Blog: Only time will tell the...

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Blog: Only time will tell the winners and losers of 2013

TodayFM
TodayFM

8:01 PM - 30 Dec 2013



There's been a running gag among journalists over the last couple of years, as we in the media battle to stay on top of the consistently head-melting freneticism at which major news has been breaking. The 2010 edition of Reeling in the Years, we used to say, would have to be released on a box set, simply because trying to wrap the bank guarantee, the entry of the Troika, and the beginning of the fatal leadership heave against Brian Cowen - as well as the earthquakes and tsunamis in Haiti and Sumatra, the BP oil spill, and everything else that went on - could not be distilled into a 25-minute TV show.

On first glance, 2013 hasn't been quite as bonkers on the domestic front - but when we look back at the year it's actually been much more momentous. 2013 was the year when, after 21 years of national navel-gazing, the Oireachtas finally managed to identify a national middle ground and pass legislation to deal with the X Case. It was also the year in which the state made the decision (brave at least on the surface, if not at its core) to leave the bailout programme without some sort of back-up safety net.

But there was more to it. It was the year of Ireland's extensive and elaborate EU presidency; the year that the horsemeat scandal reached the public mind; the year that TDs stayed up late into the night to liquidate the former Anglo Irish Bank; the year of Fine Gael winning a by-election in Meath East; the year the State started coming to terms with the legacy of abuse of Magdalene women; the year of Savita Halappanavar's inquest; the year Ireland was labelled a 'tax haven' by an influential committee of the US Senate; the year a Minister for Justice used privileged information to undermine a political opponent on national TV; the year of the Lowry Tapes and the Anglo Tapes; the year of Tom Barry, Aine Collins and lap-gate; the year Clare finally took back Liam and Mayo once again failed to clinch Sam; the year we said ciao to Trap and Declan Kidney; the year most Irish people found out there was such a thing as the 'Seanad' - and then ended up deciding to keep it anyway; the year of Lucinda Creighton and Colm Keaveney; the year an independent inquiry said the Gardai probably worked with the IRA to murder two of their RUC colleagues; and the year in which our faith in charities was rocked by the disclosure that public donations were being partly used to top-up the pay of senior managers.

In short, it's probably been a busier year than many of us will actually have remembered.

But trying to determine whether the government or the country is a tougher task - and one that this writer believes can only be done with the benefit of longer hindsight. Certainly, one could argue it's been a good year for Enda Kenny: he got Fine Gael on board and passed a law on abortion, led an effective EU presidency - to the point where he's been mentioned for a top EU job next year, and helped Ireland to exit the bailout and the clutches of the Troika.

But equally, one could say it's been a tough time for him. He's lost one junior minister, four other TDs and two Senators over the abortion bill; he made it his personal mission to hold a referendum on the Seanad and then watched it lose because he pointedly refused to canvass or campaign for its passage; and he presided over a needlessly frantic late-night Dail session where Ireland's elected lawmakers were asked to approve - with just a few hours' notice - a vague arrangement converting unsecured banking debts (which even the IMF said were unfair) into full national debts which the nation's taxpayers will have hung around their necks until the year 2053.

The same could be said of Eamon GIlmore - who steadied the Labour ship and saw off the latest leadership unease, but still saw a massive exodus from his party ahead of the next election, Gerry Adams - who has seen his party affirm its status as a genuine opposition voice, but whose response to Smithwick has cast questions over his own future tenure; and Micheal Martin - who has helped to clean up Fianna Fail's image while failing to make any major political breakthrough and potentially watering down his party's image by taking on the likes of Colm Keaveney.

2013 has been a year of short-termism - a year where the biggest single political scandal of the week is barely likely to register on the national psyche only days later. It's not even two months since the country was convulsed by the idea of having to pay the 2014 property tax in 2013 - but the scandal had died down within a week. Earlier this month Dr Rhona Mahony's public image was suffering when the HSE publicly took issue with her salary top-ups - but the scandal was virtually forgotten when attention switched to the use of public fundraising to pay wages at the Central Remedial Clinic. The early Budget has left a news vacuum in November and December - one which tends to be filled by urgent, immediate scandals which can then be happily discarded when a newer one shows up.

So who are the winners and losers of 2013? We might need to look back at the end of 2014, or 2023, or 2113 to know for sure.

Happy New Year!



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