Miriam Lord’s Year

Enda gives nation a high-five and a wink

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny: may be replaced by a hologram for future state-of-the-nation addresses.   Photograph: Eric Luke

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: may be replaced by a hologram for future state-of-the-nation addresses. Photograph: Eric Luke

Sat, Dec 28, 2013, 01:01

The Government will be more than happy with its end-of-year rating in the opinion polls, although Fine Gael has far more to smile about than Labour.

The Coalition’s plan to
be in Government up to 2016 and beyond appears to be well on course.

To this end, we hear from sources in Government Buildings that the Taoiseach is working on a brilliant new strategy to get them there.

Pathways Towards a Blueprint and Vision for Recovery Roadmap 2014 is almost complete.

This 79-page document sets out the Government’s key performance indicators for the next phase, unspooling a suite of strategic action hotspots involving vision wranglers and pillar
stakeholders.

A high-powered team of advisers has been working for months on it.

“We are very happy with the outcome. It’s been a difficult journey but a rewarding one” said a top handler.

We understand that as well as being able to point at invisible things while walking past a camera and hold his arm out in a decisive manner when encountering world leaders, Enda has now perfected a wink (modelled on weatherman Gerald Fleming) along with an innovative JFK style (jaunty yet statesmanlike) wave.

The high-fiving stays put but the Taoiseach is to be replaced by a hologram for future state-of-the nation addresses.

This should see the
Government through for another few years.

Back Gerry Adams to be the leader of the flying squad

The Tánaiste got into trouble with his own troops for being out of the country far too often when Labour needed his guiding hand on the party helm.

But then, Eamon Gilmore is Minister for Foreign Affairs – a position that requires a fair amount of travelling abroad. He is also Minister for Trade, although the Taoiseach appeared to be the one milking that particular job with his high-profile forays to foreign climes.

There was also a lot of high-flying for Eamon when Ireland hosted the EU presidency in the the first half of the year – an event of such monumental national importance that most people have already forgotten about it.

Will domestic requirements (not to mention that reshuffle) make Eamon stay at home more in 2014?
Who will notch up the most airmiles - Enda, Eamon or Gerry Adams?

Our money is on the leader of Sinn Féin, who seems to spend as much time these days in the US branch office as he does in Ireland.

But to be fair to the man who denies he was ever in the IRA, perhaps he is away trying to find himself.

It was mortifying for him at the start of the year when news came out of his trip to a private clinic in Manhattan for a medical procedure. A millionaire benefactor picked up the tab. Adams is lucky in that regard.

Like his party colleagues in the Dáil, Gerry draws his full pay and expenses from the taxpayer but chooses to donate a large portion of it
to their favourite charity – Sinn Féin.

Noonan’s ‘bits and bobs’ prove lethal

Michael Noonan delivered his budget statement in October. It was preceded by his budget understatement at the FG annual conference, where he reassured the troops that his budget was almost complete, bar a few “bits and bobs”.

“So we’re well fixed.”

When the Minister for Finance and his partner in crime, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, delivered their budgets, there wasn’t an immediate storm of protest.

No major landmines were spotted straight off, but lots of sneaky little explosive devices had been planted in the undergrowth.

As time passed, those bits and bobs proved anything but minor. And Budget 2014 turned out to be just as vicious as its predecessors for people struggling to get by. “The public will be astounded by all the good news,” said Noonan to the party faithful.

They weren’t.

Then we all exited the bailout.

Next year will be one big long party.

Reform gets the guillotine

Reform. Everybody wants it.

The Government was delighted with itself when it introduced a Dáil reform package in September.
Some of the more “radical” changes were conditional on the public voting to abolish the Seanad.

That didn’t happen.

So what we have is earlier starting times and longer speaking time allotted in debates. It’s not made any noticeable difference.

A big countdown clock appeared in the chamber.

Members of the public and advocacy groups will have more say in the framing of legislation. As a first step, the closure of the AV room in the Leinster House complex, where groups frequently came to address politicians on an issue, was proposed.

