Tuesday 25 October 2016

My infamous and illustrious gallery for the year that was

Published 02/01/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny won the Tell tale of the year award
Enda Kenny won the Tell tale of the year award

With the door slammed firmly on 2015, we might acknowledge the outstanding contributions of our betters in the rarefied worlds of politics, media, business and sport. My awards are random and indiscriminate and seek to cut through the contrived self-regarding clap-trap while recognising worthy work.

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Politician of the year: Willie Penrose deserves the nod for his dogged perseverance in reforming personal insolvency law by reducing the bankruptcy discharge period to just one year.

He persevered despite Cabinet disinterest in butting heads with bankers and civil servants. Willie won through eventually. Junior Minister Simon Harris deserves mention for his persistence in his ascent of the greasy pole.

Tall tale of the year award: Enda Kenny, take a bow. His creative flourishes might even be marked in the fiction awards regarding his fabulous recollections relating to the prospect of our soldiers being deployed around bank ATMs at some unspecified moment in the financial meltdown. His words took on a life of their own at the European People's Party congress in Madrid. The heroics apparently rescued our imperilled nation.

Alas, former Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan dismissed the fairy-tale as being wide of the mark.

Denials of year: Gerry Adams walks away with all accolades. His lack of knowledge about Mairia Cahill's abuse, kangaroo courts, former IRA membership, Thomas 'Slab' Murphy's financial empire, Jean McConville's murder and assorted republican baggage has not dented his fulsome support in Sinn Féin. It works well internally, but the recent significant poll slippage since the Euro elections suggests that the wider public may be more circumspect.

Issue of the year: For my money, it has to be housing. The shortage has had a terrible impact on family incomes, as it feeds through into higher rents.

It is also responsible for the historic highs in homelessness. Families and the unfortunates who could find themselves sleeping rough are driven to depend on costly emergency accommodation.

The Government's lack of resolve in addressing the rent supplement has fuelled the accommodation crisis. And despite multiple ministerial pronouncements, additional units have yet to be built .

The stunt of the year award: This was a tough call. Vincent Browne and his adventures at the former O'Donnell home at Gorse Hill, Killiney, Co Dublin, deserve a special commendation in recognition of self-promotion. However, the overall winner is the partnership of Mick Wallace and Clare Daly. Their travelling circus acts at Shannon Airport, Ennis District Court and Limerick Prison secure the prize.

Fat cats of year: International - Sepp Blatter/Michel Platini are the winners here, as they succeeded in garnering millions of dollars from Fifa over a decade, resulting in what will effectively be a lifetime ban. Fifa's generosity to compliant associations included John Delaney's FAI securing €5m compensation for the 'Hand of Henry' furore. Delaney also had a spectacular year with Euro 2016 qualification. Irish cat of the year - IFA's former boss Pat Smith was paid a €500k salary in 2013. He also received a €1.2m pension top-up to offset the hole in his defined benefit pension scheme when it was closed in 2011.

How are you still in the job award: Attorney General Máire Whelan survives another year. Her evidence to the Niall Fennelly Commission was bizarre. She drew heavy political fire for her failure to contact either Commissioner Martin Callinan or former Justice Minister Alan Shatter about the potential legal landmine stemming from the widespread recording of certain telephone calls in garda stations. Ms Whelan also drastically changed her evidence relating to the legality of secret recordings and she also apologised to the commission for her "trenchant language".

U-turn of year: Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, proffered stubborn resistance to Angela Merkel's diktats on the third bailout deal, pushing rejection to a referendum vote. When creditors still didn't budge, they ate humble pie. Amazingly, they got re-elected.

Businessperson of the year: Aviation made headlines. IAG's Willie Walsh deftly acquired Aer Lingus. Having convinced Aer Lingus's board of directors, management, workers and unions that greater opportunity existed through a takeover, politicians acquiesced. But the award goes to Michael O'Leary's new cuddly, friendly face. Ryanair proved ever more popular and profitable, carrying 105 million customers, with a fleet of more than 300 planes.

Sports stars of the year: Willie Mullins's spectacular achievement on Cheltenham day one in winning first four races through Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen was awesome. Eight individual Cheltenham winners with 31 Grade one wins amount to an historic achievement. Ruby Walsh deserves equal accolades. My teams, Leinster rugby and Man City, won zero trophies. My manager of the year is Dublin's Jim Gavin.

Horrors of year: Islamic State (Isil) terrorism represents the greatest peace-time threat to our way of life. Graham Dwyer's conviction for Elaine O'Hara's murder was a great day for justice.

Bore of the year: Serious contenders at home and abroad. COP21 in Paris permitted a proper bore-fest of self-important worthies to fulminate endless hot air. Outright victor, however, is the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry. This yawn-fest allowed a parade of characters to absolve themselves from culpability for the crash.

Person of the year: Father Peter McVerry. His unstinting selflessness, sincerity, compassion and commitment to identify with those at their lowest point in life remains truly inspirational. He tirelessly continues to champion the most marginalised and friendless.

Irish Independent

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