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Another year over: What exactly has happened in the Dáil since September

We take a look back on some of the major events that defined the 2013/14 session in Leinster House.

AS THE CURTAIN falls on another year’s business in Leinster House, we take a look back at some of the events that defined the Dáil session from last September through to this July.

The miraculous and unexpected survival of the Seanad – October 2013

Forget about Mick Wallace’s pink t-shirts, the real survivor of this political session has been the second chamber. In October last year Fine Gael’s four year campaign to have it abolished was defeated with a east-west split occurring across the country.

seaned vote map Green - Yes, Red - No Source: referendum.ie

The campaign, supported by Sinn Féin, claimed that it would save the electorate €20 million a year and made much of the fact that it would mean fewer politicians.

Source: Referendum 2013/YouTube

Fianna Fáil criticised the Enda Kenny’s party for putting forward a populist argument, saying that “coherent” arguments had helped to “demolish” the Yes campaign.

A major criticism leveled at the Fine Gael leader after defeat in the referendum was a failure to engage in a televised debate on the issue. In light of the defeat, Communications Minister at the time Pat Rabbitte said the Mayo TD “probably should have done” a debate.

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

In it to ‘Ming’ it – October 2013

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s bill to legislate and regulate cannabis in Ireland was voted down by 111 votes to eight when it was introduced back in November. Despite the Bill failing, Flanagan made a strong argument for a broader debate on the issue.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie in November on the response from his colleagues in the chamber, Flanagan described how he “floated out of the debate yesterday without the use of any psychoactive substances”.

The former Roscommon-South Leitrim TD won a seat as an MEP in the Midland-North West constituency in May.

Source: Broadsheet Ie/YouTube

The continued survival of Gerry Adams – November 2013

Gerry Adams has faced down a couple of accusations about his past this year. In October last year Adams’ brother Liam was found guilty of raping and sexually abusing his eldest daughter Áine Adams more than thirty years ago. Adams faced criticism over not being more proactive in coming forward with information. 

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

In late May the Sinn Féin leader was arrested as part of an investigation into the abduction and murder of Jean McConville. Sinn Féin hit out at the arrest, branding it a politically motivated move in the run up to the local and European elections. Speaking at the unveiling of a mural of Adams, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness said:

Does anyone here doubt Gerry’s arrest at this time is not intended to disrupt that election campaign?…The arrest of Gerry Adams is evidence of that there is an element within the PSNI who are against the peace process and who hate Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin.

The Louth TD was released without charge on May 4th.

This was definitely not Amazeballs – December 2013 

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

Using what was described as “a new term in the Southside”, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh graced the Dáil with the term “amazeball”, although the Dublin TD mispronounced the term “amazy-balls”.

Pantigate: hitting out at homophobia – February 2014

One of the major events of the year was the reaction to RTÉ paying out a reported €85,000 to the Iona Institute, Breda O’Brien and John Waters after comments made by drag artist Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss, on The Saturday Night Show.

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

While Pat Rabitte, Minister for Communications at the time declined to get involved in the affair concerning the state broadcaster, Labour TD John Lyons and Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer spoke out on their experience as gay men in Ireland.

lyons speaking out

Drunken Facebook message topples Patrick Nulty – March 2014

The Dáil saw only its seventh resignation in its 85 year history with Independent TD Patrick Nulty standing down over inappropriate messages sent to a seventeen year old constituent.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Nulty said:

The message was entirely inappropriate and I take full responsibility for my actions. For this reason I have decided to resign my seat in the Dail. I set myself the highest standards personally and politically. Unfortunately due to personal mistakes I have not met those standards in this matter and I will take responsibility for that.

nulty Source: photocall

PAC-ing heat – April 2014

The Public Accounts Committee and its members have been one of the big winners in Leinster House this year. Their committee has played a high profile role in the CRC, Irish Water and penalty points controversies.

The most high profile scalps for the committee were the resignations of Frank Flannery as director of Social Innovation Fund Ireland and Angela Kerins as Rehab Chief Executive. The members of PAC have been praised for strong performances.

Source: Sinn Féin/YouTube

Speculation has abounded about Mary Lou McDonald and John McGuinness’s chances as future leaders of their parties;  Simon Harris’s work on the Committee has been pointed to as a reason for his appointment as a Junior Minister in the Department of Finance.

Shattered in the end – May 2014

The last ten months have not been the best of times for former Justice Minister Alan Shatter. The GSOC saga, the issue with the whistleblowers, inopportune use of confidential information on a RTE’s Prime Time and the resignation of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan all added to a sense of inevitability about Shatter’s position.

