Saturday 22 October 2016

It's time for my 2016 political awards: Who won coveted 'Plain Silly' gong?

As the recess starts, let's review the 32nd Dail's first term - there might not be too many more of them, writes Shane Coleman

Published 24/07/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

It's 150 days today since the country went to the polls and produced the most fragmented, divided Dail since the Civil War. It took 70 of those days to finally elect a Taoiseach. The following 80 days have been every bit as eventful - just ask Enda Kenny. TDs of all parties and none are grateful to limp off to recharge the batteries after a traumatic few months for virtually everyone. Nothing succeeds like recess, they like to say in Westminster, so what better time to pause and present our special political 'awards' for the first term of the 32nd Dail - there may not be too many more of them.

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Best politician: Micheal Martin. He might have been pipped in the General Election battle, but the opinion polls suggest he will ultimately win the war. He was the undoubted star of the election campaign, as other leaders - Kenny, Gerry Adams and Joan Burton - faltered badly. Martin then ignored the hysterical calls from commentators, who should have known better, demanding he must break his General Election promise and go into government with Fine Gael. He made history by facilitating Kenny's return as Taoiseach. And, with half of voters believing Fianna Fail is effectively calling the shots from the opposition benches; the party north of 30pc in the polls; and his own satisfaction ratings well above the other leaders, he is sitting pretty. A lot can, and will, happen between now and the general election, but Martin has the look of a man set to lead his party out of perdition and back into real power - the Taoiseach-in-waiting.

Great survivor: Enda Kenny. The election was a personal disaster for him but he still made history by becoming the first FG Taoiseach to be returned to office. And, after a rocky few weeks when there seemed to be the beginnings of a move against him, Kenny made it to the summer still in situ. He has used up eight of his nine lives, though, and surely will be gone by the year's end. Then again, he has defied such predictions in the past.

The most influential Minister: Michael Noonan. While others flapped hither and thither during the government formation talks, Noonan retained a Buddha-like calm - like the man who had seen it all before even if nobody actually had. It might be a shoot-out between Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney to succeed Kenny, but Noonan is still the glue that holds the Government together.

Best newcomer: John Lahart. Katherine Zappone, Lisa Chambers, Ann Rabbitte and Louise O'Reilly have all impressed but Lahart, who has given Fianna Fail a much-needed presence in the capital, stands out.

Busiest newcomer: (aka, the 'don't let the grass grow under your feet' award): Jointly to Josepha Madigan and Kate O'Connell. Madigan has already brought forward a private member's bill to reduce the period of separation necessary to obtain a divorce - surely some kind of record for a new TD. O'Connell, meanwhile, has been full of public praise (kind of) for the Taoiseach for his shift on the Eighth Amendment and moves to establish a citizens' convention to deal with it: "I know it's not good enough [what] Enda Kenny said about this constitutional...whatever - but this is a major step for him," she told a National Women's Council of Ireland event. No doubt Enda was chuffed at this endorsement from one of his TDs, elected 12 days previously.

Helen McEntee. Photo: Tom Burke
Helen McEntee. Photo: Tom Burke

Most deserving promotion: David Stanton. Hugely able, dedicated and decent, Stanton had done trojan work in committees over the years with little reward. He finally got a long-overdue promotion to junior minister at the Department of Justice.

The 'ask a silly question, get a silly answer' award: Finian McGrath, who felt compelled to consult with the Attorney General on whether he needed to pay his water charges. McGrath, a class of a song and dance man, was looking for some form of bridge over the troubled issue of water. What did you think she'd say, minister?

The 'now that's just plain silly' award: Mary Mitchell O'Connor for suggesting Enda Kenny's critics within Fine Gael are unpatriotic. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask instead what you can do for...Enda.

The 'this could get awkward' award: Paschal Donohue. Paschal told Hot Press Boris Johnson was a charlatan for lacking the conviction to deal with the consequences of his choice to back Brexit. That's Boris, the Foreign Secretary of the UK, Paschal.

Josepha Madigan. Photo: Tom Burke
Josepha Madigan. Photo: Tom Burke

Should be interesting when they inevitably meet up. Then again, maybe Boris will be relieved to encounter somebody who has insulted him, rather than the other way around.

The 'this did get awkward' award: Barry Cowen. The Offaly man cut a sheepish figure when news of his crowd-pleasing jibes at FG leaked out from an FF parliamentary party meeting. Leo Varadkar and company preferred wine at the Marker Hotel; FF wanted pints with the people apparently. So that's what the Civil War was about.

Best toilet humour: The aforementioned Varadkar for his exasperated line that he's waiting for the moment he's sitting on the toilet and some commentator links it to the FG leadership race. Number 1 or Number 2 Leo? In the leadership contest that is.

Down with the kids: Richard Boyd Barrett for dabbing in the Dail. Did RBB actually Google the origins of dabbing before he did it? If not, he should have. What's next, Pokemon Go in the chamber?

Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Photo: Collins
Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Photo: Collins

Twit on twitter: Gerry Adams for his use of the 'N' word in a tweet. What was he thinking? Unless, of course it was some black ops by the perennial bogeyman in the 'security services'.

'Sorry for your trouble' award: Those Healy-Raes and their special bereavement pack, which includes a poem, a Mass card and practical info on funeral grants, pensions and other social welfare benefits. What better way to pass from their world into the next? BEST DRESSED : Junior minister Helen McEntee is effortlessly stylish. And, of the male TDs, Tom Neville, with a penchant for natty three-piece suits that has drawn comparison with Conor McGregor. Thankfully, the comparison ends there. LUCKIEST POLITICIAN: James Reilly, who despite not being a TD, was reappointed as deputy leader. Just remind us, Taoiseach, is this Fine Gael or Renua?

The 'Nigel Farage of Irish politics': Paul Murphy. He'll hate the comparison but, just as Farage and UKIP, with one seat in the Commons, have managed to dictate the course of British politics, Murphy's 2014 by-election victory continues to set the tone here. It resulted in Sinn Fein moving to the left; which in turn also brought Fianna Fail leftwards on issues like water charges, which as a result influenced FG in government. It's the butterfly theory applied to Irish politics. Murphy's every waking moment must be filled with dread that a permanent solution will be found to the water charges issue, the gift that keeps on giving.

The 'you really shouldn't have actually answered that' award: Regina Doherty, for giving a straight answer to a straight question on LMFM about Enda and the leadership. Sometimes even straight talkers need to fudge, Regina - just ask Leo.

Where are they now?: The Social Democrats. They coulda been a contender but they opted not to get into the ring.

Danny Healy-Rae
Danny Healy-Rae

Former future leader: Frances Fitzgerald. A year ago, the Tanaiste was Kenny's choice and the dark horse to succeed him. She hasn't done much wrong in the intervening period but now, for whatever reason, it's a two-horse race. That's just politics.

You plonker: The unnamed Independent TD who asked, in the government formation talks, if ways of travelling to Dublin Airport from the West, without using the motorway, could be explored. Try hopping across the raised bogs, but be sure to mind your heads on the wind turbines.

Flat earth society award: Danny Healy-Rae, who disagrees with all the talk about climate change because only God controls the weather. Yes, indeed, Danny, and thunder and lightning happens when Holy God gets angry. Or is it when he is bowling?

Incredible sulk: Alan 'AK47' Kelly for his fit of pique in failing to show up at Brendan Howlin's coronation. If he's not careful, he'll be in danger of falling into the category of 'forgotten, but not gone'.

Sunday Independent

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