Miriam Lord’s 2015: From OMG to OMFG in 12 months
The year saw same-sex marriage vote pass while Coalition began to consider divorce
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton with Ministers in the courtyard at Dublin Castle for the results of the referendum on same-sex marriage. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
It was all about offering Ongoing Mature Governance. “OMG!” they proclaimed of their peaches-and-cream coalition. “We go together so well.”
Enda and Joan: like Fred and Ginger or Mickey and Minnie. Solid as a rock, they overcame their little differences with private dialogue and tried to make a virtue out of it.
They stepped out regularly together in public to reaffirm their deep commitment to the partnership thing.
It was all about Stability and Securing the Recovery and there would never be enough occasions to hammer home the point.
Fast forward to the final, fraught, weeks of the political year. A general election is steaming over the horizon.
Unity is giving way to more personal concerns.
Can Labour recover enough to surf home with Fine Gael? The senior Government party is showing well in the opinion polls.
Ministers are cheekily musing about tax and welfare concessions more commonly associated with Labour.
Veteran FG strategist Frank Flannery is now tipping a definite return to power for Enda and hasn’t ruled out the promised land either: an overall majority.
“OMFG?” screams Labour to potential voters.
“Overall Majority Fine Gael?”
“OMFG!” (As the young people say.) It’s every party and person for themselves now.
PR wheezes and other likely stories
There was a “Jobs Cabinet.” Enda attempted to explain the feel-good factor brought about by a regular wage.
“A job can buy the car, the boyfriend, the girlfriend, the boots, whatever . . . ”
They celebrated their fourth anniversary by getting out the trumpets again. This spawned a Spring (under)Statement and Dáil business was shelved for a week so Government TDs could clap themselves on the back.
It was just a rehash of budget changes and general announcements, but it kept the message going.
Enda confided that people were contacting him to say how they were delighted to find the extra few bob in their wage packets.
Not for the first time, it turned out to be one of his little makey-uppey fables.
Then Michael Noonan got stroppy on radio when RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke was, like everyone else, underwhelmed by the Spring Understatement.
When the broadcaster suggested he may have been less than forthcoming with Department of Finance information on the sale by the former Anglo Irish Bank of the Denis O’Brien connected company Siteserv, Noonan was disgusted.
“Ah now, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel with that one when you are talking like that.
“Get off the stage. RTÉ isn’t great at disclosure. You’re sitting on reports for 12 months which you haven’t published yet about the future of RTÉ.”
Noonan, as it turned out, had succumbed to a touch of the Enda Kenny’s. He was wide of the mark with his allegations.
Determined deputy dares to dog Denis
Anyone for Denis? Not very many, because he’s rather fond of taking his complaints to the High Court and he has the dosh to cover the cost, no matter what the outcome.
Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy had him in her sights, though. She was not making any claims of dodgy dealing or anything like that in relation to O’Brien, but the dogged deputy was puzzled by aspects of the Siteserv saga and wanted answers.
With the very necessary cover of Dáil privilege, she asked those questions in a searching Dáil speech, whereupon fragile Denis succumbed to a particularly severe bout of the legals.
He tried in court to stop all media outlets, which would include those few he doesn’t own, from reporting the speech but was eventually unsuccessful.
Not so poor Denis remained a martyr to the legals all year long, with a number of challenges – including one against the Oireachtas – outstanding.
But O’Brien notched up a major achievement along the way by managing to unite politicians from all sides of the house in their determination to protect elected legislators’ democratic right to freedom of speech in the national parliament.
Enda’s ode to Joan in Yeats Country
Meanwhile, the Coalition was still loved-up and peddling their gospel of harmony to a public still smarting from the excesses of previous administrations.
The cabinet decamped to lovely Lissadell House in Sligo for a special July meeting in Yeats Country.
The Taoiseach, already with an eye to the election, stressed how well he gets on with his Tánaiste.
As the hacks searched frantically for the sick bags, he burbled, “Despite all the cynics, Joan, who say that the old marriage, politically, is not working, we’re getting on well together . . . there’re always tensions in every house and, you know, these things are overcomable . . . so you could say that the second horizon is on the horizon.”
Joan was all of a flutter. “Myself and the Taoiseach met somewhat earlier in, what I’m reliably told is, the boudoir upstairs,” she simpered.
“Our marriage is not on the rocks” cried Enda.
“We’re still talking” giggled Joan, misquoting a Yeats poem: “What did it say? The young in each other’s arms?” They were delighted with themselves. Those bags came in handy.
Adams vexed by sex and tax issues
The IRA sex offenders’ controversy rumbled on, with compelling accounts of alleged rape and cover-up from Máiría Cahill and Paudie McGahon.
Cahill was subsequently elected to Seanad Éireann in November as a Labour candidate. Difficult budget problems in Stormont didn’t help the party’s efforts to establish an economic narrative in Dublin.
