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Year in politics: Enda's annus horribilis

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John McNulty

John McNulty

The water charges protesters on O'Connell Street

The water charges protesters on O'Connell Street

Mairia Cahill

Mairia Cahill

Flowers and cards pictured in the door way where Jonathan Corrie died on Dublins Molesworth Street.

Flowers and cards pictured in the door way where Jonathan Corrie died on Dublins Molesworth Street.

Michael Noonan

Michael Noonan

A rioter throws a brick at a garda car during a Anti Water charges demonstration in Jobstown yesterday.

A rioter throws a brick at a garda car during a Anti Water charges demonstration in Jobstown yesterday.

Jonathan Corrie

Jonathan Corrie

Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

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John McNulty

"I am not perfect, nor is this Government," Enda Kenny told the Dail a few weeks ago. Looking back at 2014, this seems like a bit of an understatement.

Here are the 10 flashpoint moments that summed up Enda's annus horribilis - and left the Taoiseach with a mountain to climb as the next general election looms into view.

January 9 - The Irish Water fiasco begins

Some €50m spent on consultants - CEO John Tierney's admission during a heated RTE radio interview with Sean O'Rourke was the first sign that something might be seriously wrong at Irish Water.

It opened the floodgates, leading to a torrent of water-related controversies including staff bonuses, data breaches, PPS numbers and communications breakdowns.

Public anger was translated into mass street protests - and the Government appeared to be not waving but drowning.

March 25 - Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan resigns

Did he jump or was he pushed? Martin Callinan certainly made a bad mistake by calling the actions of two garda whistleblowers "disgusting", but we have still not been told why Enda Kenny sent a senior civil servant to the Commissioner's house just hours before his resignation.

Alan Shatter, the Justice Minister who stood by Callinan all along, also fell on his sword six weeks later.

An official investigation is due to report in 2015 - and some Leinster House insiders think it could be political dynamite.

April 3 - Uproar over the HSE's withdrawal of medical cards

What kind of health system takes medical cards off children with serious life-long illnesses? Ireland's, of course. The Coalition found itself shamed by a series of scandals over the HSE's review process, including one mother who was allegedly asked by an official if her four-year-old son still suffered from Down Syndrome.

Eventually, over 15,000 cards were returned and a more humane system put in place - but by then, the political damage had been done.

May 23 - The local and European elections

Everyone knew the government would do badly, but the scale of its hammering still came as a shock. Sinn Fein, on the other hand, made dramatic gains while Fianna Fail became the biggest party in local government.

With Labour now in danger of total meltdown, Eamon Gilmore did the decent thing by immediately resigning as leader. Joan Burton won the race to succeed him, beating off a surprisingly feeble challenge from Alex White.

July 11 - Enda reshuffles Cabinet

The Government clearly needed a facelift. Enda Kenny gave it one, mainly by demoting the hapless Health Minister James Reilly and allowing ambitious young Leo Varadkar to take his place.

Joan Burton, meanwhile, took her revenge on the Labour old boys' club, as ex-leaders Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte exited stage left. Into the cabinet came Labour's new deputy leader, Alan Kelly, a bruiser who looks set to make waves in the years ahead.

September 24 - 'McNultygate' erupts

John McNulty, a failed Fine Gael local election candidate, was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in early September.

No big deal in itself, except that a couple of weeks later the party also picked him to contest a Seanad by-election on the Cultural Panel.

The whole thing smacked of old-school cronyism, made new Arts Minister Heather Humphreys look like a hopeless dupe and forced Enda Kenny to issue a grovelling apology. So much for the coalition's relaunch.

October 14 - Budget day

Michael Noonan is the closest thing this Government has to a spiritual guru. The wily Finance Minister added to his aura by delivering Ireland's first post-austerity budget, including almost a billion euro worth of tax cuts for the long-suffering 'squeezed middle'.

This was about politics as much as economics, promising voters there would be more to come as long as they give Noonan and his team a second term - but the Coalition's poll ratings stubbornly refused to rise.

October 14 - Mairia Cahill makes explosive sex abuse claims about Sinn Fein

The Shinners are usually masters at whitewashing their past, but Mairia Cahill presented them with a new challenge. The young Belfast woman claimed to have been raped by a member of the IRA and subjected to a kangaroo court.

Adams has admitted that some Provo paedophiles were moved down south - this is yet another issue that will surely come back to haunt the Sinn Fein president.

November 15 - Joan Burton is trapped in her car by anti-water charge protesters

This was the moment when Right2Water finally lost the moral high ground. While attending a graduation ceremony in Jobstown, the Tanaiste was struck on the face by a water balloon and then held captive in her car by protesters, including Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy.

Even worse, he claimed the incident was "peaceful" and refused to apologise. The opposition to water charges will continue, but its sinister fringe may have turned off middle-Ireland for good.

December 1 - Homeless man Jonathan Corrie dies just yards from Leinster House

On a freezing cold night in Dublin, Jonathan Corrie died from hypothermia within sight of the gates of Dail Eireann.

It was a tragic reminder that while Ireland's economy is recovering, an alarming number of our people have become totally cut off from society.

The Government immediately held an emergency summit to help the homeless - a worthy initiative but yet another case of ministers reacting to crises instead of preventing them.

They urgently need to start doing things the other way around in 2015.

hnews@herald.ie


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