POLITICAL REVIEW ... A year of highs and lows in high office

A sideways glance at the political year gone by.

ET TU PRETENTIOUS?

Colm Keaveney signalled he was jumping ship in anger at the budget cuts with a tweet in Latin: “Acta non verba” — “Deeds, not words” — however, his determination to remain Labour chairman despite losing the party whip no doubt tempted Eamon Gilmore to return the favour by telling him to “Lotium longe” — “Pee off”.

BLEATING THE RETREAT

Labour TD Ciarán Lynch musing on media standards: “If a politician was found in a hotel bed with a sheep these days, the first questions the press would ask wouldn’t be about the sheep, they’d be: ‘Did he use the mini-bar — and was it on expenses?’”

LEO LETS RIP

It was the moment the Coalition finally delivered transformative change — but Leo Varadkar sarcastically singing ‘The Red Flag’ while Labour lorded it in a luxury hotel favoured by the super-rich may not exactly have been the sort of change people voted for.

But the autumn “think-ins” of the governing parliamentary parties showed them both bathed in an ugly light.

The Blueshirts bayed with delight as thrusting Thatcherite Varadkar roared the socialist anthem during early hours revelry at their sumptuous Westport spa hotel. The fact he had to check the words on his Blackberry only added to the collective glee among Fine Gaelers that the moment symbolised their belief the Labour Party is just where they want them — prisoners of the Tory austerity agenda.

GILMORE GOES GLITZ

But Labour were too busy partying to care that much as they rejoiced in the footsteps of Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and took up residence at the seriously posh Carton House Hotel in Kildare. “Nothing is too good for the working class,” one minister kept insisting.

KING BLING

Not that power has gone to Eamon Gilmore’s head or anything — though the 10 or so private security guards prowling the Carton House corridors in their black suits and earpieces did make him seem more Lady Gaga than Che Guevara.

PUTTING THE TIFF INTO PONTIFF

Like a surly teenager Enda Kenny continually played with his phone during an audience the Pope gave to Europe’s right-wing leaders. An unhappy looking Pontiff must have wanted the rude Blueshirt to confess: “Forgive me Holy Father, for I have SIM-ed.”

MINISTER FOR INEQUALITY

The X case debate was given added poignancy by the death of Savita Halappanavar with Justice and Equality Minister Alan Shatter telling the Dáil: “When men in this country require medical treatment, there are no barriers to their obtaining it. In these particular areas, for example, there are barriers to women obtaining treatment and, in that sense, they are less equal as citizens in one particular area of our life.”

SORRY, WE DON’T CARE

No minister bothered to apologise to taxpayers for squandering €1.1m of public funds on children’s referendum information the Supreme Court ruled to be illegal and biased.

The fact the waste emerged as €7.9m worth of cuts to home helps caused major concern to vulnerable people across the country and as it was announced the Oireachtas was to splash out up to €175,000 on iPads for TDs and senators added insult to injury.

STROKE OF LUCK

Step forward Dr James Reilly — stroke specialist.

Despite never knowingly showing shyness about his own abilities before, this new area of the health minister’s expertise only came to light after it was diagnosed by fellow medic Dr Leo Varadkar, who noticed some tell-tale scarring on Reilly’s visage that he pinpointed as “looking like stroke politics” after two sites in Reilly’s constituency appeared as if by magic on the primary care shortlist.

DON’T CARRY-ON DR

Junior health minister Roisín Shortall eventually resigned in outrage at the “stroke” — after initially voting confidence in Reilly in the Dáil — but she now attacks him with such frequency and ferocity the duo should really be known as Dr Heckled and Mrs Jibe.

50 SHADES OF FINE GAEL

“Fornication, I would say, is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies,” Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin declared, stating the bleeding obvious.

A BIT POTTY

Enda Kenny nearly lost his footing and toppled over into a flower pot when he was unwilling to say where he stood on gay marriage.

His accident-prone press secretary Feargal Purcell then made a complaint to TV3 that Enda had been subjected to what he said was “tantamount to assault” by a journalist.

In reality the only assault was the one perpetuated by Enda on the nation’s intelligence.

LUNATICS AND THE SEANAD

FG senator Tom Sheahan revelled in FF’s civil war over the fiscal treaty between Éamon Ó Cuív and Micheál Martin, noting: “Isn’t it ironic the way history repeats itself, because Deputy Martin isn’t the first Corkman to be shot in the back by a de Valera.”

