Miriam Lord’s Awards: Winners of this year’s political gongs

Dáil movers, shakers, losers and inbetweeners: A selection from the corridors of power

Cheesy photo op Award: A shot taken from the Twitter feed of Leo Varadkar of himself and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau jogging in Phoenix Park, Dublin in July. File photograph: @campaignforleo/PA Wire

Cheesy photo op Award: A shot taken from the Twitter feed of Leo Varadkar of himself and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau jogging in Phoenix Park, Dublin in July. File photograph: @campaignforleo/PA Wire

 

For Promoting Better Public Understanding of Science

Danny Healy-Rae. Without Danny how would we know that climate change is a swizz and that driving after drinking three glasses of beer is perfectly acceptable?

Famous Last Words Award: Jointly goes to Enda Kenny and Theresa May. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Famous Last Words Award: Jointly goes to Enda Kenny and Theresa May. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Famous Last Words Award

 

This goes jointly to Theresa May and Enda Kenny, who repeatedly stressed during their meeting in Dublin at the start of the year that nobody “wants a return to the hard Border of the past”. To this end they would ensure “a seamless and friction-free Border” between the Republic and Northern Ireland. “This isn’t just a phrase,” said Theresa “strong and stable” May. Yeah, right.

 

Best Use of a Prop

 

The members of Solidarity and People Before Profit went all out to win this one. If they weren’t wearing sloganised sweaters they were holding up signs. And Green Party leader Eamon Ryan just misses out for his spirited effort to publicise the damage that non-recyclable plastic is doing to the environment by taking a bag of his household rubbish into the Dáil.

But the award goes to Michael Healy-Rae for prevailing in his battle with the Dáil’s straitlaced decorum police and securing the permanent right to wear his trademark cap in the chamber.

“Yes, I can confirm that an agreement has been reached with the authorities,” the triumphant Kerry TD told us. “I’m most comfortable when my cap is on me and, for the first time ever in the history of the Dáil, wearing a cap is going to be allowed. If it gets too hot, I’ll take it off, but that’s it.”

Michael Healy Rae. Last year he was nearly done for by a rampaging heifer on his farm and this year he almost choked to death on a piece of roast chicken when wolfing down his Sunday dinner. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Michael Healy Rae. Last year he was nearly done for by a rampaging heifer on his farm and this year he almost choked to death on a piece of roast chicken when wolfing down his Sunday dinner. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Survivor of the Year

Michael Healy-Rae is the runner-up in this class. Last year he was nearly done for by a rampaging heifer on his farm and this year he almost choked to death on a piece of roast chicken when wolfing down his Sunday dinner. An attempt at the Heimlich manoeuvre failed to dislodge the lump of meat and by the time the ambulance arrived, horrified onlookers said Healy-Rae was beginning to turn blue. Yet Michael finally cleared the obstruction by sticking two fingers down his throat. It was a close call.

But the clear winner and Survivor of the Year is Minister for Enterprise, and former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald. Despite having a torrid time in justice, she held on to her Cabinet seat when Leo Varadkar took over, and also retained her Tánaiste title.

Walter Mitty Award for Tall Tales

Enda Kenny bagged this gong in February for nearly bringing down the Government when he gave details in a radio interview of a meeting he had with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone during the crisis over whistleblower Maurice McCabe and allegations that the Garda top brass had orchestrated a smear campaign against him. No such meeting occurred, and Enda had to issue a grovelling “mea culpa” to the Dáil. “I am guilty here of not giving accurate information,” he confessed during a special “statements of clarification on statements” debate.

Most Useless Creation of the New Politics

The Dáil’s new “business committee”. This all-party group meets every week to agree the issues and speaking arrangements for the coming days, followed by a weekly row in the chamber over what they agreed.

“We have no new politics, we’ve a very poor Government, and the structures that are in the committees and in the Dáil itself are simply not working. We need a government that works and that can make decisions. It’s ridiculous in Leinster House at present,” commented Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness.

Tweet of the Year

 

Politicians tweet the most self-congratulatory, mind-numbingly mundane minutiae about their daily lives. They have also taken to fighting each other over social media, the unseemly spat between Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen over the issue of water charges being a prime example.

But Fianna Fáil’s TD for Roscommon, Eugene Murphy, had everyone scratching their heads with this cryptic message: “Did you give him one of your good sliced pans Barney!!!!”

