EVERY WEEK, TheJournal.ie casts its eye over events inside and outside Leinster House that have got people talking.
As the saying goes: ‘You win some, you lose some.’
So here are our political winners and losers from the past seven days:
The 6 winners of the week are…
1. John McGuinness
We suspect the Fianna Fáil TD loves the publicity that comes with being the top man on the public spending watchdog, but he is an effective and excellent chairman who allowed members to tease out the details of both the CRC and Irish Water controversies this week. It’s that kind of efficient management of a committee that you don’t always get down in Leinster House. He’s not too bad at asking the questions himself either:
2. Simon Harris
The Dáil’s youngest TD was perhaps the most effective of all the inquisitors on the PAC this week, particularly in relation to the CRC and he had a few golden one liners which secured the all-important soundbite for the news bulletins.
These included asking the beleaguered Brian Conlan: “Did you not scan the minutes and think: ‘Jesus, God, Paul’s getting a lot of money there, isn’t he?’” and remarking that “a man blindfolded on a galloping horse would have been more aware of what was going on”. Indeed.
3. Barry Cowen
The Fianna Fáil TD is the Irish Water hipster – he was giving out about it before it was cool to give out about it. Cowen was scathing of Phil Hogan this week. It was political point-scoring no doubt but when presented with an open goal in the shape of the Irish Water debacle you have to take it and that’s what he did. This was a week in which Cowen has perhaps shed his main claim to fame: being the brother of the former taoiseach.
4. Simon Coveney
The Agriculture Minister is relatively popular among farmers and that won’t have been harmed by him being able to announce €12.5 billion of funding to the industry this week, including over €4 million for the Rural Development Programme, a slight increase on last year.
5. Houses of the Oireachtas
There’s been some criticism of the Oireachtas Commission’s new smartphone and tablet app, but it’s a handy tool for the digital age that allows political junkies to follow the Dáil, Seanad and Committees on the go. How exciting!
6. TDs who want to sit on the fence
Why vote Yes or No when you can abstain on a vote as deputies will officially be able to do sometime this year if all goes to plan. As we revealed earlier this week, the Dáil will need to be equipped with abstention buttons.
It’s not clear what impact a deputy registering their abstention will have on their position within their parliamentary party if the whip says they have to vote Yes or No, but it’s one to watch.
… and the 6 losers of the week are…
1. Phil Hogan
You have to suspect the Environment Minister is just waiting to check out of the Irish political scene and head off to the Brussels for the European Commissioner job. Again this week he came in for a barrage of criticism, much of it justified, for not being across the spending at Irish Water.
“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs,” Hogan said when asked if it is a PR disaster. That says a lot about how worried he is about the impact it has on the government, as it’s likely he’ll not be part of it by the summer.
2. Phil Prendergast
A week is a long time in politics and while the Labour MEP was no doubt toasting being one of our political winners last week, her comments that the erection of pylons are the “rape of the countryside” did not go down well, and nor should they. It may have got a few headlines, including on these pages, but that does not make her reference an appropriate one.
3. James Reilly
Amidst the Irish Water and CRC controversies, it may have escaped some that the HSE director general Tony O’Brien outlined the serious issues facing the health service next year. “The executive faces a very significant financial challenge this year,” O’Brien told the Health Committee on Tuesday, appearing to outline the difficult, if not impossible, task facing the HSE and James Reilly in 2014.
4. The Department of Finance
Where are two documents related to the banking crisis, and a possible takeover of Bank of Ireland before the State invested in it in 2009, that have gone missing in the Department? Officials don’t know how or why this happened and it’s not clear if they are even still looking for them. Brendan Howlin thinks they are, but as the TD who uncovered the issue, Pearse Doherty, said: “We need to get to the bottom of this.”
5. Patrick O’Donovan
The Fine Gael deputy drew the ire of the online world this week when he suggested that open source internet browsers should be banned and pushed for a crackdown on illegal digital currencies.
O’Donovan said they are being used to buy illicit items “such as drugs, weapons and pornography”. Though he later acknowledged his lack of ‘TechSpeak’ perhaps he should assess his lack of ‘TechKnowledge’.
6. Francois Hollande
The French president is in a spot of bother over his personal affairs, something which the French media – aside from Closer magazine that is – appear reluctant to delve into if the questions at a press conference this week are anything to go by.
But the fact that Hollande, with low favourability ratings and a bad economy, must now confirm in the next few weeks who the country’s First Lady is says it all about how bad a week this has been for him.
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