There are certain things you need, after all, if you want to predict the future. The eye of a toad, the wing of a bat, that sort of thing.
But everything is in scarcer supply this year. All I’ve been able to do is add a few sticks of celery and a rather battered onion to the carcass of a well-picked turkey, and it’s been bubbling away on the stove for a few hours now. It’s creating a rather nice smell in the kitchen, I’ll admit.
It may not be quite the simmering cauldron, deep in the woods, that I normally use when making my calculations about what’s likely to happen in the 12 months that lie ahead. But I’ve been chanting “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble”, and some images are definitely beginning to form. I think I can confidently tell you that an exciting and turbulent year lies ahead.
January: Michael Noonan causes something of a stir when he announces that he has asked former taoiseach Bertie Ahern to join his negotiating team in securing a deal on the Irish promissory note. “Despite not having had a bank account for years,” Noonan says, “nobody knows more about how to translate promises into more promises than Bertie does.” Bertie says that he is looking forward to resuming his old relationship with Angela, and is always happy to help out.
February: The Irish sporting year starts with a bang as the Irish rugby team wins all three of its opening matches in the Six Nations, against Wales and Scotland away and England at home. After each of the victories Declan Kidney says “we’re going to have to improve a lot if we’re to win the next match”. George Hook calls for him to be replaced on the grounds that he’s not nearly optimistic enough. Meanwhile Hook himself confidently predicts the end of the world on his nightly radio show.
March: Giovanni Trappatoni announces that Steve Heighway, Mick McCarthy, and John Giles have agreed to come out of retirement to play for Ireland in their do-or-die match against Sweden in the World Cup qualifiers at the end of the month. “This is crazy,” Eamon Dunphy says on RTÉ. “Liam Brady is a much better player than Heighway. And how come there’s no place for Roy?”. It’s just one more example of Trapp’s unwillingness to experiment, Dunphy concludes.
April: Michael Noonan has to defend his promissory note negotiating team in the Dáil after it is revealed former minister Ray Burke has been appointed as an adviser to the group at a salary of €250,000 a year. “Nobody knows better than Ray where the bodies are buried,” says Noonan, explaining that Ray Burke’s annual pension of €100,000 will be offset against the salary.
May: The Taoiseach announces that he is scrapping the decision to abolish the Seanad. Instead, he says, he has decided to hold a referendum to scrap both Houses of the Oireachtas. “There will be very considerable savings in Dáil salaries and expenses,” he tells a party conference. Fears of a dictatorship are allayed when the Taoiseach and Tánaiste propose to replace the Dáil with an new model, based on the constitutional convention — 100 citizens picked at random by an opinion poll company, and required to turn up once a month to pass legislation. “They’ll be given free bus passes and a good lunch,” the Tánaiste adds.
June: At the Labour Party conference, rebel TD Colm Keaveney is forced to quit as party chair. Instead, delegates approve a proposal from the party leader to elect a hologram of Jim Larkin as incoming chair of the party. “Larkin represents everything we stand for,” Eamon Gilmore tells the audience. “The image of him at party meetings, standing tall, arms raised in the air, will always inspire us to do the right thing.” And besides, he adds, holograms can only say what you program them to say.
July: As the Dáil rises for the summer, the Taoiseach announces a Cabinet reshuffle. To everyone’s surprise, Dr James Reilly is appointed minister for finance, and immediately announces that he is moving the head office of the Revenue Commissioners to Balbriggan. He reveals that he has personally conducted a detailed independent study of the best location, using log tables and a set square, and Balbriggan clearly came out near the top of the list.
August: Ireland bakes in the glow of a month-long heat wave, and the further glow of a state visit by Angela Merkel. At a dinner hosted by senior government advisers Ahern and Burke, she admires the intimate surroundings and political mementoes on the wall. “Ah sure, it’s a little place I used to use for my national work,” Ahern explains, before revealing that Ms Merkel has offered to buy the building in return for a lower interest rate on the bank debt. And so at last St Lukes is sold.
September: Fianna Fáil issue proceedings against their former leader when it is discovered that he has decided to keep the proceeds of the sale of St Lukes for himself. He is shocked at this development. “After all the sacrifices I made for the party,” he says. A settlement is reached after Bertie donates an old sock drawer to the party. Two publicans and a builder join a consortium to buy the sock drawer at auction – for old times’ sake, they say in a statement.
October: The Constitutional Convention issues its first report. Controversially, they recommend doing away with Presidential elections in future. Instead, they suggest, Pat Kenny and Vincent Browne should be tasked with developing a list of worthy celebrities, who would then be voted for in an annual phone-in poll conducted by Joe Duffy on his Liveline programme.
November: After a fractious national debate, the referendum to scrap the Dáil is held. There is further consternation when the result is declared a dead heat. The Supreme Court declares the entire thing null and void because the Government held two public meetings calling for support for a yes vote. The Taoiseach announces that he will hold a further referendum in 2014 to abolish the Supreme Court.
December: There is outrage when, in announcing his annual budget, Finance Minister Reilly imposes a Christmas tax — 5% on all presents for children, and 10% on all presents given by adults to each other. “It is critically important that all our decisions are fair and reasonable,” he says, “and therefore I am exempting the residents of Swords and Balbriggan from this tax.” The population of both towns immediately doubles, giving rise to the need for four new schools, two additional healthcare centres, and a university.
I’m pretty confident all of this will come to pass (although it’s just possible we’ll have more serious stuff to do next year). And if it does, we’ll have plenty to gossip about and fulminate over by the time 2013 is over. But whatever happens, I wish you, most of all, a peaceful and a happy new year.