Time to take our crystal bauble down from the soon-to-be-mulched tree and take a sneak preview at what lies ahead in 2021.
JANUARY – It quickly becomes clear Level 5 restrictions have not worked as well as might be expected. The new more contagious strain of Covid-19 has resisted efforts to suppress it.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly goes on the Six One News and gives it to us straight. "So a pandemic is like a game of Buckaroo, right? So we're going along fine, everything is good, and then just when we think we're gonna get through the gap, we try hangin' the teeny little spade on the saddle and suddenly Bang! That's it. Buckaroo. So we are that donkey now, Catriona."
After just two weeks of a four-week lockdown the Cabinet meets in emergency session. Following hours of discussion the Government decides the only course of action left now is a code red TTTB order.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin issues the apocalyptic decree at the end of a television address to the nation. “Fundamentally we have tried everything in terms of containing the virus, but there has been no meaningful engagement in terms of the fundamental issue,” he quivers, as a terrified citizenry held its breath.
And then the chilling words: "From midnight tonight, Ireland will TAKE TO THE BED for a month.
FEBRUARY – Ireland may have taken to the bed, but there is still a lot going on: Vaccination Wars!
There are angry scenes in the Dáil when the Healy-Rae brothers protest over the shutting down of their Covid Bus from Kerry to Northern Ireland. With serum stocks low and the vaccination programme getting off to an annoyingly slow start, they started ferrying pensioners up North for their injections. The Taoiseach accuses them of naked opportunism.
“You take that back!” roars Michael Healy-Rae. “Everyone on that bus is fully clothed, and you know it. Thanks to us – and no thanks to them above in Dublin – they’ll still be alive at the next election.”
In the Border region the smuggling business suffered during the pandemic because fewer people needed diesel and stuff because they weren’t going out. Leading republican Syringe Murphy repurposes his business and starts smuggling the Westminster vaccine, which is plentiful in Northern Ireland, to people down South. The laundered vaccine is smuggled in beer kegs and only contains minor traces of diesel.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald says she has never met Syringe Murphy, but has heard he is a very nice man and a good republican.
Back in the Dáil Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is embroiled in another leaking controversy. “Vaccigate” hits the headlines after he is forced to admit disclosing details of a confidential dossier with names and addresses of people scheduled for vaccination and when they are due to get the jab. Using this classified information he writes to constituents informing them in advance of the good news.
At first it seems like a definite resigning matter for the Fine Gael leader. Simon Coveney moves in for the kill. Then it emerges that the majority of TDs were up to the same caper, sending out good news letters to beat the band. It's like a rerun of the annual local announcing of the soon-to-be-announced Sports Capital Grants.
Vaccigate quietly dies and Coveney quietly weeps.
MARCH – Micheál Martin is bitterly disappointed when the annual St Patrick's Day shamrock jaunt to Amerikay is cancelled. Since he was a little boy in Turners Cross he dreamed of going to the States to meet the US president as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil.
But Taoiseach Martin is determined to live that dream. So he puts on an expensive new green tie on March 17th and with a full entourage in tow and a bowl of shamrock in the boot of the car he arrives with great fanfare at The Washington Inn in Cork city and then travels on to The White House pub in Baldoyle. There is a small ceremony, but it's not the same. Micheál goes home and takes to the bed.
APRIL – When gardaí in Co Donegal mount a late-night raid on a packed sheebeen in Carndonagh, they find Charlie McConologue hiding around the back holding a pint of stout. He tells them he was only there to discuss the Common Agricultural Policy and single farm payments with the owner when the pint accidentally fell into his hand.
After he steps down as Minister for Agriculture the Government decides to appoint a ministerial panel for the jinxed department and invites expressions of interest from TDs. Nobody applies. “You’d no sooner have the good wellies on and your arse in the passenger seat of the Merc when you’d have to resign over something” said a Government backbencher.
Paschal Donohoe gets the job because he has loads of different jobs already and another one won't make much difference.
MAY – Labour Party leader Alan Kelly finally explodes during Leaders' Questions. "It's what he would have wanted," sighed delighted constituency colleagues in Tipp.
The Social Democrats are also delighted as Kelly had been floating ideas about a merger.
“I left the Labour Party to get away from the likes of Alan Kelly, and now he’s back and making cow eyes at us,” shudders joint leader Róisín Shortall. “I’d rather eat my own appendix than let him anywhere near a liberal left-leaning Labour-like party such as the Social Democrats.”
JUNE – There is good news for Eoin O'Broin who has been very down in the dumps since making the shock discovery last year that Sinn Féin has a fiercely committed standing army of social media campaigners who like to play dirty on the web. He's going to get another terrible shock when he discovers there was an IRA campaign too.
