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'Smart-alec Tánaiste thinks it's smart…': The winners and losers from the political year

We’ve picked our eight winner and seven losers from the year that was…

WHAT A YEAR It’s been in the political word with resignations, elections, by-elections and no end to controversy.

This was the year in which the coalition government swayed off course and got itself into all sorts of bother over Alan Shatter, penalty points, Irish Water and a man named John McNulty.

For the opposition it was year of mixed fortunes with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin enjoying some electoral success but the latter party struggling to deal with allegations from the past.

As alway there were winners and losers and TheJournal.ie‘s political writers, Hugh O’Connell and Órla Ryan, have picked out our definitive list for 2014. Disagree with our picks? Then join the debate in the comments…

Here are the 8 winners… 

1. Phil Hogan

Cabinet Resuffles Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

The former Environment Minister got to leave the omnishambles that is Irish Water behind after landing a role as EU Agriculture Commissioner – a position that pays an annual pre-tax salary €336,446.65, plus expenses. Irish MEPs Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Matt Carthy expressed their dissatisfaction with his appointment, but he was formally elected in October. His legal ‘situation’ with Nessa Childers was also resolved, making it a pretty good year for Hogan. ÓR

2. Joan Burton

The Social Protection Minister was elected Labour’s first-ever female leader in July, after Eamon Gilmore resigned. Her promotion boosted the party’s popularity – at least temporarily – and some opinion polls have named her as the most popular leader of a political party. Burton’s main test now will be damage control ahead of the next general election. ÓR

3. Frances Fitzgerald

In the wake of Alan Shatters’ resignation, the former children’s minister has taken on arguably the toughest job in government and has brought with her a determination to overhaul her department and the gardaí. It’s been a good start but the real test will be ensuring that the new commissioner can carry out these reforms as well as ensuring the passage of the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015. HOC

File Photo Frances Fitzgerald Minister for Justice & Equality, has today announced that the Government has decided to appoint Ms Noirin OSullivan as Garda Commissioner. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

4. The Socialists

Starting the year with one TD and finishing it with three outside of an election year is an excellent achievement particularly when you’re not heavy on resources. The Socialists, under the Anti Austerity Alliance banner, ran two excellent ground campaigns in Dublins West and South-West with Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy now sitting alongside Joe Higgins in the Dáil. HOC

5. Leo Varadkar

He may have taken on the poisoned chalice of Health but the putative next Fine Gael leader has made a promising start in his portfolio playing down what can realistically be achieved and introducing some key reforms in the area of health insurance. But he’d want to watch out for those growing waiting listsHOC 

Garda stations phone tapping Source: Brian Lawless

6. Independents

Many dubbed 23 May ‘Independents Day’ with non-party candidates securing a record share of the vote in the local and European elections, securing three MEPs in the process. With more and more people growing unhappy with the main parties, Independents consistently hit an approval rating of mid-20s in opinion polls. ÓR

7. Green Party

After being virtually wiped out in the 2011 General Election, the Green Party had a resurgence of sorts this year, with party leader Eamon Ryan coming excruciatingly close to being elected an MEP for Dublin, narrowly missing out to Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes. The party also had a number of councillors elected across the country. ÓR

Counting Begins Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

8. Sinn Féin

Despite a string of controversies and ongoing questions about the leadership of Gerry Adams in the wake of the Maíria Cahill controversy, Sinn Féin had a great local and European elections and continues to soar in the opinion polls. HOC

… and here are the 7 losers… 

1. Gerry Adams 

It’s quite extraordinary that a party leader could spend several days in police custody being questioned in relation to an infamous murder and face very serious allegations about how the handling of abuse claims yet remain in situ. Though Adams is the great political survivor it’s not been a good year for him and while his standing in Sinn Féin may not have been affected the public’s view of him almost certainly has. HOC

2. Eamon Gilmore

Voting Begins Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Gilmore resigned as Labour leader following the party’s disastrous performance in the local and European elections in May, with its popularity slipping from 14 per cent in the 2009 election to about half this figure in 2014. Sinn Féin and Independents gained ground while the junior coalition party suffered major set-backs across the country, leaving Gilmore with just one option. ÓR

3. Enda Kenny

It’s been a dreadful year for the Taoiseach and undoubtedly his worst since coming to office. There are lingering questions hanging over his handling of Martin Callinan’s resignation as Garda Commissioner, he oversaw a poor local elections for Fine Gael and his whole role in the John McNulty affair left some backbenchers questioning his future. That’s not to mention leading a government which generally had a bad year between medical cards and Irish Water. HOC

4. Alan Shatter

8/5/2013. Joint Irish Prison Service Reports Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

It was a year of resignations for Government ministers with Shatter stepping down as Justice Minister in May. He made the decision on foot of the publication of the Guerin Report into Garda whistleblowers. Many criticised how allegations made by Maurice McCabe and John Wilson were handled by Shatter’s department and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, who resigned in March. Shatter later went on to challenge the report’s findings. ÓR

5. Micheál Martin

He led the way when it came to championing the causes of garda whisteblower Maurice McCabe and abuse victim Maíria Cahill but there was no political dividend as Fianna Fáil continues its ‘becalmed’ state in the polls. Martin also had plenty of internal troubles this year with Mary Hanafin’s emergence in Blackrock and Brian Crowley’s defection in Europe. HOC

6. Lucinda Creighton

Reform Alliance Conferences Source: samboal

The year kicked off with much talk of a potential new political party. The Reform Alliance held a conference or “national conversation on Ireland’s future” in January, but little happened after the event. Rumours of a new party still persist but the former Fine Gael TD and her RA colleagues failed to strike while the iron was hot, with the moment now seemingly past. Also, the Technical Group wasn’t too happy when Creighton joined their ranks. ÓR

7. Pat Rabbitte

Right until the end, Rabbitte was adamant that his age should be no barrier to him continuing to serve in Cabinet. So it’s no surprise that he was widely reported to have been more than a bit annoyed when Joan Burton sacked him in the reshuffle. HOC

If we’ve missed anyone out who is either a winner or loser from the year that was let us know in the comments… 

Read all our weekly Winners and Losers from 2014 > 

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