Who’s up and who’s down in 2012: Micheál Martin, Rory McIlroy, Nigel Farage…

Always a dodgey thing to do, but I thought it might lend a little perspective at what is a pretty frenetic end of year. I know not everyone will agree, but rather than calling me on my bias or agenda, why not get your back by offering your own sets of winners and losers?

Okay, first up in British politics it is almost impossible to work out who is up and who is down. Labour are riding high in the polls, but Ed Milliband still struggles at the dispatch box. Even Andrew Mitchell is getting his own back, over what still looks like some pretty priggish behaviour.

So for me, only Nigel Farage is up. Coming in ahead of the LibDems in the national polls does not mean they’ll get seats. But Farage has meant the party is liked quite a lot in a probably too many places to count. It’s also likely that voters may think twice when they look at the harsh medicine his party would like to administer the British patient.

Coming across the Irish Sea, I’d mark out the leader of the Irish Labour Party as a man with some serious headaches. Eamon Gilmore’s gale is now blowing full scale in the wrong direction. The damage is plain for all to see with a growing band of unwhipped Labour TDs and Senators beginning to look like the core of an alternative Labour party. The Labour leader is clearly down on the year.

Picking winners in Northern Ireland means ignoring local politics, where the result of nearly twenty years of the worlds most successful Peace Peace process is the almost complete abandonment of any serious business. So step up a double gold medal winning runner friom Gelngormley whose modesty, dedication and courage was an inspiration at a time when there’s been little to find. Michael McKillop is up.

Parades Commission is down for imposing punitive conditions on a small group of Orangemen returning from the field to north Belfast, despite the fact that since 2009 none of the rioting in Ardoyne was started by them. To be fair though, the PC should have been wound up by now and the decisions moved on to the police of even OFMdFM. For that reason I am tagging OFMdFM as downmovers too.

Up, there is only one Irish politician I think has had a good year. So Micheál Martin of Fianna Fail is definitely up. He’s still largely ignored by the Dublin media for the sins of the last FF regime of which he was a senior member. But from the launch pad of a well attended Ard Fheis, he and a very youthful front bench have had a good second half of the year.

Badly down is Conor Murphy. Effectively sacked from the Assembly (alongside former Executive colleague Michelle Gildernew), Murphy was (according to his own account) branded both sectarian and liar by the Equality Commission. In his wake both he and his successor Danny Kennedy have spent a cool £8 £million on legal fees and compensation (more than enough to pay for a year of the cervical vaccination programme in the Republic).

Rory McElroy is most definitely up. A young Holywood lad with the backing and confidence of his parents and barely a red cent of public subsidy powered himself to an eight point victory in the US Open. He had a bit of a wobble in the middle of the golf season when he made public noises to the effect he might choose Team GB rather than Team Ireland, but he rode the storm with a modicum of good grace under intense fire.

Back to the Republic, the minister who ought to have claimed some to success (FF sat on proposals for a primary healthcare network for ten years), has instead opened a world of unnecessarily political pain by seeing to it that two of centres would be built in his own, north Dublin constituency. There are 43 constituencies in the state, and money for just 35. Minister Reilly is down.

And finally, up is the people of Northern Ireland. No doubt it is in spite (rather than because) of the poor tribal politicking and empty posturing of the last political year, as Pete noted on leap day this year, they remain the happiest regional band in the whole United Kingdom.

A special note for Matt Baggott, who like the Grand Old Duke of York, is neither up nor down, but can be said to have achieved something just by still being there. Somewhat like Chris Patten over the appointment of Entwistle, everyone wants to criticise him for doing the very job the Policing Board asked him to do, but not to take the responsibility for making the appointment in the first place.

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