IT ALWAYS had to be the best for John O'Donoghue. When his offices in Leinster House were being refurbished, nearly €30,000 was spent providing carpets, with €11,380 more spent on curtains.
In May, the Sunday Tribune began to look at suggestions of excessive spending by Tourism Ireland and O'Donoghue's name was to the fore.
On one trip paid for by the tourism body in 2006, he had stayed in a $1,200-a-night suite at the Waldorf Astoria and theatre tickets costing more than $1,200 were purchased on his behalf.
The Sunday Tribune began to delve a little further into Junket John's extravagance, seeking details of his expenditure whilst a minister at the Department of Arts, Tourism and Sport.
The figures would be made available under freedom of information (FOI) legislation, but at a cost of €523. We decided to proceed with just a small part of the request, asking for details of travel in 2006 and 2007.
The stories began in earnest on 26 July when the Sunday Tribune outlined €126,000 worth of expenditure in less than two years.
It was from the very beginning the tiny details which most upset people: €180 on hat hire for a race meeting, €250 for water taxis in Vienna, an €80 tip to the "Indians for moving the luggage".
The ceann comhairle stood behind his position as speaker of the house, saying it would be inappropriate for him to enter into public controversy.
This newspaper had also sought details of his travels whilst in the office of ceann comhairle under FOI.
On the Friday that we received them, John O'Donoghue took destiny in his own hands and released them publicly – prompting RTÉ to offer O'Donoghue a clean bill of health, saying his decision to volunteer the documents would draw a line under the controversy.
It didn't. The following Sunday's Tribune disclosed how the ceann comhairle's trips overseas often seemed to coincide with race meetings in places like Longchamp, Chantilly, and Sandown.
Two days later, Eamon Gilmore told O'Donoghue in the Dáil his position was untenable. A week later, the ceann comhairle – for the first time in the history of the state – resigned.
The words of the Real IRA army council representative were chilling. Denis Donaldson, senior Sinn Féin figure and British spy, didn't even scream for help when two masked republicans sledge-hammered their way into his Donegal cottage.
"The look on his face wasn't even one of shock. He seemed to know what was coming," the dissident leader told me. Until then, Donaldson's murder three years earlier had been shrouded in mystery and blamed on Provisional IRA members.
"He had no plan to defend himself. He hadn't a baseball or hurley bat, a knife or anything like that at hand. He just ran into the back room. There was a struggle, and he ended up on the ground. He didn't cry out or plead for mercy. He remained silent all the time."
Donaldson was shot dead lying on the floor. His right hand was blown away as he raised it to protect his head. The Real IRA said it had always planned to claim the murder but waited until it had inflicted security force fatalities, at Massereene, before going public.
Our story made headlines around the world and led to an attempt by the PSNI to compel us to reveal our source. We refused and were ultimately successful after a lengthy court battle.
THE Sunday Tribune made the running with the story of An Bord Snip Nua since it called for such a body to be established 18 months ago and then first revealed finance minister Brian Lenihan's intention to do so late last year.
In June, just days before the report was presented to Lenihan, the Sunday Tribune revealed that the report would be used as the basis for finding €4bn in cutbacks for 2010.
This story also revealed for the first time that the ministers were of the view that further cuts in public sector pay would have to be considered. Up to that point, it had been believed that in the wake of the pension levy being introduced for public servants, it would be politically impossible for further reductions to be introduced.
However, senior sources revealed to the Sunday Tribune that the budgetary crisis meant further cuts couldn't be ruled out and that has since proven to be the case. In the following weekend's lead story the Sunday Tribune revealed further details of what the report would contain.
Last May we published the names of 11 people who had controversially been provided with pseudonyms in the landmark report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
Overseen by judge Seán Ryan, the report sent shockwaves throughout country after it uncovered a litany of abuse at the state's residential institutions.
However, the commission decided not to name any of those who abused children, even where they had been found guilty of this in a court of law.