Under the growing weight of calls for his resignation, Shatter finally buckled when on May 7, the Taoiseach announced that the Justice Minister had stood down.

Shatter’s final curtain call in the saga came a few weeks later on the issue of a severance payment of around €50,000. The departing Minister afforded the occasion its full ceremonial embellishment, holding a press conference on the eve of the local and European elections to announce he would be donating the payment to the Jack and Jill Foundation.

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

Election smack-down for FG and Labour – May 2014

Sinn Féin and independents were the big winners in an elections that saw the two parties of government heavily punished. Labour and Fine Gael saw major losses across the country. Joan Burton described the loses as a “shellacking”.  In the wake of the elections, Enda Kenny declared that the government had heard the message from the electorate “loud and clear”.

ballot box Fine Gael and Labour got hit hard at the ballot box Source: photocall

At the European elections, Sinn Féin secured three seats in the Republic of Ireland (four across the island of Ireland). Labour lost all three of their seats while only Brian Crowley from Fianna Fáil managed a return to Brussels. Brian Crowley has since been expelled from the party for his decision to join the European Conservatives and Reformists.

The life of Reilly – June 2014

James Reilly was hit hard in the aftermath of the Budget last year. Reilly faced heavy criticism for an inability to make clear how budget cuts were to be made in his department. In the Budget announcement in October, €666 million was announced in cuts to the health service, with €113 million of ‘medical card probity’ savings outlined.

In the past couple of months Reilly has faced the embarrassment of the withdrawal and then reinstatement of thousands of medical cards. On 17 June it was announced that up to 15,000 discretionary medical cards would be reinstated. The cards would be for the period of the 1st of July, 2011 to the 31st of May, 2014.

james reilly plain packaging James Reilly with proposed cigarette packets Source: photocall

Despite the turmoil, the Dàil session ended perhaps better than Reilly would have expected, given all the media speculation of his impending loss of a Cabinet spot. Reilly receiving an award from the World Health Organisation for his hard stance on smoking and a new job as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in the cabinet reshuffle.

Labour intensive – July 2014

Eamon Gilmore resigned his position as leader of the Labour party on 27 May, the week after local and European elections. Gilmore was set to face two votes of no confidence, tabled by both the party’s central council and the parliamentary party.

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

The fall of Eamon Gilmore brought about the rise of Joan Burton. She emerged as the first female leader of the Labour party after beating out Alex White in the leadership contest. The victory was greeted by those within the Labour party. Gilmore posed enthusiastically with Burton after her victory, holding her hand aloft at the Round Room in the Mansion House.

Source: Hugh O'Connell

A tale of two reshuffles – July 2014

The year in politics was rounded off with the a reshuffle of both the Cabinet and junior ministers. Following Joan Burton’s ascension to the top of the Labour party, her and Enda Kenny entered into week-long protracted discussion on who would make up the new cabinet.

The major casualty of the reshuffle was Pat Rabbitte. Unlike his Labour colleague Ruiari Quinn who had the sense to jump before being pushed, Rabbitte hung into the bitter end and paid the price. This downgrading caused Rabitte to question his position as a TD saying:

If you’re deemed too old to serve at Cabinet at this juncture, it causes you to look at things thorough a different prism.

pat rabittee Source: photocall

The Cabinet reshuffle saw Leo Varadkar promoted to Minister for Health. With Varadkar’s propensity for speaking his mind, the move was seen as somewhat radical, although the Dublin TD was careful to outline that it would be difficult to “turn the poison chalice into sweet wine”.

The big story of  the reshuffle of Junior Ministers was the promotion of the 27-year-old Simon Harris to the role of Minister of State at the Department of Finance. The move saw Harris become the first minister or junior minister born in the 1980s.

 

In the name of the law -  September 2013 to July 2014

And in case you missed them, here are a few bits of legislation that caused a stir over the course of the year:

  • Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 – This Act is the prelude to the water charges we will all soon have to pay. The Act gives Irish Water “that authority to charge all domestic customers who are in receipt of public water”.
  • Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 – This Act set up the Pyrite Resolution Board to provide remediation of damages to those who have had their properties damaged by pyrite.
  • Taxi Regulation Act 2013 - Gardaí were given powers to revoke or suspend taxi licences for breaches of SPSV regulation. Operations were launched to enforce this law last month.
  • Protected Disclosures Act 2014 – Following on from the whistleblowers controversy earlier in the year, this act is Ireland’s first statute protecting whistleblowers in all sectors of the economy.

READ: It’s politicians’ last day in Leinster House before the summer holidays, here’s what they’re up to

READ: These are the six areas Enda and Joan want to prioritise from now until 2016

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