FERGUS FINLAY: Predictions for 2014 are guaranteed to be just as accurate as last year’s

WHAT on earth is a decent hard-working witch to do? There I was, ready, as always at this time of the year, to predict the future for all of you, and to ensure that you’d have no surprises throughout 2014.

And then I open my Irish Examiner on Saturday morning, and what do I find? Some fellow called Michael Clifford filling up this space with all sorts of wild predictions for the year ahead. No science involved — not like me, with my cauldron — just a crystal ball that he claims to have got in the post. Well, I’ll just have to welcome Michael to the forecasters’ club. It will take him some years, of course, to build up a track record like mine. Just look at some of the things I predicted this time last year, for instance. I had George Hook calling for poor Declan Kidney’s head, and Eamonn Dunphy calling for Roy Keane’s return. I predicted that Colm Keaveney would leave Labour, and that James Reilly would be Minister for Finance. OK, OK. Perhaps none of those worked out quite how I imagined. In my bubbling cauldron, Roy Keane was returning as a player, and Declan Kidney was being fired despite winning all round him (just because George loves to be perverse).

I had imagined that Labour would fire Keaveney, rather than the other way round, and I certainly never imagined he’d join Fianna Fáil (mind you, anyone who predicted that would have been told to keep taking the tablets). And yes, I know, James Reilly isn’t Minister for Finance yet. But at least the Department of Finance seems to be spending most of its time doing James Reilly’s job. But if you’re ever visiting the& Harland and Wolff shipyard, and have sufficient bad taste to mention the Titanic, you’ll be instantly told “it was grand when it left here!”. And so it is with all of my predictions. Last year’s were absolutely spot on — when I made them. And this year’s, I guarantee you, will come true too.

January: Enda Kenny announces he’s going to have a referendum a month throughout 2014. “The subject will be a surprise each month, and we’ll have a few days of debate,” he says. “Experience shows that too much discussion only confuses people.” A spokesperson later clarified that when the Taoiseach mentioned “debate”, he wasn’t including himself.

February: The first referendum, aimed at repealing the 1937 provision in the Constitution that says a woman’s place is in the home, is defeated. Amid shock and consternation, Enda Kenny says it’s clear the people were confused. “They got mixed up between a yes vote and a no vote,” he says, adding “I was a bit confused myself until the missus told me how to vote.”

March: After Ireland is pipped for the Rugby Grand Slam in Paris on St Patrick’s weekend, George Hook announces that it’s clear the ‘Joe Schmidt experiment’, as he calls it, has failed. Four wins out of five is simply not good enough, Hook says, before demanding the recall of Ronan O’Gara as player/manager for the Irish team.

April: Micheál Martin announces that the rehabilitation of Fianna Fáil is complete, just in time for the local and European elections. “All the newspapers now accept that we were harmless gobshites, doing our best when the economy collapsed,” he says. “The era of the Galway tent and all that stuff was just a left-wing propaganda stunt.”

May: In the run-up to the local elections, Minister Noonan issues an update on the post-Troika situation. It contains a detailed description of the green shoots of recovery, which he says can be clearly seen in the hedgerows and gardens in 18 marginal constituencies.

June: The local elections produce a shock result. Under Phil Hogan’s reforms, 950 county councillors are elected, and every one of them is an independent. This rebuff to the political party system is welcomed by Shane Ross, who becomes overnight bookies’ favourite to be the next Taoiseach.

July: Building on the momentum of the elections, Lucinda Creighton and Shane Ross jointly announce the formation of a new party, the Independent Progressive Family Right to Life and Middle Class Coping Alliance (IPFRLMCCA).

August: Opinion polls give the IPFRLMCCA 40% of the national vote. A spokesperson denies there’s a split in the party about the unpronouncability of its name. “They’re too busy fighting over who’ll be leader,” the spokesperson says.

September: Michael McDowell SC offers to mediate between the leadership contenders in the new party. “I’m willing to be party president,” he says. He offers to preside over all meetings, provided they’re held between Baggot Street and Donnybrook, and to give them lots of ideas.

October: After the IPFRLMCCA leadership lets it be known that it has declined Michael McDowell’s offer, he announces his immediate and irrevocable retirement from public life. The new party declares that a poll of its 78,000 new members has picked three of the letters from its name to represent the party brand. The Independent Coping Alliance, or ICA party, as it’s now called, gets a whopping 71% of the vote in the latest poll.

November: Minister Noonan issues his latest economic update. It no longer refers to green shoots of recovery, but contains references to strong, sturdy saplings instead. There is some surprise, however, when Minister Noonan announces that he has recruited Charlie McCreevy to help him formulate a seven-year plan for the construction industry, and to help the struggling middle classes.

December: Micheál Martin writes to the Taoiseach, proposing a national government to protect the country from the possibility of Shane Ross and Lucinda Creighton becoming Taoiseach and Tánaiste (or vice versa). “If you thought the Troika was bad,” his letter begins. The Taoiseach announces that he will consider the situation and in an ominous development says he intends to talk to the Army Chiefs of Staff.

I’m only joking, of course. Before I wish the rest of you a happy new year,I want to say thanks to the men and women of the ESB. A few weeks ago they were being described in every newspaper as willing to hold the country to ransom for the sake of their bloated pensions. In recent days, in the worst of our weather, hundreds of them, together with their colleagues in Telecom and a number of local authorities, have worked hard to restore services to thousands of their fellow citizens. In other words, behaving like loyal public servants, who deserve a solid clap on the back.

And as for the rest of us, here’s hoping that whether my predictions come true or not, we all have a peaceful, happy and perhaps even a slightly more prosperous 2014. Happy New Year to you all.


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