Uproar forced Mr Sheahan to withdraw the remark. Kerry’s Ned O’Sullivan then tried to restore calm, warning: “There are extreme leftists and lunatics everywhere.”

GERRY FINDS LOVE IN A HOPELESS PLACE

“May I begin by wishing the Taoiseach a very happy Valentine’s Day?” Gerry Adams enquired as all Dáil heads turned.

“Thanks,” chipped back an unflattered Taoiseach, before adding: “Sometimes I get all concerned when I hear Deputy Adams talk about St Valentine’s Day — I’m not sure whether it’s romance or massacre he’s talking about.”

But the Sinn Féin leader would not be rebuffed, adding: “It is a good day despite your rejection of my, er, my, my love,” he told the Taoiseach as Mr Kenny rolled his eyes and said, exasperated: “Spare me.”

VARADKAR FAILS VULCAN LOGIC TEST

“I don’t think referendums are very democratic,” the transport minister declared.

CRAIC ATTACK

“One must ask whether these guys are number-crunching on crack at the moment,” TD Shane Ross’s novel — and potentially slanderous — view of how finance department officials get their growth forecasts.

SEANADFORNIA

David Norris could not wait to tell the Seanad about the “compulsive and repulsive” TV3 show Tallafornia.

“The last episode was obnoxious. There was simulated sexual activity, leading, apparently, to full sexual activity. I am not entirely familiar on a habitual basis, even in my neck of the woods, with the language used.”

LABOUR OF LOVE/HATE

Labour TDs expressed anger that a “whitewash” review of the party’s patchy general election performance was delayed, then suppressed.

“How long does it take to write the sentence: ‘We fucked up?’,” one TD asked.

GOLD MEDAL IN HYPOCRISY

Disabled people were truly valued and respected by the Taoiseach and his health minister — but only as long as they were in London winning medals at the Paralympics, and not making a nuisance of themselves at home by demanding basic levels of dignity as they protested outside the Dáil.

Enda Kenny spent September banging off messages of congratulations to gold, silver, and bronze medallists at the Olympic Park in Stratford, gushing about how “fantastic” the disabled competitors were and how the nation “cherishes” their achievements.

If James Reilly’s cack-handed €10m personal assistance care cuts had gone through, would congratulatory messages have gone out to vulnerable and elderly people in Tipperary or Clare thanking them for remaining in soiled adult nappies for several hours because there was nobody available to help them anymore? Because that would have been the reality in some cases.

WHO’S A PRETTY LITTLE ENDA?

Enda Kenny spent €30,629 of taxpayers’ money on getting his photo taken in his first year in office.

JOAN’S TONES

A tax shakedown of pensioners saw Socialist Joe Higgins note: “The Poor Clares could not have been more silent on the pensions controversy than the minister for social protection.

“I can imagine if [Joan] Burton had been in opposition, she would have brought an orchestra in to accompany her wails of distress for the pensioners who are being scarified by the Government.”

TO BE BUT NOT TIBET

The English pronunciation of the name of the Chinese vice-president — now supreme leader — who visited in February, is “she”. The Government’s craven refusal to bring up human rights with him was a case of: “Xi who must be obeyed.”

ENDA THE DRAGON: EXIT THE CONSCIENCE

Eamon Gilmore excelled in his prostration before Beijing with this jaw-droppingly crass comparison of human rights and trade: “No, we didn’t raise specific cases, any more than we raised specific trade investments.”

NON-APOLOGY APOLOGY

There was a standing ovation at the FF ard fheis for Micheál Martin’s catch-all, yet unspecific, apology for the mistakes of the last government. But delegates also rose to their feet to loudly cheer the man who presided over the country’s financial collapse and loss of sovereignty, Brian Cowen.

GAY FOR PAY

After the FF ard fheis backed gay marriage equality, members of its all-male Dáil party were asked: “So, is gay marriage compulsory in Fianna Fáil now — will you have to take a husband?” To which the most intriguing answer from an unnamed TD was: “I’ll marry him, but I won’t sleep with him.” It is the kind of compromise one would expect from the people who brought us “an Irish solution to an Irish problem”.

LIES WIDE OPEN

Enda Kenny reneged on his promise to issue ministerial score cards and insisted he and Gilmore had not lied about burning the bondholders, etc, as those were just election pledges and not in the Programme for Government.

It was a bit like a newly married spouse who has been caught cheating, saying: “I know I promised to be faithful — but that was only during the wedding vows, when I needed you to say ‘yes’. If you look at the small print of the ‘Programme for Marriage’ I drafted immediately after the ceremony, I think you’ll find there’s a little clause saying: ‘I can cheat as much as I like’ — so, in fact, you owe me the apology, darling.”

