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It’s a changing landscape on Galway East political scene

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UP AND OVER . . . Colm Keaveney on learning that he had won an historic Labour seat in Galway East at his third attempt.

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

Tradition runs deep in Galway East – and that means Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have dominated the constituency, sharing out the spoils over the decades.

But the 2012 boundary changes saw it lose huge swathes of territory in the north east of the county to a reconfigured Roscommon-Galway. As a consequence, it has been reduced from a four seater to three.

To add insult to injury, two of its sitting TDs Paul Connaughton and Michael Kitt saw their powerbases in Mountbellew and Castleblakeney being swept away under their feet.

Whenever the election occurs, it will give us an intriguing contest, which will be harder to predict than before. As of now, no one individual in the constituency can be said to be guaranteed his or her seat.

Like a lot of rural constituencies west of the Shannon, there has been a consistent pattern in Galway East where the two big parties have dominated. Fianna Fáil was the strongest traditionally.

In more recent times the spoils were shared with each party winning two of the four seats – although there were a few bumps along the way. Tuam independent councillor, Paddy McHugh, won a seat here in 2002 at the expense of Fine Gael. Even then he was from the Fianna Fail gene pool.

Like elsewhere, everything changed in 2011. Fine Gael won two seats with new candidates, Paul Connaughton junior and Ciaran Cannon, Micheál Kitt held onto a single Fianna Fáil seat and Colm Keaveney made the breakthrough for Labour.

The changes in the past four years have been huge. Connaughton and Kitt saw their bases being transferred into Roscommon. It involved a lot of hand-wringing for both as to where they would stand next time around. They decided to stay put. More recently, Kitt decided to call it a day.

The hardest hit though was Tim Broderick. Based on the Ballinasloe side of the constituency, he performed very strongly in 2011. He also won an extraordinary 3,400 votes in last year’s local elections.

But the constituency changes meant he could not have mounted any kind of campaign. If the boundaries had been unaltered, he would have been close to election. But the changes closeed teh door for him.

The other big change has been in Keaveney’s circumstances. He went in as a Labour TD and is now a Fianna Fáil Deputy, after a dramatic exit from his former party.

There were questions over how he would be received by the local organisation. In the event he came through the convention handily enough, seeing off the challenge of the two male candidates. Anne Rabbitte was automatically selected when a gender quota instruction was applied.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

The fine art of good timing when it comes to elections

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Charlie Haughey...snap election backfired on him.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Academically, politics is described as a science. But in the real world, it’s more of an art – and one of the big decisions a Government has to make is to decide when to call an election.

Will they see out the full term, or will they go early – either to mitigate the damage they will ship, or to secure a victory before things go awry, or the economy takes a dip, or some kind of controversy erupts?

Timing is everything.

And there’s a bit of art to that – not to mention a lot of luck. If you call it early and win big, you’re a genius. If you call it early and lose, you are the political version of the village fool.

Charlie Haughey was a poor judge of the public mood. Twice he called snap elections and on both occasions they backfired. Haughey succeeded Jack Lynch as Taoiseach in late 1979 and did not – technically – have his own mandate. He tried to remedy that by calling an election in 1981. But it recoiled. Ray MacSharry warned him not to hold it during the H Block hunger strikes when republican prisoners were dying each day. He did not listen to the advice and found himself out of office.

After his return to power in 1987, Haughey tired of presiding over a minority government that kept on losing votes in the Oireachtas (the opposition won nine private members motions).

So he called a snap general election and it backfired. Fianna Fáil lost seats and had to broker a coalition deal with the Progressive Democrats and his long-standing political adversary Dessie O’Malley.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Inch protest arguments are more subtle than Oughterard

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Minister Roderic O’Gorman: promise of more emergency beds.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I was cycling down Mount Street in Dublin on Tuesday. It’s a wide esplanade that links the Grand Canal with Merrion Square. The street is a mixture of fine Georgian buildings and modern office blocks.

About half-way down is the office of the International Protection Office, which deals with asylum seekers who have arrived in the country.

Needless to say, the office has been overwhelmed in the past year. Besides an estimated 80,000 refugees who have arrived from Ukraine, there have been about 20,000 people from other parts of the world who have arrived into Dublin (mostly) claiming asylum.

The numbers peaked around Christmas, but they have been falling a little. In January, more than 1,300 people arrived seeking asylum but the numbers fell back to 831 and 858, in February and March respectively.

They are still huge numbers in a historical context.

So back to my cycle on Tuesday. I knew that some asylum seekers were camping outside the International Protection Office, but I was taken aback by how many. There were six tents lined up on the pavement directly outside. Then on the ramp that led down to the basement carpark on the side of the building, there were about another 20 tents.

It looked like what it was, a refugee camp in the middle of Dublin’s business district. If you pan out from Mount Street, you will find tents here and there in nearby streets and alleys. There were a good few tents in an alleyway off Sandwith Street about 500 metres away.

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.

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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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Sinn Féin hunt for seats in ‘locals’ across Galway

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Sinn Féin's Cathal Ó Conchúir, Mairéad Farrell and Mark Lohan all lost their seats in Galway City in 2019

World of Politics with Harry McGee

God that was a dramatic and historic weekend in England, wasn’t it? So much excitement, so much change, so much hype, so much out with the old and in with the new, and what looks like the coronation of a new leader. Yes, the local elections in Britain were something else weren’t they!

Apologies for not going on about King Charles III but the contract I signed when I became a lifelong republican forbids me to discuss the topic!

I know the British local elections sound a bit boring by comparison, but the results were stunning.

The Conservatives lost nearly 1,000 seats, the British Labour Party gained almost 500 and both the Lib Dems (with 350 gains) and the Greens (gaining over 200) also had amazing days at the polls.

It was Labour’s best day since 2002 but its victory was only partial. The Greens and the Lib Dems actually made gains at the expense of Labour in more affluent areas, and in parts of Britain where there were high numbers of graduates.

It was in the Red Wall constituencies in the North of England where the Labour recovery was strongest. These are working class constituencies with pockets of deprivation where people voted for the Labour Party forever. But all of those constituencies voted for Brexit and then voted for the Tories in the next general election. Labour is now winning back some of those votes.

Local elections are classified as second-tier elections which essentially means – from a national perspective – they are not life-or-death affairs, and not everything turns on them. Of course, it’s really important to have good local representation. But they are not an amazing weather vane for who rules the country.

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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