My Christmas crackers and festive turkeys
And so the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations draws to a close. Didn’t it just fly? It ends at midnight on Monday week. We hope you don’t miss it too much.
But never mind, there’s more where that came from – 2013 is the European Year of Citizens. Damn those Eurocrats and their yearly themes. Now we’ll have to change all the bunting.
And if that wasn’t enough excitement to be getting on with, January also marks the start of Ireland’s EU presidency. Enda and Eamon will be handed the keys to the cockpit on New Year’s Day. High-fives all round for the Austerity Presidency! There’s just the Christmas to get over before their glorious ascension.
In the meantime, here’s our selection box of Christmas crackers and festive turkeys to tide you over to the new year. Guaranteed to make your Yuletide bright.
The OMG! WTF? LOL! Award
This goes to Simon Harris of Fine Gael for his “Chillax – I think everyone needs to take a step back here” remark during a stormy session of the Public Accounts Committee.
Simon is the Dáil’s youngest TD. Enda is very proud of him.
“All the young people know what ‘chillax’ is,” he told the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions the following morning. Aren’t the young people great, all the same?
Optimist of the Year Award
“I’m going to the three Irish games and a couple of other matches . . .” That’s Mick Wallace, speaking on radio after he admitted owing the taxman over €2 million and just before his appearance on the Revenue’s list of defaulters.
Having come clean about his predicament, deputy Wallets thought he could then swan off to Poland and Ukraine to watch Ireland play in the European championships.
In fairness to the soccer-mad Wexford TD, he had asked if the Dáil could go into recess to facilitate people interested in the football, but his request was inexplicably turned down by the authorities.
In the end, Mick had to miss Ireland’s opening games to deliver an emotional speech to the Dáil in which he regretted his “error of judgment” in withholding his VAT.
Happily, he managed to make it over to Poznan to see Ireland bow out of the tournament after losing 2-0 to Italy.
And, ever the optimist, Mick vowed to repay the money he owes to the exchequer. He is putting up half of his Dáil salary towards his outstanding tax bill. The number-crunchers reckon he will have to serve as a backbencher for 87 years to repay his debt.
Best-Dressed Politician Award
Junior minister John Perry from Sligo does a nifty line in Paisley ties and matching silk handkerchiefs, while his colleague Mary Mitchell O’Connor continues her crusade to introduce some much-needed colour and style into the chamber.
Ruairí Quinn is still the King of Corduroy. Olivia Mitchell (FG) is always elegant while Gerry Adams likes the tweedy, country gent look.
As this column does not allow canvassing, we have had to disqualify Ming Flanagan for loudly drawing attention to his own attire. Our house band is very disappointed as they spent all last week practising Where’s Me Jumper? by The Sultans of Ping FC in anticipation of a Ming victory.
So it’s a second award for that veteran of pink-collar crime, Mick Wallace. His recent appearance in a grey cowl-neck hoodie set a new sartorial standard for the Dáil chamber.
“Some class of an aul blouse” is how one TD described it.
Stupid Stunt Award
Stunt of the year goes to Fine Gael for an ill-starred publicity gimmick to mark the party’s first year in government.
With the economy in ruins and job losses being announced that day, FG invited the media to a photocall at which TDs would hold up“coloured stars detailing significant Fine Gael achievements in government”.
Labour saw red. Pat Rabbitte dismissed these “antics” as “partisan gaiety” on the part of some Fine Gael TDs. “I hope they get over their excitement quickly,” he said.
The event was cancelled, although some TDs turned out anyway. The top brass from both parties agreed it was an ill-considered jape and blamed the hired help.
“This is not a case of coming out here blowing trumpets to say we’ve turned corners and that everything is rosy in the garden,” said Enda, before embarking on a round of good news press conferences.
Then both parties printed up separate leaflets outlining their individual achievements during the Coalition’s first year.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Bertie Award
Enda Kenny takes the title for the growing similarities between himself and the former taoiseach.
Enda is deflecting questions in the Dáil these days with Bertiesque waffle. Like the former Fianna Fáil leader, he’s a martyr to the feelgood photo- call. And by the end of his term in government, Enda will probably have shaken hands or high-fived every man, woman and child in the country. Twice.
I Can’t Believe It’s Bertie Award
To Bertie Ahern, for turning up at the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis when Micheál Martin and his backroom team had gone to great pains to avoid reminding the public of its recent government past. The Bert breezed into the RDS on the Saturday afternoon, forcing Micheál and his new boys to scuttle around the place like headless chickens to avoid meeting him.
They Won’t Believe It’s Not Phil Hogan Award
This goes to the man described as “an elderly Fine Gael delegate” who was mistaken for Phil Hogan by an angry mob of anti-household tax protesters as he tried to make his way into the party’s annual conference. We hear Big Phil was outraged.
Not on behalf of the gentleman who had to be escorted to safety by gardaí, but because witnesses were describing his doppelganger as “elderly”.
Splinter in Bum Award for Fence-Sitting
Always a keenly contested category. This year, Finian McGrath, the Technical Group’s serial flip-flopper loses his crown to his colleague, Shane Ross.