SEX AND THE FORBIDDEN CITY

Enda began his trip to China by comparing the skyline of Shanghai, whose inexorable rise means it is about to become the new New York and the real capital of capitals, to the high-rise slums of Dublin’s Ballymun.

HORRIBLE TREATY, SWEETIE

It was not the stability treaty, it was the stab treaty — because all either side did was try to knife the other.

CHARDONNAY SOCIALISM

The Socialists launched their anti-treaty poster campaign in a slick little downtown Dublin wine bar. Wags wondered if Joe “No Ho-Ho” Higgins had confused the venue with a whine bar.

LUCINDA FRIGHTENS

In Fright Night on Lucinda Creighton St, if you dared vote no, loved ones who had fled abroad for work would be “marooned” there.

PINKY-BLUESHIRT

Jerry Buttimer became Fine Gael’s first TD to come out, joining two Labour deputies.

A LOW POINT FOR THE UPPER HOUSE

“Would we really be wasting time consulting with the Catholic Church if they could discriminate against black people in this way?”

Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power was speaking after her bid to end the fear felt by gay teachers and medical staff who can be sacked for their sexual orientation was voted down by FG and Labour in a bid to stop FF claiming credit for the equality move.

MICK BEING THICK

Shameless — sometimes it’s the only word to sum up the Dáil. And like the TV show of the same name, one shabby character symbolises the moral decay of all — Chatsworth Estate has Frank Gallagher, Leinster House has Mick Wallace.

HOW MR ‘POOR ME’ GOT POORER

Mick Wallace is to use half the money taxpayers give him so he can pay off a bit of the money he defrauded from taxpayers.

His near-tear 10-minute address was short on self-awareness, but rich with self-pity after committing an illegal act by deliberately lying to the Revenue, leaving the State €2.1m down.

“Have I considered resigning and running in a by-election? Yes, I have. But I was never very good at quitting.” Maybe not, but you were bloody good at tax-dodging.

“The motive behind the underpayment was to delay payment in order to trade out of difficulty.” Oh right, so that’s why you doubled the salary you paid yourself and your son to €290,000, was it?

CLARE’S FOUL-MOUTHED DESPAIR

“Fucking pig.” That’s what Socialist TD, and close friend of Wallace, Clare Daly, reportedly shouted at mild-mannered photographer Sasko Lazarov after he snapped Wallace leaving the Dáil.

DIAL M FOR MERKEL

Mr Kenny’s press flunkies gushed whenever Angela Merkel failed to answer the Taoiseach’s telephone calls, but unfortunately as far as the desperately needed bank debt writedown deal went, Enda always seemed to get through to the German Nein, Nein, Nein service as the chancellor was not for budging.

However she did tease Mr Kenny with a little kiss — but then he is her favourite European plaything and Ms Merkel knows that, just like her very own Buzz Lightyear doll, she can wind him up whenever she wants and hear her favourite phrase: “To austerity and beyond!”

ENDA’S WORTH IT

As Enda emerged into the dawn light at 5.29am to announce the vague bank debt deal that has unravelled from an alleged “gamechanger” to a potential non-entity, his make-up was immaculate, especially when compared to EU president José Manuel Barroso, who looked like Jordan at a hen party.

A REILLY BAD DEBT

James Reilly owes his former business buddies a fortune — and still owes the rest of us an explanation over how he became the first sitting minister to end up in that debtor sheet of shame, The Stubbs Gazette.

DR DOUBLE STANDARDS

As Reilly has failed to comply with a court order or clear the debt, how can this Cabinet have any moral authority when it is taking people to court for non-payment of the offensively unfair flat-rate household tax and one of its most senior ministers — and deputy leader of the dominant Government party — has a financial and judicial record like that?

ENDA’S NORTHERN FRONT

Mr Kenny became the first Taoiseach to attend a poppy day remembrance service when he visited Enniskillen’s war memorial.

The lush green of the wreath he laid stood out markedly amid the blood red sea of poppies engulfing it, and its card bore the handwritten note “In remembrance from the Government of Ireland,” — surely, an assertion of all-island political legitimacy that would not be lost on hardline unionists?

THEY JUST CLICK

Tax cheat TD Mick Wallace and lefty deputy Clare Daly are usually so inseparable within the Dáil chamber they have almost become a sort of political Jedward — Clare and Mick: aka Click.

