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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

‘You’re representatives of an illness industry’: 5 winners and 5 losers from the political week

You win some, you lose some…

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. Members of the Health Committee

TDs and Senators on the Health Committee have been holding public hearings on plans to standardise cigarette packets for weeks, but it was only on Thursday that they got to grill representatives from the tobacco industry, and there was a rare outbreak of cross-party excoriation of the sharp-suited executives.

“You are representatives of an illness industry and that is the bald fact of it,” one TD told the heads of PJ Carroll, John Player, JTI Ireland and smokers’ group Forest Éireann this week as they argued against the forthcoming legislation to introduce plain packs - a law these companies will doubtless challenge in the courts.

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2. Ciaran Cannon

We don’t hear much from the junior education minister but we were impressed by his contribution to the neknomination debate in the Dáil this week. He told party colleague Derek Keating that it simply wasn’t possible to shut down all references to the internet drinking craze from social media.

His reasoned response was a follow-up to a column he wrote for this website over a year ago. Politicians in Leinster House are often too quick to rush into calls for a clamp down on social media when perhaps they should learn more about it as Cannon is clearly doing.

3. Kenneth Egan

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The Olympic silver medallist’s honesty is refreshing.Though Egan’s naivety was apparent this week there’s no harm in politicians, and those aspiring to be politicians, being brutally honest. That’s exactly what he was when he stated baldly: “A lot of people don’t vote, from 18-to-26-year-olds, because they see all politicians as bad news and gangsters, and I am gonna try and change that in my local area.”

4. Padraig Mac Lochlainn

The Sinn Féin TD did a sterling job of chairing the little-known Oireachtas Public Service Oversight and Petitions Committee through its high-profile hearings with GSOC this week, but we were more impressed with his show of cross-party admiration for Alan Shatter in the Justice Committee on Wednesday. He even offered to get the wine in:



5. Labour

The impending local and European elections meant that the junior coalition partner benefitted from some more free publicity this weekend as it held its second conference in three months. Delegates heard plenty of speeches focussing on the role the party has had in government in “maintaining the threshold of decency” as Eamon Gilmore put it. The general public might well dispute that, but the members gathering in Enfield lapped it up.

… and the 5 losers of the week are…

1. Alan Shatter

The Justice Minister is once again in the spotlight over the relationship between himself, the gardaí and the garda watchdog. “A triangle of distrust” was how Fianna Fáil described it this week. It’s little wonder given that Shatter told the Dáil one thing on Tuesday night – that there was no evidence of surveillance of the GSOC headquarters – before the Ombudsman appeared to cast doubt on that in front of an Oireachtas Commmitte the next day, saying he suspected surveillance.

Having ruled out an independent inquiry into the matter, the Minister considers that case closed, but this one is likely to run – whether he likes it or not. His appearance before an Oireachtas Committee on Wednesday is likely to ensure that the story rumbles on.

2. Enda Kenny

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Amid the bugging controversy this week, the Taoiseach misquoted the Garda Siochána Act in outlining what he believed was GSOC’s obligation to report the bugging controversy to the Minister when in fact it was not obliged to do so. In another apparent slip, comments he made earlier this month that we would know about water charges before the May elections were undermined by the energy regulator saying on Tuesday we would not know prices until August. Kenny is standing his ground, but this hasn’t been a vintage week for him.

3. Emer Costello and Labour

No one buys claims from the junior coalition partner that the exclusion of its logos on some of Costello’s posters was merely “an oversight”. Labour knows it faces a battle to retain its European Parliament seat in the capital and that it’s not exactly popular right now. So it’s no surprise their candidate in the capital might avoid talking about her party unless she has to. Though the party insists these are the posters and banners that will go out from now on:

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4. Fine Gael

The party has made a complete mess of its electoral strategy in Ireland South where it was to run two candidates and then decided it would run three, resulting in John Bryan, the former IFA chief, pulling out of contention. In a scramble to find another candidate, several of those in the frame cited the curious three-candidate strategy as a reason for ruling themselves out. Now it looks like Wicklow deputy Simon Harris is the frontrunner.

5. James Reilly

The Health Minister has, according to the Irish Times, been told that his proposals for universal health insurance (UHI) are a threat to the financial stability of the State. It’s no surprise that the department in charge of spending would take a dim view of the biggest-spending department wanting to splash-out more money, but UHI is a key policy for Reilly and the fact that officials in Public Expenditure and Reform appear so dismissive of the initial proposal does not bode well for the under-fire Minister.

Pics: Photocall Ireland, Twitter and Labour Party

Like politics? Then why not ‘Like’ TheJournal.ie’s Politics page?

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