As Europe waited to see what line Ross would take on the fiscal treaty referendum, the Winston Churchtown of Dublin South sat on the fence for weeks. He eventually announced, with no small amount of fanfare, that he would be voting No.
But his move didn’t prove to be the gamechanger he had hoped it to be. Dublin South approved the treaty by the largest margin of votes in the country.
Best Use of Technology Award
Another crowded category. The runners-up are Labour’s Derek Nolan, who is a big fan of the Twitter machine. He was so anxious to tweet the news that the President was visiting his Galway West constituency that he failed to see his iPhone’s auto-correction function had kicked in.
“President Michael D Virgins visiting my old primary school in Mervue right now. Strange mix of memories.” Also in the running was Shane Ross, an elected representative who refuses to give his mobile number to anybody on the grounds he doesn’t have one.
And well done to the Oireachtas authorities for deciding to spend €175 million on iPads for TDs and Senators when niggardly little cuts were being made in home-help packages.
Honourable mention must go to Enda Kenny for fiddling with his mobile phone when attending an audience with the pope in Rome.
But the soaraway winner has to be Sinn Féin’s Aengus “Dell Boy” Ó Snodaigh, for managing to go through €50,000 worth of Dell printer cartridges for his own “personal use” as opposed to the wider use of the Sinn Féin family.
Our inky-fingered Dell Boy blubbered that he was a victim of the system, innocently taking many multiples of the average number of expensive cartridges used by all other deputies, because nobody told him to stop – and because he is “a prolific leafleter”. He is “unrivalled” in the field of handing out pamphlets, marvelled his colleague, Mary Lou McDonald.
Dicey Reilly Award for Outstanding Clarity in Stroke Management
“I have laid it out three or four times to you: the criteria. They’re quite extensive criteria and, because all of them act in different ways, it’s a bit like a multiplier.
“One and one makes two and two and two make four but four by four makes 16 and not four and four makes eight and so it is with this. It’s a logistical logarithmic progression, so there is nothing, there is nothing simple about it.” And that’s why he bumped centres in his own constituency up the primary care centre list.
See If I Care Award
Joe Higgins gets it for his Dáil response after Clare Daly left his Socialist Party because she wanted to be the avenging Robyn to Mick Wallace’s Vatman: “A little bit of ice cracking off the edge doesn’t sink the iceberg!”
Committee Chairman of the Year
Easily won by Labour’s Ciarán Lynch for cutting through the waffle and refusing to take any guff from visiting bankers and their public interest directors. But, above all, for controlling Fine Gael’s Peter Mathews, who could talk forever on how to solve the financial crisis– and frequently does – when Ciarán isn’t around to shut him up.
Committee Quote of the Year
Also from the finance committee and uttered in exasperation yesterday by Senator Paul Coghlan, browned-off listening to the handsomely pensioned Ray MacSharry spouting on about his important job as public interest director at Permanent TSB: “You’re about as useful as paps on a bull!”
TD with Best Welcome for Himself Award
Éamon Ó Cuív, who made a meal out of his decision to oppose the fiscal treaty and was sacked as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil as a result.
Would he leave the party his grandaddy founded over another treaty spat? He was unanimous with himself that his decision would be “monumental”.
After days of agonising and sending out hints, he arrived before the media with the word from Planet Dev.
He was staying on. Like anyone cared.
Unexpected Quote of the Year
“But the most sickening thing, I think, Minister is – today and last week – to see our Taoiseach on the front page of Playboy magazine.”
Independent TD Mattie McGrath got his magazines mixed up. The Taoiseach was, in fact, on the cover of Time magazine. Some people found this just as surprising as appearance in Playboy.
Enda got loads of awards this year: Time magazine; Mayoman of the Year, a Golden Victoria Award for European of the Year and the Nobel Peace Prize.
Disappointing Minister of the Year
Michael Noonan. He nearly frightened the horses by telling people a No vote in the fiscal treaty would mean higher taxes. He appears increasingly arrogant in his exchanges in the Dáil. He was hardly seen around Leinster House.
And he had this to say after the no confidence vote in James “Dicey” Reilly: “I think you should pack your tents, apologise to the Minister, move the adjournment of the House and we’ll all go home.”
They wish. The Fianna Fáil leader best summed up Calamity James’s woeful performance this year: “We have a volatile Minister here!”
Quote of the Year
Labour’s Ann Phelan speaking on the Funerals Bill in the Dáil: “I am from a rural constituency, where anyone who wants to be cremated has to drive to Dublin.”
Politician of the Year
It’s between the Technical Group this time, although Labour’s Colm Keaveney (who was on the Late Late Show last night) added greatly to the gaiety of the nation and discomfort of Eamon Gilmore. And Róisín Shortall looks like she’ll have the last laugh on her former boss in Health, James Reilly.
Independent Maureen O’Sullivan made a fine speech at the opening of the constitutional convention, while her colleague Catherine Murphy is one of the most sensible and thoughtful contributors to Dáil debates.
However, for carving out a niche for himself in the difficult outback of the Independent ranks and winning public respect for his measured contributions on the financial crisis, Wicklow’s Stephen Donnelly gets the nod.
Taoiseach of the Year
She thinks we’re special.
Enda is her Special One.