Happily Sinn Féin's favourite foodie cheers up considerably when he beats Fine Gael's muffin and marmalade king Richard Bruton in a close-run final to retain his Political Masterchef title for another year. The judges were blown away by his Spiny Lobster Sashimi with Sea Urchin Veloute on a bed of Democratic Lentilism.
Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden jets into Ireland on his first state visit, leaving behind Kamala Harris, the real president, to mind the shop. Biden expresses a wish to play golf here, in line with his two predecessors. Irish officials wonder if we have a course with adjoining luxury hotel fit for an American president? They send him off to Doonbunion, which is somewhere between counties Kerry and Clare. Joe is happy out.
JULY – As Brexit fallout causes social unrest in the UK, Boris Johnson scarpers before he is pushed. As a parting shot he reveals he has not resigning as prime minister but is abdicating and opting for exile. To this end he has applied for Irish citizenship, and expects it to be granted any day now thanks to the Irish granny whose peasant connections he was once far too embarrassed to acknowledge. He changes his name to Murphy and relocates to Boris in Ossory, where he greets suspicious natives with a cheery "top o' the mornin' to ya! Call me Paddy!" while they hurry away to lock up their daughters.
AUGUST – There is unexpected success for Ireland in the rescheduled Japan Olympics when Stephen Donnelly takes bronze in the trampoline.
Exercising what he later called “an overabundance of caution” the Minister falls from the apparatus five times. But he also nails some high tariff moves such as the “Double McConkey with Reverse Canavan”, a “Half Rotating Taoiseach with extended U-turn”, the difficult “Triple Rejected Memo” and the highly technical “Mid-Atlantic Twang with Harris Tuck”.
Due to a shock outbreak of coronavirus in the Olympic village, only three of the listed competitors are allowed to start. “I am delighted with my performance because trampolining, like driving a car or sending children to catch Covid-19 in school, is an inherently risky thing to do. I hope to give myself a hero’s welcome when I get home,” he says triumphantly.
SEPTEMBER – When the Dáil returns from the summer recess somebody notices that there have been three more resignations from the Green Party. Nobody else does.
There is outrage and confusion in Sinn Féin when the combined efforts of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, following months of painstaking research and a large financial outlay, produce a vaccine for the so-called Shinnerbot. It involves injecting a succession of positive pieces into the rump of professional media with a follow-up shot two weeks later in the Sindo.
Commenting on the breakthrough, celebrity telly professor Luke McConkey-de Gascun explains: “Delicate and sensitive flowers in FF and FG are particularly susceptible to this virulent strain of online attack and they tried everything to beat it. The combination of an early dose of niceness followed up by a full dose of Eoghan Harris penning a column praising the republican movement and Mary Lou McDonald for her undoubted political achievements stuns and nullifies the bots. Unfortunately the results may not be permanent as this virus is resilient and can replicate itself rapidly.”
OCTOBER – Varadkar announces he is leaving domestic politics to take up a fierce big job running the European empire. A bloodbath ensues in Fine Gael with the two Simons engaging in a political death-match across the airwaves and regional branches. Suspicions of nefarious goings-on arise when party grandees announce that the new leader is to be chosen following a series of sea-swimming races and a final bake-off. Richard Bruton beats the odds to become party leader and taoiseach. His first action in office is to appoint his constituency best bud as minister for justice, although Seamus Woulfe must first resign from the Supreme Court, proving nothing is impossible.
A month after the first anniversary of Golfgate, former EU commissioner Phil Hogan is appointed CEO of Fáilte Ireland. He says his immediate priority is to push golf-drive packages for the domestic market while working tirelessly behind the scenes to get Varadkar sacked from his fierce big job in Europe.
NOVEMBER – Enda Kenny declares he is running for President in 2025. If successful he will place two pints in the Áras fanlight to signify that anyone holding two pints can approach and talk to him about whatever comes into their heads during his term of office.
The pandemic is over and Dáil Éireann finally gets back to normal – no social distancing, no masks, no sanitising breaks. However, sheets of glass are put up around the Roaring Independents – the Healy-Raes, Richard O'Donovan, Mattie McGrath et al. They are not best pleased. Neither is Richard Boyd Barrett, who is also walled in. This is for health and safety reasons, they are told. Nothing to do with the virus, these barriers are known as "drum shields". The new screens are to protect the hearing of staff and TDs who have to work in the vicinity of the dangerous high-decibel Deputies in the Dáil.
DECEMBER – President Higgins decides to take a leaf from his US counterpart's book and declares he will pardon a turkey in advance of the 2021 festive rush. This is not a success because all the TDs refuse to put their names forward for consideration. In an attempt to salvage the situation Michael D asks RTÉ to help out but Montrose insists it cannot tinker with the Christmas schedule at this late stage.