DANIEL MCCONNELL: It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

The 32nd Dáil has descended into a laughable farce and with the politicians now off on their Christmas holidays, Political Editor Daniel McConnell says it’s time to assess ministers’ performance since taking office.

At the end of the second term of the so-called ‘New Politics’, a number of things have become clear.

The Government and the 32nd Dáil are not working — and, in truth, the whole edifice is a laughable farce.

Secondly, the naked desire of Fine Gael and Taoiseach Enda Kenny to keep the show on the road, no matter what the cost, is galling.

Labour Leader Brendan Howlin’s description of a “Do-Nothing Dáil” is now a mild analysis of the current chassis.

The system is dangerously lurching from one populist driven crisis to the next and ultimately this leads to disaster.

But with our politicians now on their Christmas holidays, it is time to assess their performance since taking office:

Enda Kenny, Taoiseach

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

The grand survivor of the farce, I mean feast.

The continuing question over his departure continues to overshadow all matters.

It appears the whole thing is being allowed to continue merely to allow him stretch out his farewell.

Time to go.

Gets 2/10 for being able to survive when a majority wanted rid of him.

Michael Noonan, Finance

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Another who has outstayed his welcome.

Many within his own party feel he is not able to fulfil the role.

He commands a critical brief in Finance and the country deserves someone at the top of their game.

No questioning his acumen and his role in smoothing inter-Coalition rows in recent months and weeks.

The heart may be willing but the legs appear gone.

4/10.

Frances Fitzgerald, Tánaiste and Justice:

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

2016 has been a bruising year for the Justice Minister.

A spree of gangland killings and controversies involving the Garda Commissioner have dogged her.

Her department remains a carbuncle in desperate need of reform and she still does not have a secretary general more than two years after the last one departed.

More to do if she wants to be a leadership contender.

4/10

Paschal Donohoe, Public Expenditure and Reform

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Of the big four at Cabinet, Donohoe is the youngest and brightest prospect and one who has grown significantly in stature since his appointment.

Now a proper heavyweight politically, he appears to be the natural heir to Noonan’s crown.

His allowing of the Garda pay row to get as far as the Labour Court has been criticised but his big task will be to deliver a new pay deal in early 2017.

He says he doesn’t want to be leader, but…

7/10

Leo Varadkar, Social Protection

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

If you want a beer, go to the races, need a pal to appear at your birthday party, Leo is your man.

His strategy of working the backbenches in his bid to be leader has done him well so far, but will it be enough to see him succeed Kenny.

His habit of commenting on all matters not in his department has annoyed some, but remains a very talented politician.

5/10

Simon Coveney, Housing

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

The triumphant king of the ‘OK Corral’ showdown with Fianna Fáil on rents this week.

Serious Simon even made an appearance in the Dáil bar (something he never does) to celebrate his moment of victory.

His leadership bid is back on course, we are told. Handed a torturous brief by Enda Kenny with Water and Housing, Coveney has taken to the task with dedication but actual results elude him so far.

A decent stint.

6/10

Simon Harris, Health

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Simon Óg, as he is called by the Taoiseach, Harris, is a young man with tremendous energy and ability to speak fast.

Competent but is being severely tested in the poisoned chalice of Health.

Secured additional funding but waiting lists remain stubbornly high.

Will need all his wits if he is to succeed.

5/10

Richard Bruton, Education

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Mr dependable-but-dull, Bruton has shown he is a solid minister in whatever brief he is allotted.

His beloved Action Plan for everything is a bit one dimensional but was effective in Jobs.

The funding crisis in our universities, legacy battles with the Church over abuse costs and patronage of schools are his major obstacles to success.

No big wins to report.

4/10

Heather Humphreys, Arts

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

A truly lovely person and managed the 1916 Commemorations series but her presence at Cabinet continues to baffle many.

Not a lot more to say really.

4/10

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Jobs

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Victim of sexist campaign or simply not up to the job, Mitchell O’Connor has been the subject of intense criticism from many quarters, including from within Fine Gael.

The loss of her special adviser did little to quell the concern around her abilities.

2/10

Shane Ross, Transport

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Poacher turned gamekeeper, Ross has become the bête noire of Fine Gael and their cheerleaders.

He has in fact achieved a considerable amount since taking office.

Most notably he has won the major concession on the issue of judicial appointments, despite a lot of noise from the Blueshirts.

In his own brief, he has overseen record tourism numbers and the delivery of the Phoenix Park tunnel link for rail commuters.

Failure to move on State Board appointments is his major black mark.

6/10

Denis Naughten, Communications

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

The former Fine Gaeler turned Independent must be pinching himself.

Left his party in 2011 on the moral high ground yet still finds himself in Cabinet.

A canny operator who is also an arch pragmatist.

Has a big call to make on media ownership. RTÉ’s financial woes will occupy his agenda.

6/10

Katherine Zappone, Children

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Another who has made a sluggish start to ministerial life.

Appeared to be a big winner in terms of childcare in the budget but progress appears to have stalled.

Also her big issue of repealing the 8th Amendment on abortion has been long fingered.

Must do better.

4/10

Michael Creed, Agriculture

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

The underrated star of this Cabinet and was a big winner in the budget.

Not a show pony but has quietly and effectively gone about his job.

Farmers are a notoriously tricky bunch to keep happy and Creed will have to raise his profile somewhat but very solid.

6/10

Charlie Flanagan, Foreign Affairs

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

Has adopted a very cautious and low-key approach as our effective Brexit Minister.

Has put a lot of work into ensuring the Northern institutions prevail.

Flanagan was outraged when the Taoiseach went on a solo-run calling for an All-Ireland forum on Brexit, which was quickly slapped down by the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster.

His welcome outspoken tendencies when he was Fine Gael chairman are clearly a thing of the past, sad to say.

4/10

Finian McGrath, Disabilities

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

The super junior minister gets to sit at Cabinet but has managed to make the transition to Government fairly well.

The Government’s response to the ‘Grace’ Scandal has slowed somewhat and McGrath needs to inject some urgency to it.

His bloody-minded focus on the disability agenda annoys some but is the only way to achieve results.

His fawning expressions of tribute to the late Fidel Castro were baffling.

5/10.

Regina Doherty, chief whip

It’s time to assess the do-nothing Dáilers

The Ring Mistress of the New Politics has not always had an easy ride of it.

She has had to crack the whip on her fellow ministers to make sure the Government has enough numbers in the Dáil to win votes.

Hers is a largely procedural role and she has been solid enough in the face of hideous chaos on a daily basis.

5/10.


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