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Political World

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

Sinn Féin will discover power brings evolution not revolution

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Taoiseach in waiting?...Mary Lou McDonald with Galway West TD Mairead Farrell on the streets of Galway.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Sinn Féin is not like any other party; even when it enjoyed only a fraction of the support of the SDLP it was still attracting the attention of the world media. During the 1980s and 1990s, just about the only Irish political figure American political journalists could name was Gerry Adams.

There was something about Sinn Féin that set it apart – that smell of cordite was catnip for the media.

So the party is viewed through a different lens than, say, the Labour Party, or the Social Democrats, or even the Greens. It carries original sin in the eyes of a portion of the electorate (generally older) who see its association with violence (which included many egregious murders and massacres) as unforgivable for all time.

For others, the passage of time has taken some of the sharp edges away. For the rest, specifically those born after the 1994 ceasefire, that is just not relevant to their lives. For some of those who remember those years, that attitude of younger voters is hard to stomach. But that’s the reality of how things stand just now.

I was always taken by the phrase of the late historian Ronan Farren that the birth certificates of all nations are blood-soaked. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin has been in from the cold for 25 years almost, accepting that it would strive to achieve its goals by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Áras an Uachtaráin and the constitutional ties that bind

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Making headlines... President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina during their visit to the Galway 1916 Exhibition in the former Connacht Tribune Print Works on Market Street.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Those who become President of Ireland are, metaphorically, provided with a silken gag; for the seven years they reside in Áras an Uachtaráin, they are supposed to keep their opinions and personal political persuasions to themselves.

The relevant Article in the Constitution sets out this rule: “No power or function conferred on the President by law shall be exercisable or performable by him save only on the advice of the Government.”

The President is not allowed to leave the State without first receiving the advice (i.e. the permission) of the Government. Theoretically, every speech they make needs to be run by the government first.

The President is said to be “above politics”. That meant they are not subject to any criticism from parliament or from the government. The other side of the coin is that it is expected the President will not wander into the political forum.

For most of the time since the office of the President was established in 1937, these rules have caused no major problems. With one exception.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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.

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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

Trimble leaves a legacy of peace to be proud of

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David Trimble...lasting legacy.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The death of David Trimble brought back memories of the time he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize almost a quarter of a century ago, along with John Hume, for their efforts in securing the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

It could be argued that others should have been also on the plane to Oslo that winter, namely Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness also played an important role by steering the hard men of the IRA on a path that saw them end their campaign of violence and accept a political solution achieved by solely democratic means.

Of course, it would have been a blatant contradiction to award a peace prize to Adams and McGuinness given their instrumental roles in a republican movement that prosecuted a ruthless armed strategy for almost 30 years right up to that time. The Damascene conversion in 1998 did not erase what had gone before.

Certainly, Hume and those around him from the SDLP – particularly Séamus Mallon – deserved all the praise they got for their selfless pursuit of a political pathway and their brave eschewal of all forms of violence as they grappled with the unique set of circumstances of Northern Ireland.

That said, Trimble showed a huge degree of personal courage and resilience in facing down his critics and enemies – and there were many loud and bitter voices condemning him on the unionist side – and persevering with the talks that culminated with the historic agreement in Hillsborough Castle on that Good Friday in early April in 1998.

But it would have been unimaginable for him to be in that position three years before hand or even three years afterwards when the UUP began imploding around him. The important thing was that he stayed the course during that crucial period.

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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