Official titles are strange things. On hearing that the Queen has made one of her loyal subjects a Knight or Lady of the Garter, our first instinct is to snigger.
Likewise when Martin McGuinness, resigning his seat as an MP, was required last week to adopt the soubriquet "Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead". It all sounds a bit nuts. Some might even find themselves agreeing with Sinn Fein, who, aware of the merriment their opponents might have at the news, declared dismissively that they had "no time for antiquated and ridiculous titles of the British parliamentary system".
But what about equally absurd titles of the Irish parliamentary system? When Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes was appointed chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication last summer, for example, the news was soberly reported; and at first glance, it does seem superficially as if it was some sort of achievement, a plaudit which any politician would be proud to add to his CV. But does it actually mean anything more than being a Companion of the Order of the Bath?
It's not as if the position was advertised down the job centre, with a rigorous process of interview and assessment to find the ideal candidate. Despite being nominally part of the democratic process, voters weren't even asked who they wanted to fill the role. It was just another of the jobs for the boys which are divvied up periodically down in Dail Eireann in the political equivalent of the hokey cokey. In, out, in, out, shake it all about. It just happened to be Tom Hayes's turn.
All over Christmas he was announcing his plans to get tough on social media. Regulation or legislation: the details remained to be hammered out, but the intention was clear. Anyone who overstepped the bounds of civilised discourse on Twitter or Facebook to abuse and vilify others wasn't going to get away with it any more. The Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee was coming to sort them out, like a sheriff in the Wild West.
Of course, the internet boys are smarter and fitter and faster than any here today, gone tomorrow politician. They won't stand still long enough to let Leinster House's answer to Wyatt Earp get a clean shot – and the Government surely knows it.
No one knows for certain why Shane McEntee killed himself. Suicide is a complex phenomenon, and there's rarely one easy answer. Anyone can speculate that he was driven over the edge by virulent criticism through text message or online forums, but that's all it is: speculation.
It's the bare-faced hypocrisy which galls. Politicians are not averse to engaging in anonymous briefings to journalists against their own colleagues. Ask Joan Burton. She gets it all the time. So did Roisin Shortall when she took a stand against the Health Minister. Loyal souls on the Government benches were out in force, whispering against her.
That's different apparently, because it's them. When it's Mr Angry pounding away anonymously on his iPhone from a bedsit somewhere, suddenly it's some pressing social issue which must be tackled urgently lest civilisation as we know it unfurls.
Tom Hayes set out his stall when he was made chairman of that joint committee, long before the suicide of Shane McEntee. His first declaration was that he intended calling in journalists and broadcasters to "explore the impact" which "the increased negative emphasis of many news and current affairs programmes" was having on "wider society and the public's attitude to the Irish recovery".
There was, Hayes said, an onus on broadcasters to help the country back on its feet, to which end they needed to take a more "balanced" approach.
In the UK, David Cameron explicitly came down against such clumsy interference in the media as an unacceptable breach of the traditions of free speech. Here our politicians are embracing it under the guise of helping the country along the path to recovery.
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte was flogging the same message last week in an interview with the Irish Times as he criticised the media for its "all-pervasive negativity" which was "not helping the mood of a people that is in distress and difficulty. I don't think the media give a damn," he added, "about where this is going to bring politics."
Unlike, say, making a series of promises before an election which were promptly dumped the day after? That enhances the reputation of politics, does it?
I'll tell him who doesn't give a damn about the negativity of the media – every politician in history when it was his rivals who were getting it in the neck.
Pat Rabbitte and all his colleagues didn't care two hoots when it was Fianna Fail that was on the receiving end. In fact, they surfed a ride to power on the back of that wave of discontent. Now suddenly they want to shut off the tap for no other reason than that they're now the ones being held to account.
Rabbitte may couch his resentment in some fine-sounding words about the damage being done to Irish democracy, but behind the flowery rhetoric the real message is about control.
Control. That's what this is all about. People who won't do as they're told, or think what they're told to think, must be controlled for their own good.
Well, at least we know what we're up against. Just don't be surprised, ministers, if, when you pick a fight, your opponent fights back. From the Taoiseach down, they may be angry as hell at what is happening, but they're not the only ones. We're angry too. Not because the little people can't think for ourselves and are being misled by a Pied Piper media – as Pat Rabbitte's patronising words implied, for all his socialist posturing – but because we can think for ourselves. Regulation won't change that.