Tag Archives: Micheál Martin

Catching up with modern Ireland: June

The main news from Ireland in June was the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and approval of a new coalition government. From the Associated Press and other media reports:

Centrist politician Micheál Martin became Ireland’s new prime minister on June 27, fusing two longtime rival parties into a coalition four months after an election that upended the status quo.

The deal will see Martin’s Fianna Fail govern with Fine Gael — the party of outgoing leader Leo Varadkar —and with the smaller Green Party. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, bitter opponents whose roots lie in opposing sides of the 1920s civil war that followed Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom, have never before formed a government together.

Ireland’s new taoiseach, @MichealMartinTD

Under the plan approved by the three parties’ memberships, Martin is taoiseach, or prime minister until the end of 2022. He then hands the job back to his predecessor, Varadkar, who has won high praise for steering the country through the COVID-19 crisis. Until then, Varadkar will serve as deputy prime minister and minister for enterprise, trade and employment.

The historic coalition pushed aside leftist Sinn Fein, which did better than expected in the February election, but failed to run candidates in all constituencies and could not attract coalition partners. It becomes Ireland’s main opposition party.

Fianna Fail holds 38 seats in the 160-seat Dáil Éireann, the principal chamber of the Irish legislature. Sinn Fein has 37 seats; Fine Gael has 35, and Greens have 12 seats. The balance are other small parties and independents.

Other headlines from June:

    • Jean Kennedy Smith, a Kennedy clan sister who as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland in the 1990s helped pave the way for the Good Friday Agreement, died at 92. “The Irish people were willing to take me at face value, to give me the benefit of the doubt because I was a Kennedy,” she said in 1998.
    • Statues are being toppled around the world as protesters rise up against racism and other forms of oppression. TheJournal.ie offered a round up of statues and monuments already removed from Irish streetscapes (Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin), and those that could soon disappear (Columbus in Galway).
    • In a Washington Post op-ed, former Seattle police chief and Boston police commissioner Kathleen O’Toole, and Robert Peirce, an international policing consultant and former diplomat, wrote about their efforts to transform the Royal Ulster Constabulary into the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
    • A post-Brexit opinion poll found the U.K. departure from the E.U. has squeezed the political middle in Northern Ireland and pushed more people into unionist and nationalist trenches, The Guardian reported.
    • Bloomberg profiled notorious businessman Sean Quinn.
    • Ireland was elected to the United Nations Security Council. Mexico, India, and Norway also were selected for the same two-year terms on the 15-member panel.
    • The false widow spider, an invasive species first spotted in Ireland in 1998, has been multiplying quickly and is more venomous than first assumed, researchers at NUI Galway have found.
    • All in the family: New analysis of ancient human DNA from Newgrange, the Stone Age tomb mounds in the Boyne River valley, reveals a first-degree incestuous union, either between parent and child, or brother and sister. The finding, combined with other genetic and archaeological evidence, suggests that the people who built the mounds 5,000 years ago lived in a hierarchical society with a ruling elite.

Entrance at Newgrange, July 2019.

St. Patrick’s Day 2020 disrupted by pandemic & politics

UPDATES:

March 14:

  • The U.S. government reversed an earlier exemption from the 30-day European travel ban for Ireland and the U.K. The prohibition on the two islands will take effect midnight March 16.
  • Masses are being cancelled across most dioceses in Ireland for at least the next three weeks.

March 13:

  • It’s not just St. Patrick’s Day parades that are cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic; it’s also St. Patrick’s Day masses, scheduled either for Sunday or March 17. The Catholic Archdioceses of Washington, D.C., is closing all its churches from March 16 through March 27. In Chicago, Old St. Patrick’s Church is closed March 13-March 23. The Cleveland diocese cancelled its March 17 masses. A growing number of dioceses are suspending the weekly mass obligation.

St. Patrick’s in Washington, D.C., on March 10. The doors are being closed March 16.

March 12:

  • “I know that some of this is coming as a real shock. And it’s going to involve big changes in the way we live our lives. And I know that I’m asking people to make enormous sacrifices. But we’re doing it for each other,” Varadkar said in announcing that Ireland’s schools, universities and childcare facilities are being closed until at least March 29.
  • The board of the New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade announced “with a heavy heart” that the 2020 edition is postponed until “a later date,” the first scratch since 1762.
  • Varadkar and Trump met at the White House. But they did not shake hands or exchange the traditional bowl of shamrocks, the Associated Press reported. Varadkar addressed the Ireland Funds gala dinner Wednesday night at the National Building Museum, according to The Journal.ie.
  • White House officials have confirmed that Ireland is not included in the 30-day European travel ban announced by President Trump to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The Washington Post explains why. In his Oval Office address, Trump only named the U.K. as being exempt.