There was a threadbare promise to ease back on its fondness for the “guillotine”. This is where the Government uses it majority to rush through legislation.

The reform package culminated in a walk-out by Opposition leaders and TDs on the last day of the Dáil as the Water Services Bill was rushed through the House.

Expect Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to lose his head over excessive use of the guillotine in the months to come.

How soon they forget . . .

Dáil bar causes deputies a few liquidity problems

The Dáil Bar. It got a bit of a bad reputation for itself during the year, primarily because of TDs and Senators up all hours drinking tea and stout while waiting for the call to vote.

Two historic votes in the early hours of the morning caused the most headaches. Gerry Adams was disgusted by the giddy carry-on in the Dáil chamber before the vote to liquidate Anglo Irish Bank, with a handful of politicians experiencing some liquidity problems of their own.

Gerry doesn’t like the idea of a bar in a working parliament and he got lot of popular headlines for himself by calling for an overhaul of
the facility.

Still, it came in handy for Sinn Féin recently. Their hardworking Leinster House team kicked off their Twelve Pubs of Christmas outing this year in the Dáil Bar, where the first drink of the marathon was on Sinn Féin.

“Funded by the lottery,” according to the printed sheet of rules issued to the revellers.

Meanwhile, Gerry got all steamed up again after the unfortunate episode during the vote on the abortion Bill, when Cork’s Tom Barry pulled his Cork Fine Gael colleague Áine Collins (above, at the FG ardfheis)onto his lap as deputies gathered in the chamber.

The vote was in the early hours of the morning and Barry admitted to having had a few drinks beforehand. He was so mortified in the aftermath of “lapgate” that he considered resigning his Cork East seat. The incident sparked a debate about difficulties faced by female TDs in the very male world of national politics. Never was the gender imbalance as striking as during the long and often overwrought contributions on the abortion Bill.

“Suicidal ideation.”

At least that’s a phrase we won’t be hearing in the Dáil in 2014.

Lucinda and Udders milk the limelight

The Udders will continue to milk their time in the limelight next year.

They include the Reform Alliance - that breakaway blueshirt faction formed in opposition to the Government’s abortion Bill. Their figurehead is Lucinda Creighton, who has been an ever-present figure in the media and whose star shows no sign of diminishing.

There is speculation as to whether or not they will be mad enough form a new political party. Membership would not encompass all members of The Udders (as they have taken to calling themselves) in the Oireachtas as they come from very diverse political
backgrounds.

They include refugees from the Labour parliamentary party and sundry Independents looking for a flag of convenience.

The Udders got a lucky break near the end of the year when they got enhanced speaking rights in the Dáil.

James Reilly, Ireland’s champion figure skater

We should enter James Reilly in the Winter Olympics. For figure skating.

Calamity James skated and skidded, missed, overshot and danced around the numbers and still couldn’t get his Department of Health figures right.

He talked about “probity” issues to do with medical card entitlements yielding €113 million to the exchequer, while the demonic figure of €666 million would be the overall amount of savings.

Where did those figures come from?

Reilly didn’t know.

We‘ll still in the dark.

Maybe the civil servants were tickled by what they heard on the Anglo tapes, and the banker who replied when asked how he came by a questionable figure: “picked it out of my a**e“.

Massacre on Merrion Street

Enda was going to do the divil and all when he got into power. Not least, he was going to keep his Ministers on their toes and issue them with regular report cards which he would then publish.

Less than a year into power, he shelved that idea.

Nearly three years down the line and not a sign of anyone budging.

But the Taoiseach dropped a December bombshell when he indicated in an interview that (like Nosferatu) he‘s after fresh blood and wants to promote new talent to ministerial level.

Massacre on Merrion Street should happen around the middle of next year, he threatened, underlining the urgency of the situation.

His senior Ministers are already welcoming this with a mass outbreak of departmental trumpet playing. Enda‘s will be done but “happy to serve“.

Every one of them.

Except Phil Hogan, who‘s mad to get his mitts on the European Commissioner’s job.


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