Miriam Lord’s Christmas Crackers and Political Turkeys

Gongs in the House for the year that was in it

Politician of the Year
We had intended giving it to Ming Flanagan. But somebody seems to have quashed the award on his behalf.

He'll have to write a letter to Alan Shatter now saying it had nothing to do with him.

So instead, Ming gets a gong for bringing the spirit of Christmas hospitality onto the floor of the Dáil chamber during Thursday’s debate on the Water Services Bill. It was truly heartwarming.

You see, hardworking Minister of State, Fergus O’Dowd, was there for the Government, looking a little wan. So Ming, who knows that Fergus is partial to an occasional drop of white wine, arrived in with a restorative tincture.


Clearly, Flanagan knows his wine. “Glorified piss,” he said, holding the glass up to the light. He set the glass down in front of Fergus then walked out.

Wasn’t that nice?

Fergus didn’t drink it.

The Ceann Comhairle said he was "utterly dismayed" by what happened and dismissed Ming's kind gesture as a "stunt". But what would Seán Barrett know? He's a Smithwicks man.

Minister of the Year
We were going to give it to Simon Coveney, who seems to have done very well on the fishing and farming front and won plaudits for his handling of the horsemeat controversy at the start of the year.

Although he can be long-winded, he doesn’t seem to have fallen out with anybody (a great asset for a potential leader). He performed well at Leaders’ Questions when the rest of the ministerial crew were away on EU presidential duty.

Simon has lovely manners. He is also a little dull. And how can a Minister for Agriculture be doing a good job when the farmers aren't out complaining about him? So the award goes to Leo Varadkar.

This is because lots of people around the country enjoyed good times this year thanks to “The Gathering”.

We all scoffed at the idea, but his tourism initiative has been a success.

Leo also has a weakness for giving straight answers to hard questions – which makes him much more entertaining than Simon.

Government Backbencher
An unusual one, perhaps, but it goes to Fine Gael maverick, John Deasy.

Not a favourite of the Enda regime and often critical of the party leadership, Deasy has quietly impressed with his work at local level – on regeneration in Waterford city and with his work on the the PAC.

Speech of the Year
This gong goes to Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher for his measured and considered contribution during the abortion Bill debate. He just edges out Timmy Dooley as the Fianna Fáiler of the year. Kelleher and Dooley, both survivors of the last FF administration, have matured in this Dáil.

They are impressive performers both in the chamber and the media and have gained stature within the party.

Opposition Deputy of the Year
John Halligan of the Technical Group impressed when taking Leaders' Questions on behalf of the group.

He wasn’t afraid to raise difficult social issues, making thought-provoking contributions on issues such as child poverty, abortion and assisted suicide.

And John’s compassionate and conciliatory approach disarmed the Taoiseach, who wasn’t so easily able to bat away the difficult questions he raised.

Lazarus of the Year
Seanad Éireann and those who toil therein. God help us.

Senator of the Year
Sure, don't we love them all?

God's Gift to Europe Award
Peter Mathews, desperately seeking a ticket. Somebody. Please! Help him out.

For Services to the Media
Lucinda Creighton. What would we have done without her this year?

Best Original Party Name
The RA. It has a ring to it. Oooh, Ah, Up the RA! But the Reform Alliance had better be careful – Sinn Féin might sue them for breaching copyright; failing that, the Wolfe Tones.

Heckler of the Year
Fine Gael's baby-faced Patrick O'Donovan, whose barbs, particularly aimed at Sinn Féin, cause maximum irritation.

Bucking the Stereotype
This goes to Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald, who was trying to explain to TV3's Ursula Halligan, while out shopping in Superquinn, that there is no such thing as the stereotypical "Shinner".

She stopped at the fish counter: “How much are the prawns?” Class act.

Excuse of the Year
Pat Rabbitte. In fairness to Pat, he was the only senior party member who ventured out to the count centre during the Meath East byelection, when Labour collapsed and Eoin Holmes lost his deposit.

The Minister for Communications tried to explain what happened. But not very well. "People are not minded to listen to macroeconomics," he said. "They aren't concerned about bond yields. Bond yields butter no parsnips." He must have been a hoot on the doorsteps.

Home Truths Award
The rosette goes to Labour's Kevin Humphreys for his input during the "Shattergate" episode, when the Minister for Justice was trying to apologise convincingly for disclosing private Garda information about a political rival on Prime Time.

Alan Shatter tried to convince the Dáil he could never be accused of indiscretion, because he is not in the habit of leaking.

“In fact, journalists find me most awkward . . . and that’s the reality,” boasted Shatter. Whereupon Humphreys, his Coalition colleague, piped up: “Can I just confirm: it’s not just journalists who find you awkward, but a few of us in the House as well.”

The Brad and Angelina Award for Happiest Couple
This goes to Eamon Gilmore and Joan Burton, who spent much of the latter half of the year trying to convince us they are the best of buddies. For the present, they seem to be getting along very nicely. In public. For now.

Best Performance by a Politician Stuck in a Lift
Joint honours must go to Minister for Health James Reilly and junior minister Kathleen Lynch for enduring in a crowded elevator in Grangegorman and keeping their spirits up by singing and talking about food.

Calamity James tried to prise the doors open with his bare hands. Couldn’t do it.

The We're Not Fussy Party: Fianna Fáil
There was a lot of surprise in Leinster House when Colm "wherever I hang my hat, that's my home" Keaveney signed up for the Soldiers of Destiny.

Of course, they’re all delighted to welcome their new member. Colm is such a quiet man. They’ll hardly know he’s there. Just ask them in Labour.

We understand Fianna Fáil’s influential Kitt family, with its power base in East Galway, is equally overjoyed.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
The Taoiseach is the clear winner for his awful handling of the Seanad campaign.

“Sometimes you get a wallop in the electoral process,” Enda declared, after the people narrowly voted to save the Upper House. He deserved more than a wallop in the electoral processes for the part he played in that result.

"The people have spoken. Time now to reflect. The people have sent a clear message," he said. "I'm not sure what the people said," remarked Pat Rabbitte.

Photobomb of the Year
Enda nailed it in Croke Park at the Ladies Senior Football Final. As two unsuspecting women posed to have their photograph taken (with the Taoiseach sitting directly behind them), he struck, lurching forward and pulling a face while holding up bunny-ear fingers behind their heads. It was, perhaps, his finest moment of 2013.