March 11:

  • New York parade pin

    There has been mixed reporting through the day about whether New York City will cancel its scheduled March 17 parade for the first time since 1762. “This is 259 years consecutive years the parade has been marching in New York. It’s an unbelievable tradition to break,” parade president Tommy Smyth told The Daily News. Here is the parade’s official website.

  • Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Savannah, and smaller U.S. cities have cancelled parades set for March 14 or March 15.
  • Ireland recorded its first coronavirus death, said to be an elderly patient in the eastern portion of the island, The Irish Times reported.

ORIGINAL POST:

It’s not a usual season of St. Patrick’s Day events, socially or politically. Ireland has cancelled all parades due to ongoing threats from coronavirus. The official statement:

Due to the unique nature and scale of the St Patrick’s Day festivities, in terms of size, the mass gathering of local and international travelers, and the continued progression of community transmission in some European countries, along with the emergence of a small number of cases of local transmission in Ireland, the Government has decided that St Patrick’s Day parades, including the Dublin parade, will not proceed.

There are 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Republic and Northern Ireland as of March 10, but the number is likely to grow. The last time the parade was canceled was in 2001 because of foot-and-mouth disease.

On the U.S. side of the Atlantic, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh cancelled the city’s iconic parade “out of an abundance of caution.”  Other parades across America also have been scratched, including Newport, R.I., Hartford, Conn., Denver, and San Francisco.

Organizers in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Savannah say their events are still on for this weekend, but that could change any moment.

Varadkar and Trump in 2018. “Wash your hands.”

Political events

Nominal Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cancelled a series of meetings in New York in connection with Ireland’s bid for a seat on the United Nations’ Security Council. He is still scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C., for events on March 11 and March 12, including a White House meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and the traditional shamrock presentation.

The Irish Times’ U.S.  correspondent Suzanne Lynch reported Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence will boycott [my emphasis] the annual St. Patrick’s lunch at the U.S. Capitol because of tensions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The B-word, of course, comes from the Irish Land War. A White House spokesman, referring to Pelosi’s ripping up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union address earlier this year, said:

Since the Speaker has chosen to tear this nation apart with her actions and her rhetoric, the president will not participate in moments where she so often chooses to drive discord and disunity, and will instead celebrate the rich history and strong ties between the United States and Ireland at the White House on March 12.  … The relationship between our two countries has never been stronger.

Fine Gael‘s Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are in close talks about forming a coalition government in Ireland, now more than a month since the general election failed to produce a majority. The Journal.ie noted Enda Kenny curtailed his St. Patrick’s trip in 2016 while in a similar position of government formation talks.

On March 10, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (DUP) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Fein) cancelled their scheduled trip to Washington.

Forecasting the fate of Fianna Fáil in 2016

Less than a year remains until the next national election in Ireland, which must be called by 3 April 2016. It will be the first general election since 2011, when angry voters ousted the governing Fianna Fáil party from power following the bust of the Irish economy.

Lately, there’s been a wavelet of political analysis in Ireland and the U.S. about Fianna Fáil’s prospects for next spring. But before speculating about the future, a little about the past. Fianna Fáil was founded by Éamon de Valera in the split from Sinn Féin following Ireland’s bitter civil war. Fianna Fáil were the anti-Treaty crowd. The pro-Treaty side, represented by Michael Collins, evolved into Fine Gael, Ireland’s second largest party.

A recent opinion piece in the Irish Independent further explained:

Fianna Fáil was founded in 1926 and has been in government 61 of the 79 years since, 13 times as a minority government or in coalition. Throughout that period Ireland has moved from a poor and rural, deeply conservative Roman Catholic country to become urbanised, industrialised, hi-tech, one of the leading economies in Europe, and on the verge of voting for same-sex marriage. (We’ll see about that come 22 May.)

The Independent suggests Fianna Fáil get credit for what’s gone right as well as what’s gone wrong. It says some of the anger directed at the party is softening, “which should come as no surprise as the economy lifts and people return to their daily affairs with something more of a spring in their step and the promise of a few quid in their pocket. The great irony is that as the economy lifts under the stewardship of Fine Gael and Labour, on a plan drawn up by Fianna Fáil, so too will the fortunes of Fianna Fáil rise, just as the cause and effect of austerity has damned them all too.”

At Irish Central, John Spain takes the opposite view, writing “at the moment the party appears to be going nowhere, condemned to the political wilderness by a population still very angry at what Fianna Fáil did to the economy and the country. In spite of faint hopes of a revival due to widespread unhappiness at some of the things the government has been doing, the outlook for Fianna Fáil remains grim.”

Here’s more coverage:

  • At the Slugger O’Toole portal, founding editor Mike Fealty offers this analysis of Fianna Fáil.
  • Hugh Linehan at The Irish Times, joined by other political pundits, did a recent podcast on the party’s fate.
  • And below, a Late Late Show interview with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: