Before this year Insider did not know Mayor Hildegarde Naughton very well, but after her year in office, he is delighted to be able to reflect on a job well done by a relative political novice.
There were a few minor stumbles along the way, but overall the Mayor has grown into the job and has proven herself more than capable of representing Galway on any stage.
Insider has attended a number of functions at which she has presided in the course of the year, and has observed Mayor Naughton at close quarters. She has proven to be a tremendous asset to the city, and Insider finds himself sorry to see her year in office about to come to an end.
Her imminent departure has also caused Insider to reflect on the role of mayor, and the powers and term of the office. Mayor Naughton has performed her duties with a dignity and charm that has sometimes been lacking in previous holders of the office.
Were the position of mayor to become a directly elected one, there is no better placed local politician than the present office holder to fit the criteria required. In the absence of a public electoral contest for the position in the near future, Insider wonders if the Mayor’s thoughts have turned to her own political future.
Mayor Naughton did surprisingly well in last year’s General Election, securing more than 3,600 first preference votes. A seat in Dáil Éireann must now be considered a real possibility at some stage in the future. Ironically, if the popularity of the present Government continues to slide, the negative association may apply more to the sitting TDs than to their party colleagues, who will not be as closely identified with unpopular decisions taken by the Government. This may give an opportunity to Mayor Hildegarde and also to senator Fidelma Healy Eames, both of whom ran their party colleagues close in 2011.
The sitting deputies, Brian Walsh and Seán Kyne, are hard working, young, popular, and look to have potentially long and successful political careers ahead of them. However, these are strange political times, and many disillusioned members of the public are finding it difficult to find a political home.
There is no evidence that Fianna Fáil has yet been forgiven for their 14 year stewardship of the State that ended with such disastrous consequences for most of us, and for many, Sinn Féin are still a step too far. So, step forward Hildegarde and Fidelma!
Galway West may become one of those constituencies where party representation does not change much, but there could be a change in personnel. Interesting political contests ahead no doubt, but, in the meantime, thank you Mayor and enjoy a well earned few weeks off later this summer.
The Che Guevara monument?
Speaking of local politics and politicians, has anyone ever heard of a more stupid idea than the erection of a statue to Che Guevara in Galway?
Had the public been polled on a suitable candidate for such an honour, Insider has no doubt the name of Che Guevara would not have featured. One of the arguments put forward by those few in favour is that it will cost us nothing! If that is the criteria, we could have some very interesting statues erected, funded by outsiders of course! Insider has also heard one of the proponents of the Che statue criticising some ‘outsiders’ for advising us against this idea. This idea being the erection of a statue to that well known Galwegian, Che Guevara, you could not make it up.
As there is not too much cause for laughter in the country at the moment, maybe we should be grateful for this piece of light relief.
Insider is voting Yes today as we need access to Europe’s new bailout fund, the ESM. It is almost as simple as that. We need to ratify the treaty to get this access. Any other course of action would be irresponsible, and Insider still has confidence in the Irish people to do the right thing.
Listening to the arguments of the No side, and how they answer the question of where we will access funds in the event of a No vote, Insider is hopeful of a 60-40 victory for the Yes side.
The present difficulties being experienced by Spain have been the real game changer here, and Insider has no doubt the rescue fund will have to be increased dramatically, to between €2 and €3 trillion, to prevent a Spanish collapse.
A re-negotiation of the overall Irish debt position will then follow as part of a major restructuring, which is now inevitable. Greece’s exit from the euro will also be part of this new dispensation.
Micheál Martin has done much to restore his own, and Fianna Fáil’s, reputation in the course of this treaty debate. However, for both him and them, it is still a case of much more to do.
Sinn Féin have played a cynical game of opposition politics, and are doubtless reaping a short term gain from a disillusioned electorate. However it will not last - the gain that is, not the cynicism.
The more difficulties the State encounters, the better for Sinn Féin. This is a calculation Sinn Féin has made, and maximising their vote is their only priority. The stunt in the courts this week is another example of putting party interest before the State’s interest. Insider had hoped we had seen an end to this type of politics; opposition for opposition’s sake and a completely dishonest approach taken to the electorate.
This needs to be exposed for what it is by the mainstream parties, much more vigorously than it has to date. Maybe it is time Michael McDowell re-entered the political arena. Who will forget his single handed demolition of Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin in the 2007 election? Were he active in politics today, Sinn Féin would not be showing at 20 per cent plus in the polls.
A new beginning?
We hoped that last year’s General Election signalled a change in the way we do politics; Insider is not so sure now. The negativity everywhere is depressing, and the genuine anger of the population is being manipulated by some in the political process.
The standard of public discourse is at an all time low, and as Insider looks at the Dáil benches, and sees deputies Ming, Wallace, Healy Rae, Boyd Barrett, and Higgins, he is not reassured. If this is somehow the solution or the alternative, we really are in trouble.
Our media are failing us miserably, being as much a part of the problem as of the solution. Current affairs programmes are dominated by the juvenile rantings of interest group after interest group, and a supplicant media are lapping it up.
However there are serious things happening in the world, and they are going to have enormous consequences for us all. It is time to treat them seriously. Must we wait for an even greater crash, before we honestly confront our problems? It is still not too late for this Government, but time is fast running out.
A new beginning? Let us not use the period of the anniversary decade 1912 to 1922 to only look back, but to also look forward. There are things more important than Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, and Sinn Féin, and Ireland is one of them.
Who will now put Ireland first? Who will genuinely speak of a new Republic, and work to ensure it becomes a reality?