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The answers to 9 political questions we were asking this time last year

Most of the questions we asked this time last year we’re answered in 2014.

A YEAR AGO, we posed nine of the biggest questions about Irish politics that were on our mind heading into 2014.

screenshot.1415014042.53579 Source: www.thejournal.ie

Much unfolded over the last 12 months that we could not have anticipated including the resignation of Justice Minister Alan Shatter and the disastrous May elections for Labour which forced Eamon Gilmore to step down as Tánaiste.

But, by-and-large, our questions almost a year ago we’re answered one way or another…

1. Did our ‘clean’ bailout exit work out?

Yes.

Ireland’s economy continues to grow at a pace not seen in any other eurozone country and unemployment is continuing to fall. The government is bullish about our growth prospects next year and there was a ‘giveaway budget’ of sorts in October.

The decision to leave the Troika bailout without a precautionary credit line in place has, economically at least, proven to be the right decision even if there has been much debate about the indiscipline which has hampered government for much of the year.

Taoiseach Canvassing in Elections Campaigns Source: Sam Boal

2. Did Labour maintain its recovery and avoid electoral disaster?

No.

Though the party showed some sign of recovery towards the end of 2013, the disastrous opening few months of 2014 ensured that Labour was on the receiving end of a “shellacking”, as Joan Burton called it, in the local and European elections.

Right To Read Campaigns Source: Sam Boal

 3. Did Fianna Fáil recover at the ballot box?

Yes and No.

The party is now the largest in local government after May’s elections but it returned only one MEP in Brian Crowley who was forced out of the parliamentary party weeks later anyway after joining a far-right grouping in the European Parliament.

4. Was there a new party?

No.

Reform Alliance Conferences Source: samboal

And we’re still asking the question as to whether there will be one before the next election as Lucinda Creighton and the usual suspects kept their cards close to their chest while constantly courting media attention. There’s a sense that the longer the speculation continues the less likely there will be a new political party particularly with an election looming possibly as soon as next year.

5. Did James Reilly hold on at health?

No.

The Minister for Health, whose name was frequently preceded by the word ‘embattled’, failed to survive the Cabinet reshuffle as he was moved down to the Department of Children making way for the straight-talking Leo Varadkar to takeover at Hawkins House.

Strategic Reviews of Medical Training Source: Photocall Ireland

6. Who became Ireland’s next European Commissioner?

Phil Hogan.

We suspected it might be Big Phil and it was. Despite a late but unrealistic push on the Labour side for Eamon Gilmore to be the government’s nominee there was never much doubt that Hogan, having been a loyal servant to Enda Kenny for many years, would be rewarded for his efforts with the plum EU job that he’s settled into nicely so far.

7. Did Gerry Adams survive as Sinn Féin leader? (And what about Micheál Martin?)

Yes (and Yes).

Last year we wrote that “the past continues to cause problems for Adams and as a result Sinn Féin”. The exact same is true one year on but Adams remains resolute in his desire and determination to lead his party into the next election in the face of mounting scrutiny and criticism.

Dail Scenes Source: sam boal

Electorally Sinn Féin had a good year overall with a strong result in the local and European elections although there was a by-election hiccup in Dublin South-West. The party’s poll rating has not been hugely damaged by the Maíria Cahill controversy but it hasn’t and won’t go away.

As for Micheál Martin it’s been a difficult year with the Mary Hanafin and Brian Crowley debacles, by-election failures and Fianna Fáil’s ‘becalmed’ state in the polls but he survives because, as Willie O’Dea noted, there is no messiah waiting in the wings.

8. Was there a banking inquiry, and what did we find out?

Yes, sort of.

The banking inquiry was established amid much controversy over the government’s botched handling of the membership if of the committee. Public hearings began just before the Christmas break but the big question is whether they can get anything substantial done before the current Dáil is dissolved.

9. Will our banks need more money, and will we get a bank debt deal?

Fine Gael Think Ins Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Yes-ish and No.

Ireland’s big banks passed the Europe-wide stress tests which put financial institutions through a doomsday scenario in order to assess whether they were adequately capitalised. Permanent TSB came up short but reassured us that everything was under control.

The bank debt deal appears no closer than it did this time last year with the soundings from Finance Minister Michael Noonan indicating that we might not even need one given the ever-improving public finances.

Read: Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are both ruling out coalition with each other

Read: 6 of the dirtiest insults thrown across the floors of the Dáil and Seanad

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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