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From blabbermouths to heartthrobs - the politicians who made it a year to remember

Political Awards

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Dragon’s roar: Peter Casey’s comments about Travellers saw him come second in the presidential vote. Picture: Damien Eagers

Dragon’s roar: Peter Casey’s comments about Travellers saw him come second in the presidential vote. Picture: Damien Eagers

TD Ruth Coppinger surprises the Dàil

TD Ruth Coppinger surprises the Dàil

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Dragon’s roar: Peter Casey’s comments about Travellers saw him come second in the presidential vote. Picture: Damien Eagers

Foot in Mouth Award

The entire UK Conservative Party was in the running for this award - but we decided to stay local and give it to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Ultimately, he didn't get it for one stupid thing but as a result of multiple moments of megalomania.

Back in January, he sparked controversy by saying young people should look to the "bank of mammy and daddy" when trying to raise a mortgage deposit. The statement resulted in Mr Varadkar having to tell the country about his own 100pc mortgage.

In March, he went to Washington for a tricky assignment: meeting Donald Trump.

All was going well with the summit until Mr Varadkar joked about helping the billionaire prevent a wind farm near his hotel in Co Clare getting planning permission.

Within hours the Taoiseach was accusing himself of "fake news".

Finally, Mr Varadkar ensured victory by appearing to blame doctors and nurses for the inevitable backlog in hospitals after Christmas.

He said they needed to be working "at full whack" over the break, resulting the hashtag #ImAtWorkLeo trending on Christmas Day.

Bravery in the face of Brexit Award

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THIS can only go to British Prime Minister Theresa May. She came to realise that negotiating with the EU is actually easier than talking to her own ministers, backbenchers, junior partners in the DUP and everybody else in UK politics.

Her Chequers plan led to Boris Johnson and David Davis quitting, with the former claiming Britain was headed "for the status of a colony".

When the actual deal was struck, her second Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned. Then came a motion of no confidence from the Tories. And yet Mrs May spent Christmas in No 10. Things can only get better in 2019, right?

Unexpected Heartthrob

IN THE era of #MeToo, it's dangerous to comment on anybody in a sexual way - but that didn't stop droves of women proclaiming that they "fancied" Simon Harris.

It started with his performance during a 'Prime Time' debate on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment which was described as "fiery" and "sassy".

By the time the referendum result was announced, there were people holding up "I fancy Simon Harris" placards in the courtyard of Dublin Castle.

Health ministers are used to seeing very different slogans on signs. But his new fan base can move along because Mr Harris is just days away from welcoming his first child with wife Caoimhe.

Constituency of the Year

IF ONLY we all voted like Cork South Central. The residents of this constituency must surely get the best value out of their ballot papers.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin discarded the idea that he is indecisive in recent months with the standout political speech of the repeal the Eighth referendum, then put the national interest first by extending confidence and supply until the Brits figure out what Brexit means.

Both moves risked division. Of course, even if Mr Martin's leadership came under threat, the frontrunner for his job is constituency Michael McGrath, who got Fianna Fáil's pound of flesh in the Budget negotiations with Fine Gael and has been to the forefront of fighting for consumer rights.

Then there is Tánaiste Simon Coveney who has had a second coming since losing the Fine Gael leadership to Leo Varadkar. He has been rock solid in his stewardship of the Irish position on Brexit. His next move will be interesting to watch. Finally, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire is a rising star under the new regime within Sinn Féin.

Social Media Darling 2018

SIMON Harris was in the running for this one too, as was Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae.

Transport Minister Shane Ross deserves a shout out for his 'fastest finger first' approach, especially when confusing sporting heroes like the Kearney brothers.

But the winner is the new Communications Minister Richard Bruton for his Instagram posts. They are more culinary than campaigning. His latest post is a cat sitting in his chair on Christmas Day. Given his understanding of the medium, hopefully he can use his new role to actually establish a Digital Safety Commissioner.

Hot Air award

A CATEGORY necessitated by the extraordinary level of 'Dragon' activity during 2018. Gavin Duffy has said he "genuinely doesn't know" how it came about that three Dragons entered the presidential race - but it seems obvious when the prize is public adoration, an unaudited expenses account and a massive house with no mortgage attached.

Seán Gallagher proved the theory that the sequel is never as good, leaving Peter Casey as the obvious winner. His comments about Travellers sparked a heated public debate that saw 23pc of the voters show for him.

Stunt of the Year

LEINSTER House is never short of stunts but the one that stood out in 2018 came in November when Ruth Coppinger produced a thong in the Dáil chamber.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan previously brought a bag of plastic to highlight our recycling habits, but the idea of underwear being held up caught everyone off guard.

Ms Coppinger's effort to raise awareness about "rape myths" made international headlines - but perhaps more importantly she firmly grabbed the attention of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

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