As we approach the first anniversary of this current council, Insider has been observing the workings of the largest party in City Hall, the Labour Party. Labour got a very strong endorsement from the people of Galway city in last year’s locals, returning with effectively six seats, if you include Independent Catherine Connolly.
This was a slam-dunk for a Labour controlled council; all that was needed was two other councillors from the remaining nine. Surely there would be no slip-ups.
But there were. Labour, and particularly the more experienced members such as councillors Costello and Cameron, made fundamental errors early on in the process. They sat back and took for granted that they had all the aces and simply expected other members to come to them to form a power-sharing pact.
They failed to understand one of the basic rules of politics, which is nothing, no matter how it seems, could be taken for granted until the deal is done.
Meanwhile Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Independents had opened discussions. Labour were of the view that in the current climate Fine Gael would never deal with Fianna Fáil and it was only a matter of time before they came back to them.
Cllr Michael J Crowe, negotiating on behalf of Fianna Fáil, was of the opinion a deal could be done and while the old war goes on now and then, he does have a good working relationship with Fine Gael’s Cllr Brian Walsh. Crowe and Walsh, along with the Independents, put a deal together and signed off on it.
Labour had been caught napping and badly. Labour came back after they heard the deal was done and are believed to have offered Fine Gael a very attractive package but it was too late.
If you are a Labour party member or supporter this slip up was simply inexcusable. Politicians are in politics to implement the policies they and their party believe in and if this requires some compromise then so be it. A half of a loaf is better than no bread.
After receiving the largest mandate ever from the people of Galway they could not close it out. If you were Eamon Gilmore you should be asking serious questions about how this one got away. As one political observer put it “Fianna Fail and Fine Gael were playing poker while Labour were playing snap”.
The make up of the Labour party councillors is also somewhat mixed as opposed to a traditional style line up. Young guns Neil McNelis and Derek Nolan now join the old guard of Costello, Cameron, and the Connollys. The people of Galway are somewhat familiar with the latter but are only now getting to know the former.
McNelis is particularly unusual in that he ran for Fine Gael in 1999 and 2004, only later switching to Labour and was taken under the wing of Michael D.
He also has somewhat of a conflict in that he is a member of Galway Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has been very vocal in its belief and need for the Galway City Outer By-pass but the Labour Party is totally against it.
A number of votes have taken place within the council for the by-pass resulting in Cllr McNelis voting against them, conflicting with the Chamber’s position. It is also well known that the IDA believes the construction of this road would strengthen its hand greatly in attracting companies to establish a base in Galway.
It is hard to understand how a man in business in Galway and an active participant in the Chamber is totally against this vital piece of infrastructure.
Cllr Nolan comes from a Fianna Fáil background but he got involved with the Labour Party, running the last time and just missing out. There were going to be no mistakes this time and he got elected comfortably.
Unlike McNelis he was not over reliant on the ‘Michael D vote’. On what is traditionally a political cease-fire night, Cllr Nolan was seen to do Cllr Cameron’s talking by having a go at Fine Gael members when they voted for Mayor Declan McDonnell. What he may not have known was that it was more Labour’s fault than anyone.
What is interesting is the amount of time and money the Labour Party head quarters put in to both, as candidates last year. Labour HQ spared no expense. Every second pole in respective local areas had posters of them. The letterboxes in the same areas were constantly swelled with the red and white message from Gilmore and Co about how great both men are.
Time will tell if that’s true or not but both have been let down by the basic mistakes of their senior members by not securing power last June. Insider believes that this was the golden opportunity for Labour which should have been the pinnacle of their success, and 2014 is a long, long, way off.