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Winners and losers from a turbulent year in politics

It's been a busy and bruising year in Irish politics, full of scandals, protests, resignations and even the odd impressive performance.

So as the residents of Leinster House catch their breaths before next year's long general election run-in, which ones have earned their first-team places and which are left stranded in the relegation zone?


Leo Varadkar

"He's a tall, good-looking man, there's a certain exotic feel to him because he's half-Indian, half-Irish . . . he has the capacity to speak in a very straight language."

These are just some of the reasons why Leo Varadkar should be the next Taoiseach, according to Fine Gael's former master strategist Frank Flannery.

Enda Kenny handed him a poisoned chalice by making him Minister for Health, but so far Varadkar is avoiding the landmines.

Joan Burton

Ever since Joan Burton was passed over for the Department of Finance in 2011, she has been quietly plotting her revenge. This year her strategy finally paid off as she succeeded Eamon Gilmore following Labour's disastrous results in the local and European elections.

The jury is still out on Joan's leadership, since an early 'Burton bounce' in the opinion polls has faded away (with the party now languishing at 5pc).

Shane Ross

While Lucinda Creighton seemed to dither all year over whether or not to form a new political party, Shane Ross may have stolen her thunder.

The Dublin South TD has been busy recruiting fellow independents into a loose alliance that he will almost certainly launch in 2015. If the polls are correct, Ross could hold the balance of power after the next general election - and any would-be Taoiseach will pay a heavy price for his support.

Micheal Martin

The Cork choirboy makes this list mainly because he survived as leader of Fianna Fail. Despite internal headaches such as the 'Battle of Blackrock' and withering criticism from Bertie Ahern, he secured his position by winning more council seats than any other party.

Although the Soldiers of Destiny remain a shadow of their former selves, Martin is still an outside contender for Taoiseach - quite an achievement in itself.

Frances Fitzgerald

Fine Gael might just have found its very own Iron Lady. Since her promotion as Minister for Justice, Fitzgerald's no-nonsense style has made her arguably the Government's safest pair of hands.

Enda Kenny has also put her in the charge of the party's re-election campaign, prompting speculation that he sees Fitzgerald as his long-term successor. A lot will depend on how she handles the devastating report on garda misconduct.


Enda Kenny

From the moment he waved the Troika goodbye last December, Kenny has looked like a Taoiseach out of his depth.

Justice scandals and the Irish Water fiasco took a heavy toll, but he also lost his reputation as an honest broker over the McNultygate farce - when a Fine Gael man was appointed to a State board almost immediately before contesting a Seanad by-election.

With dire poll ratings and some younger contenders snapping at his heels, this could well be Enda's last Christmas in the top job.

Gerry Adams

Where do you start? Skeletons just kept on tumbling out of Adams' closet in 2014, as police questioned him over the savage murder of Jean McConville and the sex abuse victim Mairia Cahill called him a bare-faced liar.

The Sinn Fein leader then made a sick joke about holding the editor of the Irish Independent at gunpoint, highlighting once again his fragile relationship with democracy.

It surely cannot be long now until Mary Lou McDonald takes over.

Eamon Gilmore

Gilmore finally left the stage with dignity last May, admitting that his leadership of the Labour Party just wasn't working. Once he had inspired 'Gilmore for Taoiseach' posters, but too many broken election promises and his image as Fine Gael's lapdog forced the Tanaiste to quit - taking former leaders Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte down with him.

Paul Murphy

Murphy experienced the highs and lows of electoral politics this year, losing his European Parliament seat and then winning a Dail by-election in Dublin South West. But he still ends 2014 on a low, thanks to his reckless handling of the anti-water charge protests.

Trapping Joan Burton in her car was stupid enough, but he really alienated middle Ireland by getting caught on camera telling water meter workers: "I was elected to break the law."

Alan Shatter

'Arrogant Al' lost his job as Minister for Justice under mysterious circumstances, resigning after a series of policing controversies.

His dismissal of two garda whistleblowers who highlighted penalty point abuses certainly made him look foolish, but we are still waiting to find out exactly why the Taoiseach withdrew his support so suddenly.

Will Shatter try to cause mischief by spilling the beans in 2015? Watch this space.