rust; it never sleeps. A few weeks ago it looked like we had it finally under control, and the vaccination programme under the stewardship of Prof Briain Mac Craith was working seamlessly. Case numbers were plummeting as were numbers for hospitalisation and ICU admission. All the indicators were going in the right direction.

The Delta variant has given us a reminder that virus should never be underestimated. Within a number of weeks it has gone from a handful of cases in the UK to being so dominant that, as of yesterday, it accounted for 99 per cent of all cases, according to Public Health England.

Not only there but in Portugal, over 60 per cent of new cases in Lisbon are of the Delta variant. In the US it tripled from 10 percent of all new cases to 30 per cent in just eleven days.

In old money it is known as the Indian variant, and anyone who has followed its progress in that incredibly populous country will know the trail of destruction it has left behind.

Here too, the rapid increase in cases has been incredible. It went from five per cent to 20 per cent in little over a week. There is a strong chance that by July it will be the dominant strain.

Not that we should be panic, because vaccinations have been the key to addressing Covid. In January we were looking at thousands of cases every day and hundreds of deaths. Now people are still contracting Covid in their hundreds each day but the deaths have fallen to near zero and there are hardly two dozen people in ICU.

That connection between the number of cases and deaths has been broken – because of vaccines.

Most of those getting Covid-19 now are younger. The biggest group to get it, the latest 14-day figures show, were those between the ages of 19 to 24, followed by those between 25 and 35, and then those between 35 and 44. The median age is now 25 – two months ago it was 45.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Homeowners living in fear of walls coming tumbling down

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Pyrite and Mica-affected homeowners protest this week at Dublin’s Convention Centre.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Mica and Pyrite are two words that have been lifted from a technical manual or a science textbook to become part of common speech in Ireland in recent years. The presence of both substances in construction materials has had devastating consequences for families from Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Sligo and other counties. We have seen the TV documentaries and newspaper reports where distraught homeowners show huge cracks in the gables of houses or show a block to the camera that is crumbling in their hands like dust.

Sometimes it looks like somebody has built a giant bungalow-shaped sandcastle that’s going to be washed away by the next spring tide.

We are talking about people’s family homes here. This is where all the life savings – past, present and future – have gone. They (or rather their builders) bought the blocks in good faith, little knowing they were so defective they would endanger their houses, and indeed their own lives.

As Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald remarked in the Dáil this week about these families: “They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down.”

So who is to blame? The companies who manufactured the blocks? The State for not having robust safety standards for the material or manufacture of blocks? The State, again, for not conducting sufficient inspection?

It’s complicated. Like Pyrite, apportioning blame is a tricky business. What is not in doubt is that people who have built family homes cannot live in them anymore, because they are dangerous and falling apart, and it is not their fault. They deserve compensation.

The focus of the Sinn Féin motion this week was for the families to get 100 per cent open-ended compensation. That would mean the State would foot the entire bill to remediate their houses, to rectify the faults, and sometimes to rebuild the whole lot.

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

Will ‘vaccine bounce’ prove crucial to by-election victory?

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Noel Treacy...a rare by-election win for the ruling party.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

By-elections sometimes mean everything – and sometimes they mean nothing at all. Because often, by the time a general election takes place, they have faded away into the past. They have no impact at all on the national level.

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some memorable and crucial by-elections.

Like way back in 1982, when Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, who had a minority government, engineered a coup by nominating a Fine Gael TD, Richard Burke, to be Ireland’s European Commissioner.

Burke was a TD for Dublin West which was a Fianna Fáil stronghold at the time. The idea was the party’s candidate would win the subsequent by-election to give Fianna Fáil a majority in the Dáil.

But things did not go to script. Fine Gael’s candidate was a local businessman named Liam Skelly who bucked the trend by taking the seat in an audacious victory for Fine Gael.

Another significant by-election was in 2010 in Donegal South West. Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher had won a seat in the European Parliament in 2009 and the Fianna Fáil-led government had dilly-dallied over holding an election to fill the vacant seat.

The long-fingering eventually resulted in a court case taken by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty – which he won, amid huge publicity.

The narrative, of course, was that Fianna Fáil were trying to shut him out. By that stage they probably were. Doherty won a massive victory for his party, getting elected in the first count.

I have always believed that this victory alone provided much of the momentum for the big gains Sinn Féin made in the following election.

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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