And the end-of-term awards for political prowess go to . . .
We can’t let our representatives go on a very long summer break without acknowledging their outstanding contribution
Tánaiste Burton with former Labour leader Eamon Gilmore. He went quietly, but Pat Rabbitte fought an entertaining rearguard action. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
THE GOLDEN WHISTLE AWARD
This goes to former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan for services to “so-called whistleblowers”. Callinan’s headline-hitting year began with his illuminating appearance before the PAC, when he demonstrated a disconcerting level of disdain for whistleblowers in what he called “my force,” along with a strange attitude to why they might even exist.
“We can’t have a situation where 13,000 members can start making complaints against each other,” he spluttered. “Isn’t it extraordinary that it’s just two people that are making huge allegations. Why isn’t it dozens? Hundreds?”
Callinan wasn’t having it. “I cannot be usurped by subordinates,” he declared, before coming out with the line that would prove his ultimate undoing. “Frankly, on a personal level, I find it quite disgusting.”
YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME AWARD
Joan Burton became Labour’s first female leader on July 4th, and she takes over a parliamentary party which includes three former leaders – Eamon Gilmore, Pat Rabbitte and Ruairí Quinn. Two of them went quietly, but Pat fought an entertaining rearguard action before Burton gave him the push on reshuffle day.
Tánaiste Burton is seen by many as the big winner of this Dáil term, but that remains to be seen. Joan has the job she’s wanted for a long time, but she won’t be able to distance herself so easily from unpopular Government decisions now – something she managed to do quite skilfully when minister for social protection.
THE JOINED AT THE HIP STATUETTE
This was to have been jointly presented to Alan Shatter and Martin Callinan for bolstering each other up disgracefully during the GSOC/Whistleblower affairs but cannot now be presented as it has been broken.
They are no longer joined at the hip and no longer in their jobs, although both are very unhappy at the manner of their departures.
Clare Daly and Mick Wallace – who have had an excellent few months – were arrested on suspicion of causing the breakage but were released without charge after the media was given full details of their arrest. It now transpires that Shatter and Callinan broke it themselves.
Instead, a special award goes to “sources close to Martin Callinan” for services to the crime-reporting industry.
It could have gone to the insightful Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, addressing the Censorship of Publications Board Repeal Bill aka The Dirty Books Bill. “The State or its organs do not have a role to play,” he said.
Or it might have gone to the former Garda commissioner, telling the PAC how a motorist could have penalty points wiped due to extenuating circumstances. Someone like an elderly farmer driving home at speed because “the bees are out of control” and might attack his cattle.
Or Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke, grief-stricken over the prospect of Garth Brooks not performing in Dublin this weekend: “This, to me, is like a funeral without a corpse. There’s a sadness throughout the nation.”
But the award goes to People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett, deeply unimpressed by the Coalition’s decision in March to mark their third anniversary in power with three days of meaningless Dáil statements on the “Government’s priorities in the year ahead”. (First one should have been to stop losing the run of themselves.)
A “three-day orgy of backslapping” as Fianna Fáil’s Seán Ó Fearghaíl put it.
Here’s RBB: “Let me summarise the Taoiseach and Tánaiste’s speech: ‘Blah, blah, blah, blah. Mumble, mumble. Blah, blah, blah. Mumble, mumble. Success.’ What a load of bullshit!”
GET YOUR PRIORITIES RIGHT AWARD
Goes to Micheál Martin : as the Dáil worked up to the summer break, there were many issues of national and international importance which the Opposition could have made some noise about.
But top of Fianna Fáil’s list of priorities (with Sinn Féin making similar noises in the same direction) was the cancellation of five Garth Brooks concerts.
The FF leader demanded action from the Government. “It is not beyond the capacity of the Oireachtas to pass emergency legislation, if necessary,” said Micheál, begging the Taoiseach to interfere in a local planning matter in Dublin.
It’s what Fianna Fáil would do, presumably (and interesting to discover what constitutes an emergency in Micheál Martin’s book).
THETOTAL BLARNEY AWARD
To Taoiseach Enda Kenny. In mitigation, he was talking to the Yanks while on his St Patrick’s weekend visit to America, plámásing them up to the gills in the hope that they might throw some business our way.
“If you got a problem, you have an issue or anxiety or concern or a proposition or a proposal, I want to hear it. My number is a public number, you can call me any time,” he told a gathering of businesspeople in Washington.
He said citizens in other countries “find it difficult to figure out how anybody can ring up the prime minister – or the Taoiseach in my case – and say: ‘I want to talk to you.’
“Sometimes I don’t get a chance to answer all the calls but you get calls from citizens who say: ‘look, here’s an issue: you address that.’
“That is responsibility taken to the ultimate level of politics.”