TO DI FOR

Nobody does a good old bust-up like the lefties, and the implosion of the Socialist Party was something to behold for the scale of its bitterness.

Like Princess Diana before him, Joe Higgins came to the conclusion that there were three people in his political marriage to Clare Daly and she had to choose between helping him gain control over the means of industrial production for the masses, or her support for Mick Wallace.

Ms Daly said her decision to quit was nothing to do with Wallace, but compared her split with Higgins to an “acrimonious divorce”.

A HYPOCRITE CRASH LANDS

In a sneering rebuke to that enemy of democracy, the free press, Leo Varadkar told the MacGill Summer School he felt it was all terribly vulgar for the media to be so exercised about trivialities, like how the Government jet, which costs €8,000 an hour to run, had been used and abused like a gold-plated flying taxi by ministers.

Clearly little Leo has grown-up considerably in the past two years. Who was that seizing on press revelations that then transport minister Noel Dempsey had used the jet to whisk him from Dublin to Derry to attend the MacGill think-in in 2010? Oh, that’s right, it was Varadkar.

Eager to score easy points in opposition, Leo laid into Dempsey (with information provided by those awful, trash obsessed newspapers), ridiculing the minister’s claim he could not get a commercial flight by smugly boasting he had flown to Donegal for €55. Well done Leo, aren’t you a clever little thing?

LET THEM EAT SUNSHINE

“A lot of people go to Australia. It’s not being driven by unemployment at home, it’s driven by a desire to see another part of the world and live there” — Michael Noonan on forced emigration.

A LOW LIFE IN HIGH OFFICE

The Mahon corruption probe finally delivered its damning verdict and ruled that Bertie Ahern’s evidence could not be believed.

Bertie, now exposed as a liar, has since gone to ground, unable to comprehend how the judges, whom he once branded low lifes, could not believe his “explanations” for the dollar and sterling lodgements sloshing about the 23 bank accounts he operated while finance minister in the early 1990s. Oh, you remember them: “I won it on the gee gees”; “These men I didn’t really know made me take it in Manchester”; “It was from two spontaneous digouts a year apart from two separate sets of friends who had no knowledge of each other, but wanted to give the finance minister enough for a deposit on a house.”

Bertie has yet to reveal where the money really did come from. What can he have to hide?

WHEN MIRIAM MET MARTIN

Martin McGuinness: “As far as I was concerned she apologised for her behaviour [in the Prime Time presidential debate].” Miriam O’Callaghan: “I would never... have apologised for asking that question.”

ENDA’S GONE MAD TED

Mr Kenny told business leaders at the Davos summit the crash was caused by Irish people going “mad”.

THE BEST THEY COULD ‘INK OF

It wasn’t spent cartridges but ink cartridges that saw Sinn Féin caught in the crossfire. Dublin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh splashed out €50,000 of taxpayers’ money on ink cartridges in a two-year period, claiming they all went on leaflets pushed through his constituents’ doors — even though this would mean he delivered 3.2m pages to them. It appeared the party’s former slogan, “A ballot box in one hand, an Armalite in the other”, had been updated to “A letter box in one hand, an ink cartridge in the other”.

HOUSEHOLD CHARGE OF THE LIGHTWEIGHT BRIGADE

From Big Phil Hogan to Feck-It-Up Phil in the space of a couple of months, few ministerial careers have threatened to disappear down the drain so quickly.

Luckily for us though, he still found time to jet off at taxpayers expense to luxury hotels in Rio and the sun-soaked Arabian Gulf in order to save the planet in the manner of Superman at various Earth summits.


Lifestyle

A S the Joker would say, ‘Why so Series X?’ But the next generation of the Xbox isn’t a joke for Microsoft, who have ground to make up on Sony in the console wars. The Redmond team disappointed this generation, making early mistakes that gave Sony all the momentum.GameTech: Get ready for the new Xbox

Cork actor Eanna Hardwicke may have grown up with a Young Offenders star, but he is set to make a name for himself with a string of big roles, writes  Esther McCarthyEanna Hardwicke: Cork actor about to burst onto the big screen

Should we be putting haemorrhoid cream around our eyes? Short answer... Absolutely not.The Skin Nerd: Are celebrity skincare tips all a load of Bullocks?

Peter Dowdall reports on how Blarney Castle's famous yew has bewitched onlookers for six centuriesBewitched: Help Ireland's most popular tree get the vote in Europe

More From The Irish Examiner