Galway - a radical county, a conservative city?

Catherine Connolly.

Catherine Connolly.

As readers of this page are well aware, there are two elections due on May 23, the Local Elections, and the election to that most useless of institutions, the so- called European Parliament.

Normally Insider would register a spoilt vote rather than participate in an election to that farcical ‘parliament’, but the entry into the race of Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, has changed that.

Dep Flanagan is the first Irish politician brave enough to state the obvious: Brussels’ bureaucrats have no clothes. Their economic policies, including the euro currency, have bankrupted Ireland and other states on the periphery of the EU. Brussels – as was predicted by naysayers in consecutive EU referenda - has usurped Irish independence.

Ming’s platform needs to be said: cut our ties to the euro; return the EU to an economic community; and end the diktat from Brussels, Berlin, and the European Central Bank. Insider also hopes his candidacy will give Sinn Féin akickinthepantstogetuponthe same platform, as well as all those Lefties, who foolishly believe in the myth of a ‘social Europe’.

This week, Insider has been tasked with drawing up questions from a socialist perspective that should be put to canvassers in both city and county when they come calling.

Questions for the candidates

The EU’s disastrous economic policies cast a dark shadow over this Local Election. We are being made to pay €9 billion a year to service a debt that is not ours. We are paying with cuts to basic services and a series of exploitative taxes that sharply impact on communities. The statistics speak for themselves: Ireland has paid 42 per cent of the total cost of the European banking crisis, and we will be paying off this debt for the next 40 years.

There is only one question to pose to canvassers: Does their candidate support the property tax?

All you need is a yes or no answer. If yes, then you know they are in favour of us paying the gambling debts of foreign speculators and in favour of all the cuts and taxes. Do not be bamboozled by the spin that the property tax is to cover local authority costs. It is not. You have already paid for those through central taxation.

However, if the candidate is opposed to the property tax, then follow up with a supplementary question: When elected, will the councillor vote against the council budget when it includes the property tax?

That was the case in Donegal County Council, where Sinn Féin’s four councillors (with the backing of their two TDs ) almost led to a rejection of the budget, because of the property tax. If this defeat of the estimates had succeeded it would have been a powerful signal to councillors throughout the Republic that it was time to shout stop to the EU’s economic madness.

Radical county, conservative city?

Of course Galway city and county are not Donegal, so the answer to that second question will be a good indicator of the candidate’s real opposition to austerity. In County Galway the momentum for change is not like in the new ‘rebel county’ of Donegal. After the election, right-wing politics will continue to prevail, through a combination of FG and ex- PDs with FF feigning opposition.

At present four councillors have a progressive pact which includes SF’s Dermot Connolly, Republican Sinn Féin’s Tom Ó Curraoin, and Independent councillors Sean Canney and Seosamh Ó Cuaig.

As it stands, these four councillors could be joined by at least one new SF councillor – Connemara’s Máirín Mhic Lochlainn and Tom Healy or Gabe Cronnelly in Athenry/Oranmore - and the fiery independent candidate Michael Fitzmaurice. So there are progressive possibilities.

In the city there is no prospect of radical change. Indeed, we may see the ‘Return of Frankenstein’ in the guise of the awful Fianna Fáil/PD coalition. The PDs have not gone away you know! They now masquerade as community candidates, but Insider remembers their guru’s mantra, “inequality is good”. And that ideology has not gone away either - it is central to austerity: bailouts for the rich, hardship for the rest.

As for the ‘opposition’ at city council level, the bookie’s predictions would suggest it will include Labour and Fine Gael - the very parties enacting the austerity in Dublin.

Only the Independent councillor Catherine Connolly, a declared opponent of the property tax, looks certain of being returned. Sinn Féin has three candidates in the city and could contribute to a real opposition. How many of them will win seats is debatable.

In Galway City East, a vibrant campaign is being run by Mairéad Farrell and her team, giving SF a splendid chance of winning here. That should also be the case for SF’s Anna Marley in the Central Ward. Labour sources have led Insider to believe a seat in this ward is Sinn Féin’s to lose. Marley is an excellent candidate. She works in the local Sinn Féin office and therefore has huge experience dealing with issues raised by local constituents. Up until now her campaign has been lacklustre. However, it can be turned around in the next six weeks.

Then there is Cathal Ó Conchúir in Galway City West. He might prove to be the dark horse, but it will be heavy going. The decision of Martin McGuinness to accept the invitation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to a state banquet for Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins, was probably made in an attempt to woo Unionists up North, but it will certainly influence transfers to SF in the Republic, including those in that most conservative ward of Galway City West. However, in such a small field of 10 candidates going for six seats, it is not likely to help Ó Conchúir.

In other words, we probably will have an even more reactionary city council after the election.

Slim pickings for the Left?

The bookies do not give the other progressive candidates any chance: Kiran Emrich (People Before Profit ) and Tommy Houlihan, Conor Burke, and Seán Byrne (Anti-Austerity Alliance ). But when did socialists pay any heed to what a Fine Gael bookmaker had to say? Besides, the point of this election should be to use the opportunity to get their message to the electorate. On a bigger scale that is what lies behind Ming’s candidacy to the European Parliament.

It is a means to counter the widespread propaganda that things are improving, because unemployment figures appear to be dropping. However, probably not even the spin- doctors believe this - once more a generation of our young people is being scattered to the four winds.

Workers’ wages have markedly shrunk along with employment, while both income and wealth inequality have increased sharply. In other words, austerity is working for the wealthy in Ireland and for those lucky foreign bankers and speculators, whose gambling losses we are repaying, all thanks to the euro and the neo-liberal EU elite.


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