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. Barry Cowen
Up until recently, the Fianna Fáil TD’s main claim to fame was the fact his brother was Taoiseach. But he has recently been carving it his own reputation as a strong performer on environment and housing issues, making some robust contributes on the Irish Water/consultancy controversy. This week, Cowen lambasted the government’s homelessness strategy and sought to hit back at the ministers’ constant and by now annoying references to the previous regime.
2. John Wilson
The garda whistleblower has spent the last two years attempting to raise his grievances with how gardaí operate in this country to little avail. In fact, his actions were described as “disgusting” by the Garda Commissioner in January. Now Wilson is taking steps to push his case at a local government level, running for the council in Cavan where his high-profile should secure a few votes. But he told us this week that he’s far from a single-issue candidate.
3. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and several government ministers
Enda and Eamon are off on their travels for Paddy’s Day with not a care in the world except what shade of green tie they might wear. Several minsters are off to exotic locations across the globe, but spare a thought for Pat Rabbitte in Birmingham. Though maybe he’ll be glad to get away from all the talk of post offices, wind farms and pylons.
4. Stop the Water Tax – Socialist Party
It’s crude, but it’s one way of getting the message across. The Socialist Party has applied to change it’s name to the above in a bid to press home its opposition to water charges, which will no doubt be a key issue on the doorsteps in the run up to the local elections. We expect Fine Gael to change their names to ‘All About Jobs – Fine Gael’ in the coming weeks…
5. Ruairí Quinn and Labour
The party denies it but there was something fishy about junior minister Kathleen Lynch saying Frank Flannery’s position had, in her view, become untenable just a few hours before Quinn noted that he would “the odd time” see Flannery with Fine Gael advisors before Cabinet meetings. It was a line that was delivered innocuously, but had the effect of creating the wrong impression. Quinn, a veteran minister, knew what he was doing and sure enough a few hours later Flannery had resigned.
… and the 5 losers of the week are…
1. Michael Noonan
Ireland’s economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.3 per cent last year according to the gross domestic product (GDP) measure. Everyone was quick to play down the significance of it, with many pointing to the effect of the so-called ‘patent cliff’ but it wasn’t great news for the Finance Minister who has enjoyed only good headlines in recent months. It will become a bigger concern if the figures are repeated in the months ahead.
2. Alan Shatter
The Justice Minister might have hoped he would keep out of the headlines for the next few weeks while two separate inquiries are under way into the Garda Ombudsman and penalty point issues, but the Garda Inspectorate popped-up with its damning report of the fixed charge processing system this week, once again putting Shatter on the back foot. Calls for him to apologise to the garda whistleblowers continue, though it seems unlikely he will adhere to them any time soon, if at all.
3. Frank Flannery
“I feel sorry for Frank,” one minister told us this week before adding that the now ex-Fine Gael strategist had been a foolish in the extreme to show up in Leinster House on the day Rehab executives were appearing before the Public Accounts Committee. If strategy is his thing, then Flannery’s performance in recent weeks has left a lot to be desired.
He has now indicated a willingness to cooperate with the PAC, but the fact there were doubts about whether he would demonstrates the extent to which he has misread the mood of the public and the politicians. Added to that, in the space of 24 hours, the Galway man had to tender what might be an almost unprecedented number of resignations as he quit Fine Gael, Rehab and then the Forum on Philanthropy.
4. The Dáil
Once again the chamber found itself largely irrelevant this week as ministers and TD had clearly checked-out for the St Patrick’s Day festivities. There were more statements on the government’s priorities for the year ahead or ‘backslapping’ as the opposition has taken to calling it. Government chief whip Paul Kehoe admitted that there was a lack of legislation ready to go for these past two weeks which has meant that the chamber has become little more than a talking shop, and one that is now adjourned until 25 March.
5. Cork County Council
Science and facts consistently dispute the contention that fluoride in the Irish water supply is having a damaging and potentially devastating effect on all of us and particularly young children. Yet the council this week unanimously passed a motion calling on the government to stop treating the water supply with fluoride. Officials will now write to the Department of the Environment, but the government’s position on this is clear and no change in current policy appears likely.
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