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Waiting game still going on for Labour despite Spring Tides and Gilmore Gales

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Political World with Harry McGee

Eamon de Valera’s famous remark from the 1930s that ‘Labour Must Wait’ has remained part of the political vernacular to the present day – and the three words have been subjected to regular analysis over the years.

Dev is assumed to have meant that the conditions for socialism were not ripe in Ireland during the 1930s. But it is an altogether different proposition to say that the conditions would never exist for a government of the left in Ireland.

Still, some commentators have interpreted the comments on a wider canvas pointing to the lack of an industrial base, Ireland’s agrarian nature at the time – and, ergo, the lack of an identifiable socialist/capitalist divide in the country.

I’m not sure if Dev was soothsaying to that degree. How and ever, the question that the sentence begged was how long would Labour have to wait? In perpetuity? A century? Twenty years?

Well for some, the answer was about 80 years and the date on which that question was settled once and for all was February 2011 when Fianna Fáil got the order of the boot from the Irish electorate and Labour coasted to its best ever electoral performance.

That’s all very well, but the problem with such high tides is that they are often followed by a demoralising and inexorable ebb. More crucially, Labour’s 37 seats didn’t make it the leading party in Government but the foil to Fine Gael once again, albeit in a much stronger position than any previous smaller coalition party.

And besides, a little like Obama’s over-pitch to the American electorate in 2008, Labour was never going to live up to the vaunted rhetoric it pumped out in the run up to the election.

From the hubristic ‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ to ‘Labour’s Way or Frankfurt’s Way’, there was an abundance of material to be disappointed about.

As a point of fact, after a very shaky start Labour has began to perform well in Government, given its comparative strength. Brendan Howlin has done very well to deliver the Haddington Road agreement (against considerable odds); Labour has been able to point to achievements on its social and equality agenda (the legislation to give effect to the X case) and it has managed to protect some services from considerable cuts that would Fine Gael would have imposed if it had been a single party government.

And indeed, even though none of its critics admit it, it hasn’t been all about Frankfurt’s way in the last year with Labour and Fine Gael some big concessions on Ireland’s banking and fiscal debt burden.

Besides, the unusual set-up of the Cabinet has equalised the respective strengths of both parties in Government.

The splitting of Finance into two as well as the Economic Management Council (the four-man star chamber of Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore, Howlin and Michael Noonan which runs the country) has given the party a say it never had before.

Sure, there’s something about it that dilutes and damages democracy – the concentration of so much power into the hands of so few in an atmosphere of secrecy.

We will dwell on that and go for a little diversion for a second because it’s important in the current debate on the Seanad.

Last week I said I saw little virtue in the Upper House’s retention. I still don’t.  But that’s not to say the quality of democracy will magically improve in its absence. It won’t.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Best laid plans and programmes can fall foul of political reality

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Debate snub...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If architects’ plans were like the Programme of Government,

  1. the country would be full of unfinished buildings
  2. that would look nothing like the plans.

Prospective governments spend weeks – and sleepless nights – working out the programme that will be the blueprint for their term of office.

Some even produce a glossy self-congratulatory report each year, showing how many of its targets have been achieved.

Two things need to be said about that:

  1. They are subjective.
  2. Nobody outside the bubble pays any attention to them.

Some set out ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government. That idea has been around since the 1930s and is designed to show a signal of intent, that the new Government is going to put its money where its mouth is.

More often than not the new regime learns to its cost that it has bitten off more than it can chew. Achieving something in the world of politics within 100 days is like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during a lunch break.

  1. Not exactly impossible
  2. But not exactly possible

And do governments learn from these mistakes? Do they realise that it is a bit of a ridiculous concept?

  1. No
  2. No

There is a political problem here. You might achieve the big things in politics, you might get a wobbly economy back on to an even keel, you might create a historic record for employment, you might push through the six referendums you promised to liberalise society.

But it’s a bit like the guy who earns a reputation for not buying a round. No matter if he has devoted his life to the service of others, and has sacrificed everything for the personal good.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

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Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

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

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

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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Connacht Tribune

Biden brings normality back to world’s most powerful office

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US President-elect Joe Biden celebrates his victory with his wife Jill and his Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.

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

I did not want to make the same mistake I made four years ago. Then I stayed up until about 1.30am and it looked like it was going okay for Hillary Clinton in Florida. So I said to myself, that big buffoon is done for. When I woke up the next morning Donald Trump was the President of the United States. He had somehow managed to win Florida and dismantled the Blue Wall of Democrat States in the Mid-West by taking Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This time I stayed up until 4.30 in the morning. And that was a mistake too. For the picture was as unclear then as it was 12 hours later.

It was too close to call but already commentators were talking of a red mirage; most on-the-day voters plumped for Trump but early voters – whose votes were counted last – had steered very sharply towards Joe Biden.

It was historic. It’s really hard to knock out an incumbent president seeking a second term. It had been done only eight times before that in two and a half centuries.

Was it his inept handling of Covid-19? Had people grown sick of his vanity and his self-serving boasts? Did this natural disruption just cause too much turmoil and uncertainty in people’s lives? Did his partisan views, that red-mist madness, repel more than it attracted?

Well, the evidence is in the poll. The answer to all those questions is yes. To me, the outcome was clear. Biden won the popular votes. He also won the electoral colleges.

The majority was small and reflects a very divided society. Trump is the champion of rural, less educated, blue collar white, conservative, Hispanic and white America. Biden is popular among the middle classes, the urbanites, the better educated, and black voters.

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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