This prompted anger among some victims, who argued that the names of their abusers should have been published, particularly where this was deemed legally possible.
All of those identified in our story were criticised in the report for either failing to prevent abuse happening to the children in their care, or for administering physical or sexual abuse themselves.
THOUSANDS of secondary school students, their parents and teachers woke up on Sunday, 1 November to the news that the cabinet was considering abolishing the Junior Cert exam.
The Sunday Tribune exclusively revealed details of confidential cabinet negotiations on the possibility of abolishing the exam taken by over 50,000 secondary school students annually as a radical cost-cutting measure in the budget.
The sensational Department of Education proposal would save up to €30m annually, according to Leinster House sources.
The government is looking into the viability of replacing the exam, which has been in existence since it replaced the Intermediate Certificate in 1992, with a new system of continuous assessment, with just one state-run Leaving Cert exam at school level.
The ASTI immediately reacted to the story and criticized the proposal, saying that it would reduce education standards and the debate on the merits of the exam has continued since the story broke.
Garret FitzGerald's intervention on Nama was crucial in turning the debate on the bank bailout in the government's favour and the Sunday Tribune was the first to seize on the significance of his comments in our lead story in the edition of 30 August.
Writing in his column in the Irish Times the day before, FitzGerald had warned that a Dáil rejection of either the government's banking or budgetary proposals "could throw our state into the hands of the IMF".
FitzGerald said "the present populist anti-Nama mood... could all too easily lead to the opposition overplaying its hand and there are signs of that happening". Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, FitzGerald said he did not know if Nama was the best option, but to abandon it now could "destabilise things".
Coming from a former Fine Gael Taoiseach and such a respected commentator, the impact of the comments cannot be overestimated. The following week the Sunday Tribune was the first to reveal that another former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes also backed the Nama proposal, which had been so strongly opposed by the Fine Gael party.
I stood at the pre-arranged spot a mile outside Crossmaglen when the white van pulled up. I climbed in the back. We drove to a lock-up garage across the border.
The driver got out. He was wearing a balaclava. He gave me a map. On it, he claimed, was the spot where Gerard Evans from south Armagh was killed and secretly buried in 1979.
This information led to the 'independent commission for the location of victims' remains' beginning a dig at the spot – bogland two miles from Hackballscross, Co Louth.
This provisional IRA man was one of the 12-strong team responsible for Evans' abduction and murder. It was the first time anyone involved in a disappearance had spoken to the media.
The IRA man said Evans (24) had been a police informer. "He wasn't tortured. He pleaded for mercy, he pleaded not to be killed, then he said his prayers. He was shot in the back of the head."
The IRA man defended the murder. However, he was angry that the provisional leadership continued to lie about its involvement. He said he had contacted us so Evans' body could be found and he could be given a christian burial. The dig began in November.
THEY became the very embodiment of celtic tiger-era Ireland. For Ireland's globe-trotting cabinet, their Gulfstream IV government jet was not sufficient and the then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern approved the purchase of another airplane, a luxury Learjet.
The bills involved were enormous and a single flight to East Timor and Australia for the foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern had cost more than €280,000.
Details of that flight, first published in the Sunday Tribune in April, were described as a "low blow" by Ahern as he spoke on RTE's Questions and Answers.
In 2008, Ahern had racked up an estimated travel bill aboard government jets and helicopters of more than €900,000.
During the past four years, the cost of providing VIP travel for government ministers, their partners, advisors, civil servants and in some cases journalists, has cost the taxpayer more than €10.6m.
While all of the travel was variously described as important and necessary, it has been noticeable that since the Irish economy ground to a halt, the amount of "important and necessary" travel has been in sharp decline.
In March, as the financial tsunami swept through the country, the Sunday Tribune decided to run a "positive news edition" to take our minds off the doom and gloom. Our lead reported that leading economist Professor John Fitzgerald said that the global economy would "turn the corner" in early 2010 and that Ireland would return to full employment by 2015.
