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11 politicians and one (ex) garda commissioner who defined the political year

From Callinan to Kelly we look at the 12 individuals who shaped the political year that was.

TRYING TO SUM-UP the political year that was is a difficult when you consider the myriad of events, controversies, elections and resignations that took place in 2014.

The relative stability brought to the country by the Troika’s arrival in 2010 gave way to a series of government mishaps once our international lenders left last December and that’s not even mentioning several controversies that engulfed the opposition parties.

It’s been an eventful year so we’ve tried to sum it all up by looking at 12 people, most of them politicians (and men) who defined the political year that was.

1. Martin Callinan

Northern Ireland Security Issues Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The Garda Commissioner began his year by labelling the actions of two garda whistleblowers as ‘disgusting’ in front of the Public Accounts Committee. Having failed to grapple with the enormity of the penalty points controversy and other issues, Callinan retired in March after revelations about secret recordings at garda stations emerged.

2. Alan Shatter

29/4/2013. Hotline.ie Annual Reports Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

A man who shared a close relationship with Callinan and once the commissioner was gone the justice minister was viewed as next in the firing line. Shatter was not able to withstand the pressure heaped on him by various garda-related controversies. When the Guerin report – parts of which he is now challenging in the courts – condemned his handling of whistleblower Maurice McCabe’s allegations Shatter tendered his resignation.

3. Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein. Pictured Sinn Fein Presiden Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

It’s been a strange year for Sinn Féin in that its party leader’s own popularity has taken a hit while its standing in the polls has not suffered at all from the controversies related to Maíria Cahill. In May, Adams spent several days in PSNI custody as part of the investigation into the murder of Jean McConville, but his party still had an outstanding local and European elections and recent opinion polls put it in course to at least double it’s number of seats in the next election.

4. Michael Fitzmaurice


The Roscommon-South Leitrim TD typifies the rise of the independents who have capitalised on the disillusionment with traditional party politics and the public’s anger with the coalition over water charges. The independent brand was strong in the local and European elections and could be stronger again in a general election but the big question will be whether they can actually govern the country.

5. Micheál Martin

FF European Elections Manifestos Campaigns Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

The Fianna Fáil leader has had a mixed year with good performances on the garda issues and the medical card debacle but internally he faced difficulties. Mary Hanafin openly challenged his authority and the party effectively failed to get any MEPs re-elected with Brian Crowley elected for being Brian Crowley and then jumping ship. While Fianna Fáil did become the largest party in local government there remains persistent doubts about Martin’s future as leader. For some Martin’s only in his current position because, as Willie O’Dea remarked, there is no messiah to replace him.

6. Eamon Gilmore

Labour European Elections Campaigns Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

A bad year for the now former tánaiste and Labour leader who admirably fell on his sword after a disastrous local and European elections for the party. Gilmore’s troubles probably date back to before he was even elected to government and those infamous ‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ posters setting expectations way too high. In the end, party backbenchers became increasingly angered by his aloofness from the membership in contrast to other senior figures in the party.

7. Joan Burton

Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protec Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

One of those senior figures was the woman who replaced Gilmore as party leader and Tánaiste in July and has, by all accounts, created a much more inclusive atmosphere in Labour. Burton got the job she always wanted and left her mark on the Budget – the partial return of the Christmas Bonus and child benefit increases – as well as the water charges changes. In this sense it’s been a good year for Burton but her popularity has dipped a bit since she became leader and Labour has had no sustained ‘Burton Bounce’ from her election as its first female leader.

8. Leo Varadkar

Garda stations phone tapping Source: Brian Lawless

The Health Minister was more widely talked about as a potential successor to Enda Kenny with plenty of praise for his ‘straight-talking’ reputation not least when he described the two garda whistleblowers as ‘distinguished‘. His move to Health is a real test of his credentials but he did an extraordinary thing by winning praise for admitting that many of the government’s ambitious health reforms could not be achieved as quickly as was intended. He continues to be outspoken and courts publicity like few other ministers.

9. Enda Kenny

Jobs Announcements Creations Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The Taoiseach’s reputation took a nosedive in 2014 which was undoubtedly his annus horribilis as he presided over one crisis after another for the government. Huge questions remain about his actions in relation to Martin Callinan’s departure and his mishandling of the John McNulty affair damaged his reputation both publicly and within Fine Gael. There are murmurings from the usual suspects that his position is under threat. A few more bad polls might bring more out of the woodwork in the coming months.

10. Paul Murphy

paul-murphy-journal-2 Source: TheJournal.ie

The Socialists are on the rise and Murphy typified that by mounting an incredible campaign in the Dublin South-West by-election where Sinn Féin was seemingly nailed on. Murphy outflanked on them on left and took the seat. He took some flak for the Jobstown protest that turned nasty and was the subject of many claims and counter claims, but Murphy – who denies any personal ambition – is sure to remain as prominent in 2015 as he was in the latter half of this year.

11. Phil Hogan

Cabinet Meetings Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

What a year for the minister who got out of dodge having overseen the establishment of the disastrous Irish Water before getting a nice promotion to the European Commission with a whopping salary and expenses. Hogan even managed to sail through a potentially tricky confirmation hearing and deliver a few blows to the opposition.

12. Alan Kelly

Alan Kelly. Pictured Minister for the Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The minister who succeeded Hogan at Environment has had to navigate the tricky process of actually finalising water charges but has done so admirably after a string of Irish Water controversies from data breaches to bonuses to PPS numbers. Kelly has sought to take the sting out of the situation with several concessions that reduce the amount consumers will pay. But at the same time it will reduce the amount of revenue Irish Water will take in and we still don’t know what level of a boycott there will be. Which makes you wonder, from the government’s point of view, was it all worth it?

Read: Is Fine Gael facing an election bloodbath?

Read: Is Sinn Féin really proposing a 73 per cent tax rate?

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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