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 5 winners of the week are…
1. The TDs who raised Pantigate
After several failed attempts deputies got to debate RTÉ’s controversial payout over the Panti homophobia controversy on Thursday. The half hour of debate was thanks to the persistence of the likes of Catherine Murphy and John Lyons in getting the matter tabled as a Topical Issue. Thirty minutes was never enough time to debate the wider issue but there were some excellent contributions…
2. John Lyons and Jerry Buttimer
… Not least from these two coalition TDs who were brutally honest about what that is like to be gay in modern Ireland. Lyons was clearly emotional as he detailed abuse he received just before Christmas. “I thought I was living in a society where this isn’t acceptable any more,” he said. Buttimer was also frank and powerful with his contribution, taking aim at one contribution in the Seanad this week(more of which in our losers column below).
P.S. Honorable mentions also to David Norris in the Seanad and Paul Murphy in the European Parliament this week.
3. Stephen Donnelly
Too often private members’ business in the Dáil is devoted to impractical ideas or politically-motivated motions aimed at nothing else but discrediting the government. But this week the independent TD brought forward a seemingly practical bill to cut the cost of examinerhips. Some coalition TDs acknowledged its merits but the government ultimately voted it down. A shame, but it’s good to see good ideas coming from the often derided Technical Group.
4. (Some) Senators
It would be too easy to have a go at senators in light of their ridiculous one-and-a-half-day week, which looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, but fair play to those who did speak out about their lack of workload this week in attempt to get ministers to act. An interesting debate on the banking inquiry demonstrated the value of the Seanad this week, which is why the government can’t go on ignoring the upper house the way it is doing right now, especially since the people voted to retain it.
5. Brian Hayes
No wonder the junior finance minister is off to Europe because his primary role here seems to be go out and get a battering on behalf of the government. with his Minister of State for the OPW hat on,Hayes was all over the country this week, wading through water, dealing with angry residents in flood-damaged areas and taking questions in the Dáil. Whatever about the government’s response (more of which below), Hayes was at least prepared to put himself out there.
… and the 5 losers of the week are…
1. Jim Walsh
The Fianna Fáil senator gave some graphic and at times appalling and upsetting contributions during debates on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill last summer and this week caused some considerable controversy with his reference to “dangerous, vicious elements within the gay ideological movement”. We’re not quite sure what the “gay idealogical movement” is but we’re pretty sure, as Labour Senator Ivana Bacik was, that it doesn’t exist. “You’re making it up. It’s ridiculous, Senator Walsh,” she responded. Quite right.
2. Shane Ross
No doubt the independent deputy is a champion of the taxpayer and works very hard on the PAC, but there’s nothing particularly productive about forcing the committee to vote on an issue which the majority of members have already agreed not to support.The PAC will not be releasing a transcript to a garda whistleblower of his testimony to members last month and the Dublin South deputy is engaging in the sort of pointless exercise that has led others, such as Fine Gael’s John Deasy, to accuse him if an “insatiable thirst for publicity”. It’s hard not to disagree on this occasion.
3. Richard Bruton
“If I came in and we were saying: ‘We had a 100 per cent success rate’, you’d say: ‘Well that’s just spin,’” the Jobs Minister declared this week as another Action Plan for Jobs report declared a success rate north of 90 per cent. The high success rate is great, but drill down to the detail and you’ll find that some of the actions are rather bizarre, such as merely ensuring civil servants finish or publish reports. The plan details hundreds of actions, but the minister and the government would be better off limiting it to a few dozen real, tangible, and measurable goals to add a bit more credibility to it.
4. The government
The coalition’s response to the floods crisis just hasn’t been good enough this week. The lack of co-ordination across departments has been evident with it not clear just who is ultimately responsible for the response. Nor is it clear about how much is being pledged and what the money will be going to repair. Add to that the emergence of the obscure ‘National Coordination Group’ which wasn’t great at explaining just what it does and why it exists:
5. Peadar Tóibín
Only just back in the party and with his spokesperson portfolio resorted, the Meath West TD’s attempts to convince delegates at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis to pass a motion allowing TDs and Senators to vote with their conscience on the abortion issue was defeated. Tóibín will now face problems with his party yet again if there is, as might well happen, a vote on allowing terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities in the coming months.
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