Emotional Quote of the Year

 

This goes to veteran RTÉ journalist Tommie Gorman, waxing lyrical on the evening news after the announcement of the death of Martin McGuinness.

“For all the complexities, Martin McGuinness was a man of simple taste,” said Tommie, recalling something the former IRA gunman told him when asked if he knew a soccer player from Sligo who had the same surname.

“I didn’t know him, I knew his father,” replied McGuinness. “He made a feed of pigeon for us one time when we were on the run and we were almost starving at the time.”

Then a mournful Tommie solemnly pronounced: “That was Martin McGuinness, a man of very simple taste, who ate pigeon in his time.”

 

Phrase of the Year

Root and Branch.

Best Fed Crocodile of the Year

Arlene Foster and the DUP. Speaking at the launch of her party’s NI Assembly election campaign in early February, the DUP leader said her party would never agree to an Irish language Act, adding: “If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more.” She later regretted making the remark “in so far as it allowed Sinn Féin to use it against me and to use it to demonise me”. As it happened, the DUP crocs found themselves holding the balance of power following Theresa May’s disastrous decision to hold a snap general election in June, much to the horror of many MPs in Westminster who view Arlene and her colleagues as political dinosaurs. Foster extracted £1 billion in funding for Northern Ireland from May as the price of their minority support.

Best Riposte

 

Gerry Adams gets the nod for his quick response to Arlene’s crocodile comment: “See you later, alligator.”

Michelle Mulherin lip-synching Shania Twain’s 'Man, I Feel Like a Woman'
Michelle Mulherin lip-synching Shania Twain’s 'Man, I Feel Like a Woman'

Entertainer of the Year

Hands down and hip swivelling winner is Mayo Senator and former FG TD Michelle Mulherin (above), whose raunchy lip-synch performance of Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like a Woman at a charity event in Ballina notched up a huge amount of views on social media. She gave it the full Shania, wearing thigh boots, a very short skirt and a white shirt over a black bustier. At the end of her high-stepping saucy routine, Michelle whipped off her shirt, the crowd went wild and gave her a standing ovation and she shimmied off with first prize.

Cheesy photo op award

Oh look, there’s Leo in his running shorts again! And there he is wearing funny Maple leaf and Moose socks at his meeting with fellow Prime Ministerial Dude (PMD) Justian Trudeau.

And there he is jogging again with Minister for Housing and his Cabinet First Dude, Eoghan Murphy.

And there he is presenting an Ireland rugby jersey and a pair of Patrick Francis Celtic design socks to Canadian PMD Trudeau before they go out for a manly, youthful, energetic jog. And there he is, handing out personalised cupcakes and free coffee during his leadership campaign launch on Leo Street with bedimpled, photogenic and increasingly powerful Paschal “I’m not your dude, thank you very much” Donohoe.

And there he is, serendipitously bumping into Emannuel Macron at his rally in Paris the week before Macron is elected France’s PMD in a landslide . . .

Not a Lot of People Know This Award

This goes to Minister for Communications, Climate Action (including Energy) and the Environment Denis Naughten, who has an eye for small details and is known as a “policy wonk” among staffers. Roscommon Independent TD Naughten, who spent the first half of the year wearing a back brace after getting hit by a car when out cycling, is a microbiologist by profession. He did his Phd on extracellular plysaccharide production in lactic acid bacteria.

‘Minister at Last’ Award

Michael Ring, who finally achieved his ambition of getting a seat in Cabinet in June. Delighted doesn’t even begin to describe Ringo’s joy.

Dr Livingstone Award for Exploration

Winston Churchtown aka Shane Ross. Our intrepid Minister for Transport began the new year with a journey into the unknown. “Travelling to work today on a wonderful 44 bus,” he tweeted, along with a selfie showing him bravely sitting on the upper deck looking a bit stressed. “Bus is warm. Leap card great. Flew thro Stepaside, Sandyford, Dundrum and Milltown. One less car on road! Mind you 44 was almost empty.” It was almost empty because rush hour was over. We checked to see if Winston was wearing a pith helmet and shorts, but no, he wore a shirt and tie and anorak for his big expedition. Despite his undoubted courage and pioneering spirit, he impressed nobody.

If He Was Chocolate He’d Eat Himself Award

There are lots of contenders in the running for most modest politician. Winston Churchtown, Alan Kelly, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Paul Murphy, David Norris, Marc MacSharry. But Sinn Féin’s impeccably bearded Eoin Ó Broin wins it by a whisker.

