Government must try harder, as my report card lands on doormat before election test
My mother gravely cautioned me: "It's arrived. Your father hasn't seen it yet." The end of school year report was much feared in the post. Maybe because I was in boarding school, away from daily parental contact, or perhaps due to the enormous education costs involved, commentary on the report card was deeply significant - either way. It involved an assessment of my commitment, effort and ability. Our Taoiseach promised us ministerial report cards. But don't hold your breath. So here's my verdict on Ireland's first XV:
Enda Kenny (Head Boy): Develops excessively exuberant attitudes to his authority; formerly friendly and considerate, now with onerous responsibilities, is losing popularity for being too close to German boys. Could benefit from listening to those who've been alienated by his class actions. Gained public respect for hard work and ability to keep steady his relationship with the head girl. Diminished in self-confidence with interviews, needs help to develop more relaxed, accessible approach to media for upcoming national exams. Grade B
Joan Burton (Head Girl): Progressed to top of class after expulsion of former pal Eamon. Great expectations she'd improve overall ratings; sadly, results slipped to previous abysmal levels - not entirely her own fault. Never uses two sentences where 10 will suffice - leading to excess verbosity, with tendency to wander off topic. Homework on pensions needs supervision, must not defer decisions. Joan was accused of bullying other girls (lone parents) by confiscating pocket money; her enthusiasm for welfare reform demonstrates she can express ideas clearly. Grade B+
Michael Noonan (Senior Prefect): Has become original Marmite pupil - adored by German boys, but reviled by austerity victims. Now oldest boy in class, he's showing signs of diminished energy. He's vital to head boy in retaining classroom stability, being de facto deputy head. Always dependable in crises, talented in seeing bigger pictures; lately his sure-footed touch deserted him in school yard sports about IBRC/Siteserv, taking his eye off the ball. He is well mannered and disciplined in accepting instructions from both German and Banking boys. Grade B+.
Brendan Howlin (Senior Prefect): Thinks he's best, brightest boy in class; while could be correct, he could demonstrate a tad less hubris, more humility. Brendan benefits from direct supervision of tutor Robert Watt. Has gained respect for enthusiastic organisational skills at classroom/public service reorganisation; but fails to confront big-ticket issues of increments and permanency of employment. May be reverting to old habits of spending splurges and promising sweets from tuck shop. Grade A-
Frances Fitzgerald: Possibly best-mannered, most-cooperative student in class; always appearing responsible, fair, even sincere. Behind friendly facade, she harbours ambitions to be first Head Girl in family. Demonstrates superior work on issues of gender equality, needs encouragement to accept responsibility for fundamental reform of department and secretive cultures. Enthusiastically participates in public relations events, yet has inability to confront vested interests (such as naughty legal boys). Greatest test is overseeing campaign for college exams, with potential for lots of failure. Grade B+
Richard Bruton: Almost an Old Boy by now; dependable, hard-working, efficient and self-confident pupil. Has an expansive knowledge, demonstrating superior work in his chosen subject of 'jobs'- so much so he talks of little else, boring rest of class with repetitive essays. Requires help with organisational skills at home in backyard, especially with convention delegates. Richard is probably facing twilight of schooling days and may live to regret spending his entire life in political academia. Grade A -
Jan O'Sullivan: Was promoted from learning about houses to taking charge of curriculum. Must try harder, with homelessness and house price crises emerging due to lack of supply-side initiatives. Despite being amongst nicest, most considerate, kind-hearted students, may lack resolve to deal with conflict. Reports she was bullied by other teachers (ASTI/TU I) and their representatives are yet to be finalised, but early evidence indicates she was forced to back down on exam reform. Disappointing, can do better. Grade C -
Alex White: At home in communications; likely to fail college exams so may have to seek alternative life choices. Grade B.
Simon Coveney: Model pupil, with aspirations to be Head Boy. Has surfed waves of referendum and migrants with a steady hand. Timing will be critical. Grade B+
Leo Varadkar: Star pupil. Speculated to be team captain on strength of successful solo runs. Has learned to fake candour -should go far. Grade A
James Reilly: Nicknamed 'Bottler' by pals, he continues to demonstrate disappointing traits of poor concentration, lack of organisational skills and inability to effect good results. Despite demotion in class to easier stream, James seems long on analysis, reports and navel-gazing; while failing to make impact. Grade D
Alan Kelly: Most perplexing pupil in class. Despite abrasive 'Action Man' exterior, tutors are concerned he lacks intellectual depth and ignores people skills. Fear is this new boy may transpire to be a bluffer and spoofer.
His 'quick-fix' solutions to housing and water have flattered to deceive, like previous Tipperary hurlers. Expected to pass his exams and to improve provided he pays attention in class to the head girl. Enigmatic. Grade C+
Paschal Donohoe: He's definitely teacher's pet, consistently promoted in class. He won his games to date with aeroplanes and buses.
He's considered and talented with media; readily takes instruction from the Head Boy as a loyal supplicant. Our fear is he won't pass next exams, therefore losing out on college place. Grade B+
Heather Humphreys: She's too quiet in class, appearing naively green, out of her depth at this grade. Special class supports need to be deployed to build her confidence. Poor performance makes her predecessor, Jimmy (now playing with foreign boys and girls), look good. Shouldn't hang around with bold boys in party HQ. Grade D-
Charlie Flanagan: This new boy remains untested, but is showing early signs of being the class waffler - speaking endlessly, but saying very little. While popular with other students for school loyalty, we fear he may morph into an old-style performer like his dad; needs to establish credibility with concise communication. Grade C+