Friday 19 January 2018

Even Christmas can't escape

What: The Six Days of Christmas.

Damn cuts – it used to be Twelve. What did the 2012 political news give to us?

Six Labour rebels, five-a-side Fine Gaelers, a four-man inner cabinet, another year of the troika, two referendums and a Taoiseach who bumped into a tree (well, flower-pot, really).

Golly, it was a hectic year by the sounds of it – will Labour be glad to see the back of 2012?

Indeed the junior coalition partner staggered over the finish line on Thursday, mopping their collective brow and licking their wounds. This year it saw two TDs and a senator – Róisín Shortall, Colm Keaveney and James Heffernan – abandon ship and join the 2011 band of mutineers, Tommy Broughan, Willie Penrose and Patrick Nulty.

Jeepers – what caused the stampede over the side of the ship?

Well in then-junior health minister Róisín's case, it was a controversy over how primary care centres were selected for the final list which proved to be the last straw in September. The other two went overboard in the last couple of weeks in protest over cuts contained in the Social Welfare Bill – most notably cuts to child benefit and the respite care grant.

Phew, not good. Still, doesn't it look as if Fine Gael is a festival-sized bunch of happy campers, with few rumblings, mutterings or defections?

Not so fast. There is a group of Young Turks inside the parliamentary party who formed a secret gang (hopefully with badges and passwords and all) and who would meet under the excuse of playing five-a-side football. The members include TDs Eoghan Murphy, Paul Connaughton, Brendan Griffin and Anthony Lawlor, and is closer to 10 in number.

Have they caused any ructions?

They've grumbled at parliamentary meetings about various government policies, but Enda wasn't impressed when he heard of their existence and pointedly told them were "no place for five-a-sides" in Fine Gael.

They did disband briefly but are now an active unit again.

So, what's this four-man inner cabinet, then?

It's the Economic Management Council, made up of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin. It meets once a week to discuss how the economy is ticking over (or not) and to check that we're behaving for the troika. But other ministers outside the golden square have been muttering about how it's eroding the traditional power of the Cabinet, and Mary Lou McDonald witheringly referred to it as "four men in a huddle".

Ah, the troika – so are we behaving?

According to Michael Noonan, we should be shot of them by the end of 2013.

Did we really hold two referendums this year?

Begob and we did. The Fiscal Treaty referendum passed by over 60pc in June, and the Children referendum passed by 58pc in November – albeit with a woeful turnout of a paltry 33.5pc.

And, eh, Enda, tangled with a flower-pot?

Sort of. A somewhat chaotic 'doorstep' interview with a posse of media in June ended up with the Taoiseach stumbling over a flower-pot. His panicky people pointed the finger of blame for the badly-planned interview on TV3's Ursula Halligan, which was nonsense and which made the Taoiseach look like a bit of a tulip.

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