Snowflake of the Year: Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Snowflake of the Year: Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Snowflake of the Year (incorporating Martyr of the Year)

Runaway winner here is Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, who routinely accuses the Government of cruelty, conspiracy, complicity in international war crimes, torturing puppies, eating kittens and beating up old ladies. Paul can give it, but he can’t take it. Leo rounds on him in the Dáil, says he owes Joan Burton an apology for his part in the disgraceful treatment of the then tánaiste at a protest in Jobstown and the thin-skinned socialist sends a letter to the Ceann Comhairle and whinges about abuse of privilege.

Four Goldmines Award

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman and Micheál Martin’s most favourite barrister in the whole world Jim O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan is his leader’s go-to man whenever Barry Cowen shoots his mouth off about the Government, and so is regularly trotted out as the party’s voice of reason. Not always with success, unfortunately.

Best Exit

Enda Kenny. The former taoiseach kept his colleagues guessing up to the last minute before resigning at a parliament party meeting in May. When he told them he was stepping down at midnight his statement was immediately emailed and tweeted to the media and the wider public, thus depriving recidivist leakers in the ranks the opportunity to spill the beans. And in a perfect prelude to his exit (following a nice little lap of honour in America and around Europe), Enda first attended the launch of a study on death, grief and loss called “Finite Lives”, giving the media plenty of scope to wax lyrical on the ending of a long political life.

Best Brexit

Even Opposition TDs have complimented Government representatives on their efforts to lobby political counterparts in Europe on the need to recognise Ireland’s unique position in relation to Brexit. The award goes to those unelected public servants, diplomats and government officials who are quietly doing sterling work on the continent while the high-profile Ministers mount their PR campaigns in the corridors of power.

You Couldn’t Make It Up medal for Astonishing Carry On

An Garda Síochána, obviously. Because actually, they HAVE been making it up. When news broke of the falsification of breathalyser statistics, Solidarity’s Mick Barry summed it up as “falsification of Garda records on an industrial scale” .

The Paschal Donohoe ‘Thank You Very Much’ Award for the Most Grateful Politician

It goes to Independent Alliance TD for Dublin Bay North Finian McGrath, who was so happy when he got a “super-junior” ministry last year he played air guitar in the chamber. In May, the alliance held a press conference to fill the nation in on their overall brilliance and Finian happily disclosed that not a morning passes when he doesn’t give thanks to Micheál Martin (whose Fianna Fáil party is providing minority support to the Government) for allowing him to stay another day in his job.

Prize for Elocution

Paschal.

Best dressed TD

Lots of possible winners, but Independent Alliance junior minister John Halligan sneaks in to take the prize. Always a snappy dresser and a great man for the gold medallions, Halligan was spotted at home in sunny Waterford this week wearing a pink polo shirt, red knee-length shorts and cerise loafers. Wow!

Backbencher of the Year

Kate O’Connell. The FG TD for Dublin Bay South (pictured below) wasn’t wrong when she called out the boys’ club nature of the support group around Varadkar when he ran for the leadership. She called them the “choir boys”, singing for what they hoped would be their supper when Leo started doling out the good jobs. In a naturally socially conservative party she has been fearless in her support for the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution which equates the life of a woman with that of a foetus in her womb, while speaking up for the thousands of Irish women who do not want to be pregnant and are forced to travel abroad every year to access abortion services.

Senator of the Year

First-timer Lynn Ruane has been enthusiastic, energetic and effective. And all this while studying for her exams in Trinity. She also has the best tattoos.

TD of the Year

Clare Daly, Independent TD for Dublin Fingal, is a consistently impressive Dáil performer. A powerful speaker, particularly on social issues, she has been tireless in her efforts to highlight major shortcomings in An Garda Síochána. Time and again the big parties have trailed in after her when it comes to recognising specific problems. (Social Democrat TD for Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy merits honourable mention for making the running a long way out on the burgeoning scandal over the running of Templemore Garda training college). An interesting side to Daly – who doesn’t communicate with journalists as a rule – is her popularity among TDs on all sides of the House.

She is known for her good sense of humour and collegiality, and it isn’t unknown for “establishment” TDs from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to preface conversations about her with the line “I don’t agree with her politics, but....”

Politician of the Year

Leo Varadkar. The winner takes it all.

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