"We can start looking to a rosier future when we see the first signs of spring in the US," said Fitzgerald as the paper sought to bring some perspective to a debate that threatened to pull the country even further into depression. "We are still in business," Fitzgerald continued.
IDA chief Barry O'Leary added that even in a global downturn Ireland is still attracting investment. "Despite the difficulties, and we cannot underplay them, we need to maintain a firm focus and a positive attitude," he said.
It has been a traumatic year, but Fitzgerald's upbeat predictions are coming into sharper focus with the world's largest economies already showing signs of recovery ,while in Ireland the number of people losing their job has, at the very least, bottomed out.
Also, while a number of high profile multinationals have left, most notably Dell in Limerick, others such as Google and HP have consolidated and expanded their presence in Ireland.
AFTER Fianna Fáil and the Greens took a pasting in June's local elections, the Sunday Tribune carried out a detailed analysis of the results in all the 268 local electoral districts in the state.
In a more accurate snapshot of the nation's attitude to the current government that any opinion poll, the study found that if the results of the local elections were replicated in a general election Fianna Fáil would lose 27 TDs including top ministers.
The detailed study also revealed that the government is on course to lose a record 35 seats in the next general election.
Fine Gael and Labour would win a majority of 32 seats if the results were replicated in a general election. Fianna Fáil would lose 27 seats from its 2007 general election result, including high-profile ministers such as Mary Hanafin, Barry Andrews, Pat Carey and Peter Power. The party would be left with just 52 TDs, its worst return in a general election since the 1920s.
The Green party faces wipeout, losing all its six seats. Fine Gael would dominate with 69 seats and have 10 ministers in the new cabinet while Labour would jump 10 seats to 30 TDs and have five ministers. Sinn Féin would have just one more seat than it now holds.
AS guerilla artist Conor Casby walked through the doors of the National Gallery, he can have had little idea his quiet life was about to come to a grinding halt. The Mayo schoolteacher strolled in to the portraits section of the Gallery and hung his own masterpiece, a highly unflattering portrait of Taoiseach Brian Cowen in his underpants.
A few days later, the Sunday Tribune was made aware of what had happened by bemused staff at the National Gallery who revealed that a garda investigation was now under way. The story should have ended that Monday with a humourous mention at the tail end of the RTÉ news.
Instead, the government press secretary Eoghan O Neachtain phoned RTÉ to express the taoiseach's displeasure at the story. Incredibly, RTÉ agreed to air an apology even though no such complaint had been made to the Sunday Tribune, which had broken the story in the first place.
The garda "investigation" was also ratcheted up a gear as officers threatened to raid the studios of Today FM in an attempt to get their hands on emails sent by Casby.
Casby had more important things to worry about: he was under suspicion of three offences, incitement, indecency, and criminal damage. Eventually, the probe came to nought and Casby auctioned the paintings for charity.
IT could have spelled the end for the most unpopular government in the history of the state. Had Ireland voted 'no' to the second referendum on the Lisbon treaty it would almost certainly have been curtains for Taoiseach Brian Cowen's reign.
But the political establishment breathed a collective sigh of relief when votes were counted on 3 October as the country resoundingly endorsed the Lisbon Treaty with a 67% 'yes' vote at the second time of asking.
A massive 1.2million people gave their thumbs-up for the ratification of the Treaty as 594,000 people said 'no'. The comprehensive 2:1 victory, on a large turnout of almost 60%, removed the biggest stumbling block to the ratification of the treaty and was greeted warmly by the president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.
Of the 43 constituencies, all bar two – Donegal South West and Donegal North East – delivered a 'yes' vote. This compares with just 10 constituencies voting 'yes' last year. There was a massive nationwide swing of 20.53% in favour of the treaty. The biggest 'yes' votes came in Dublin South and Dún Laoghaire.