The year of lost sparkle
The public perception was that Labour was the comparative loser.
To add to its embarrassment, it had to concede that five of the six things a Labour poster had warned that a Fine Gael government would impose had come to pass. The smaller party suffered a major blow when its chairman, Colm Keaveney, defected on the Budget, becoming the fifth TD to be exiled from the parliamentary party.
The main Opposition party, Fianna Fáil, is showing signs of re-emerging from disgrace. Micheál Martin has been seen as effective but the party’s star has been finance spokesman Michael McGrath. After a year of Tallaght Strategy positions, the party is adopting more populist stances, such as a U-turn on property tax. But it has done well in recent opinion polls and the constituency changes suit it more.
Overall, Sinn Féin had a good first six months but was more static latterly. Its star has undoubtedly been the articulate and composed Mary Lou McDonald. In light of accusations of sloganeering, the party has tried to develop a stronger policy base but it will need more convincing economic policies.
It has been a mixed year for Independents. Mick Wallace was named for under-declaration of VAT, which lost him credibility and, temporarily, his placein the technical group. His close ally, Clare Daly, left the Socialist Party, primarily due to a dispute over Wallace.
The year started well for the Government but turned into a difficult year. The troika, the EU recession and the uneasy compromise that comes with coalition has spancilled the democratic revolution. There is also an innate conservatism and resistance to change in the political establishment and the public service. It all bodes for an equally challenging 2013.