This was followed in October by a report from the PSNI Chief Constable which found that members of the IRA “believe” the organisation’s army council “oversees” both the IRA and Sinn Féin “with an overarching strategy”.
In the Dáil, SF TDs tried to laugh off the whole episode, but they failed to convince.
The year closed with Adams embroiled in a controversy involving his astonishing defence of former IRA commander, Slab Murphy, who was convicted in the Special Criminal Court for large scale tax fraud.
Gerry called Murphy “a good republican” and condemned the use of the non-jury court in his case which is used when there is a fear that witnesses may be intimidated.
In 1999, a witness in a case against Murphy was later beaten to death. But the gangsters who run lucrative criminal operations in the border areas are reportedly very annoyed by Slab’s conviction.
It seems that back in 1998, the influential Murphy persuaded IRA members in the region to sign-up to the Good Friday agreement in return for the authorities turning a blind eye to their violent criminal activities.
Adams, meanwhile, insists that Murphy disputes the ownership of €630,000 found hidden in bin bags on his farm.
Anyway, can anyone prove he owns the farm?
In an interview after the verdict, he said he was unaware that Slab previously made a €1m settlement with CAB.
Seventeen years on and these thugs still feel entitled to carry on their smuggling and diesel laundering rackets without fear of prosecution.
The ransom they negotiated in return for the peace process is still being paid.
And Adams still pleads for these bought men, or “good republicans”, idealists who gave up killing, maiming and threatening their fellow Irishmen and women when the price was right.
Big-cheeses lightly grilled at inquiry
Charlie McCreevy excelled himself in his efforts not to recognise that a property bubble developed in the Irish economy after he left Irish politics.
“I’m not going to break the edict I put on myself,” he declared.
Bertie Ahern thought he might have managed the ensuing crisis a bit better than others.
“We all need to be more questioning than perhaps we were,” was Mary Harney’s helpful conclusion.
It was an outsider, musician and producer Ethna Tinney, who spoke most sense.
As a non-executive EBS director representing the members, she was a straight-talking thorn in the side of the swashbuckling bankers.
“There was a lot of testosterone rolling around in senior management and on the board at the time,” she said.
It seems the guys were concerned that another building society, Irish Nationwide, was stealing a march on them, was her convincing assessment of why the madness happened.
The flimsy pretence that the inquiry was resolutely non-partisan fooled nobody.
The proof came when they had to produce a report – still in limbo – and the fighting broke out for real.
Hobbs won’t play ball at Renua party
Catherine Murphy, Róisín Shorthall and Stephen Donnelly premiered the Social Democrats in July.
It was ex-Fine Gael junior minister Lucinda Creighton who was first out of the traps in January, announcing the imminent arrival of a new party.
“I would like Eddie to be in a position to be a minister after the next election,” she said of new recruit, Eddie Hobbs, who promptly declared, at Renua’s glitzy launch in March, that he wouldn’t be running for election.
Lucinda optimistically announced that the party already had thousands of volunteers and “is empowering a collective. We are empowering the Irish people.”
Unfortunately, the highlight of the big day was TD Terence Flanagan’s implosion on Drivetime radio when he went to speak of the new dawn.
He had a “brain freeze” and couldn’t remember a thing about his new party.
The kindly Mary Wilson humanely ended the interview.
“Terence I think we’ll leave it there for today.”
Lowry in deep while Leo makes a splash
Meanwhile, the heat slowly went out of the anti-Irish Water protests, but a big protest is planned for the new year.
Leo Varadkar came out as a gay man in January in advance of the marriage equality referendum and revealed to a gobsmacked nation that he’s only 36 years old.
Michael Lowry got into hot water when a note he sent to the Taoiseach recommending a former associate for membership of a State board.
A woman of undoubted ability, he wrote she was “bright and intelligent” and “not bad looking either”.
Kenny becomes wedded to Pantibar
Micheál Martin lost senator Averil Power when she said Fianna Fáil played a two-faced part in the marriage equality referendum by supporting it nationally while doing little at local level countrywide to campaign for it.
But the referendum passed and it was announced in glorious sunshine at Dublin Castle to the happiest crowd in Ireland.
It was a wonderful day in May. And the sky didn’t fall.
Perry goes to court and is sworn to run
After his speech, as he enjoyed his standing ovation, his ministers and backbenchers rushed the platform. And there, right behind Enda, smiling furiously, was Sligo/Leitrim TD John Perry.
The music was blaring out a feel-good anthem for the pre-election Taoiseach and his happy candidates.
It was by Enda’s favourite performer, Bruce Springsteen and the song was Born to Run. Prophetic, as it turned out.
Ten months later, Perry took Fine Gael to the High Court when he failed to make the party ticket.
His challenge was a success and he is now a Fine Gael candidate and they all love him again. Springsteen and Perry – born to run.