THE FOOT IN MOUTH AWARD
The setting up of the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry into Making a Show of Fianna Fáil got off to a rocky start.
Enda Kenny wins the Foot in Mouth award for letting the cat out of the bag about his Government’s desire to control what they repeatedly stressed would be a non-political process.
When the Fianna Fáil leader asked in the Dáil why there was a delay in getting the inquiry off the ground, the Taoiseach replied: “In order for terms of reference to be adopted and for a mandate to be given, the Government need to have a majority here.”
He asked an incredulous Micheál Martin: ”How do I know what your members will do?”
Two extra Government votes were swiftly added to the committee.
PADDY LIKES TO KNOW AWARD
It’s a hat-trick for Enda with his Paddy Likes to Know Award for Short-term Amnesia. This is the conundrum which won’t go away, no matter how much the Taoiseach tries to brush it under the carpet – why can’t he say what transpired on the night he sent the Secretary General of the Department of Justice to the Garda commissioner’s home, leading to Martin Callinan’s “resignation” the following day?
Even at the MacGill Summer School this week, former minister for justice Michael McDowell, was asking : “Is there any reason why a full and frank explanation shouldn’t have been given in public at the time?” Why was the Dáil “confronted with obfuscation” on the matter?
The Taoiseach’s failure to answer questions on this, and on the events surrounding the resignation of Alan Shatter, represents “an abdication from one of the cornerstones of our democratic system”.
McDowell, a former attorney general, didn’t see the need for “deferring to a committee of investigation”. But the Taoiseach has kicked this unsettling state of affairs into the wider Fennelly inquiry into the taping of calls to Garda stations.
Why can’t Enda just say what happened?
BEST EXAMPLE OF SINN FÉIN SPEAK
Lynn Boylan – a political unknown who romped home in the Dublin constituency in the European elections. “Sinn Féin is neither Europhile nor Eurosceptic. The way we look at it is: Sinn Féin is Eurocritical,” was her stock line.
The party had a great local election, sweeping the boards in Dublin.
Lynn takes the honours ahead of her party leader, Gerry Adams, who declared the political landscape had “changed utterly” and outlined how his party would effect that transformation: “The parlance will change to include the word ‘citizen’.”
HEADBANGER OF THE YEAR
Brian Crowley, who ended his semi-detached relationship with Fianna Fáil in June after yet another runaway victory in the European elections. Crowley, who skipped his party’s national campaign launch to canvass in Tipperary, decided not to join the parliamentary grouping to which Fianna Fáil is aligned. Instead, he threw in his lot with an alliance of MEPs described by Seán Ó Fearghaíl as “a crowd of headbangers” . Brian’s colleagues in the parliamentary party were left “reeling and bewildered,” said Seán, who has a definite flair for the melodramatic.
THE ‘HAS HE GONE YET?’ AWARD
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett – at the start of the year, in the middle of yet another shouting session during Leaders’ Questions – thundered: “If I do not have the confidence of this House to run this chair, I intend resigning. I am not going to come in here day in and day out and be ignored by either the Government or the Opposition.”
He should have walked months ago, so.
THE DON’T HOLD BACK AWARD
Goes to former Labour MEP, Phil Prendergast, who ensured the party’s European election campaign got off to the best possible start by calling for the leader’s resignation.
Prendergast, who failed to hold her seat, said one of the reasons Labour was doing so badly was down to Eamon Gilmore’s poor leadership, which was “the elephant in the room” that nobody was talking about.
And just in case people didn’t heed her the first time, she added: “The elephant is not only in the room, it is cantering around the room, breaking things.”
As she had already been selected to run, Phil and the elephant then had to smile and appear together in one of the most awkward and embarrassing election campaigns we’ve ever seen.
THE ‘ARE WE THERE YET?’ AWARD
Awarded for management guff.
Prof Noel Whelan, chairman of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, who came up with this little beauty when being grilled by the Public Accounts Committee in January over salary top-up payments to executives: “We are going to swing round into compliance.”
Mick Wallace gets the gong for best speech for his passionate contribution during one of the many Dáil days wasted saving Alan Shatter’s bacon in the Department of Justice.
“Minister, the people are right to be cynical about politics.
“They’re right to be cynical about politicians. This place is a joke!
“We play games in here. And what do we see so often, when bad things raise their head? We see our police force circle the wagons. We see our politicians circle the wagons.
“Do what it takes to cover up what we don’t want to see. Do what it takes to hide the truth. Is there any appetite for doing things any different in this house?
“Minister, you look up here at us and you’d say: how dare these people with their long hair and raggy jeans have the audacity to challenge you!
“Well, I wanna tell you something: the people of Wexford who elected me to come here didn’t elect me to come here and approve of your behaviour. They put me in here to challenge it. It is time for you to go Minister, and bring the Commissioner with ya!”
And they did, eventually.