Public watching Leo and Micheal song-and-dance act for clues
This week I want to touch briefly on what makes for a good party leader, a good current affairs show, and, above all, good judgment.
This week I want to touch briefly on what makes for a good party leader, a good current affairs show, and, above all, good judgment.
Liam Cosgrave's political credo, like his father's, was salus populi suprema lex: the safety of the people is the supreme law. In practice this meant protecting the State from the IRA, and he was...
Cui bono? Who benefits most from the Taoiseach's spats with Mary Lou McDonald?
Last Sunday night I rang the bell of my Mayo neighbour who had been bravely flying the flag in Dublin all season.
Sam Maguire, who died in poverty, was a patriot who still continues to serve his country.
Last Sunday, Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein were in trouble in the Republic on two issues: Gerry Adams's call not to prosecute the murderers of Tom Oliver, and Sinn Fein's rejection of Arlene Foster's olive-branch speech on restoring the Northern Executive.
Last Tuesday, Simon Coveney said he was worried about North Korea. He would do better to worry about the North of Ireland - and its increasing impact on the politics of the Irish Republic.
Sean O'Callaghan inverted our idea of an IRA informer. Rejecting the role of despised tout, he finished as a flawed, tragic hero, at least in my eyes.
Michael Twomey, famous as an actor from Cha and Miah, was more than the sum of his parts but rather a "man of parts". That was Dr Johnson's admiring phrase for a man of many talents but also of moral substance.
Leo Varadkar's recent skilful speech in Queen's University Belfast came just too late for me to praise the sure touch of his new speechwriter, Professor Patrick Geoghegan of TCD.
Leo Varadkar rounded on the Brits about Brexit last Friday week. Gerry Adams led the chorus of approval - and is still gushing.
Saturday in Skibbereen market is no place for souls seeking solitude. For locals and blow-ins, this is a meet-and-greet market, followed by the fast West Cork dismissal - "I'll let you go so" - when you...
Conor Cruise O'Brien was a prophet without honour in his own country and the fire which destroyed his former Howth home seemed symbolic of his current marginal status.
Martin Mansergh, in a letter to the Sunday Independent contesting my criticisms of the Department of Foreign Affairs, draws attention to my role as backroom adviser to David Trimble, as if that finished off any credibility I might have with nationalist readers.
I believe that if Charlie Flanagan rather than Simon Coveney had been Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sinn Fein would have been forced to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland by last Thursday's deadline.
Let's hope Leo Varadkar was listening to his colleague Brian Hayes MEP speaking to Shane Coleman on Newstalk last Friday.
Like most Irish people, I'm glad Leo Varadkar overcame the many obstacles to becoming Taoiseach.
Let's savour three good bits from the British general election before spitting out the bad.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven. Leo Varadkar, flushed by a hard- fought victory, may feel empathy with Wordsworth's poetic effusion at the dawn of the French Revolution.
Last Thursday, Mr Fuan Chan, consultant at the Blackrock Clinic, said he would have to whip out two cancerous moles from my back caused by too much sun.
Last Sunday, I did a solo interview with Ivan Yates on Newstalk concentrating on three issues.
The RTE news shots of Gerry Adams in a Dail 'doughnut' with Mary Lou McDonald and EU emissary Michel Barnier were a Sinn Fein spin doctor's dream.
Bryan Dobson is not just a distinguished broadcaster; he is adjunct professor of public broadcast journalism at Limerick University.
Coming of age in the radical 1960s, I rejected the Roman Catholic Church of John Charles McQuaid. But as an atheist, I respected the saving grace of Christianity.
Last week saw both the strongest and weakest RTE response to the biggest problem in Irish politics - how to handle the past legacy of Sinn Fein as it bids for power, North and South.
Every columnist needs a good critic. So I was grateful to get a cogent letter of complaint from John Leahy of Wilton in Cork.
Some years ago, I sighted an elusive Irish electoral species whom I christened Moby Dick in honour of Herman Melville's whale.
Last Sunday, a man stopped me in the People's Park, Dun Laoghaire, and said, "If it wasn't for the Sunday Independent, they'd have it all their own way."
Let's pray that the canonisation of Martin McGuinness promotes good politics in Northern Ireland. Because it has delivered a deadly blow to democratic politics in the Republic of Ireland.
Every country has one fatal flaw. Britain's is the mindset that produced Brexit. Ours is an obsession with an outline mental map marked 'United Ireland'.
Mary Lou McDonald sat in the Prime Time studio last Tuesday giving the Sisters of Charity a hard time and going on about "gruesome and harrowing" burials as if she had never heard of Jean McConville.
Tribal passions are putting the centre under severe pressure both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Should this go on, the middle ground will soon give way under our feet.
Who? Leo Varadkar or Simon Coveney?
Last Wednesday, I gave a talk at the Little Museum of Dublin called 'The Primacy of Plot'.
Aristotle says courage is the chief virtue. Luckily for Europe, Angela Merkel, like the late Brendan McGahon, is blessed with bravery.
Last Wednesday, St Brigid's Day, I concluded we in the West will have to decide between the dark vision of Donald Trump's chief advisor, Stephen Bannon, and the bright vision of my German friend, Britta Freith.
Aristotle said everything to excess is wrong - which also applies to attacking Donald Trump or selling the snake oil that is the Sinn Fein peace process.
For the past week I've been filtering Irish politics through the internet and factor 30 sunscreen while soaking up the sun in Agadir, Morocco.
A famous feminist slogan says the personal is always political. This also applies to Donald Trump, Arlene Foster, Martin McGuinness, and the late TK Whitaker.
This week, in deepest winter, I want to try to lift your spirits by writing about Jurgen Klopp, about the Liverpool football team, and about life.
Aristotle is an infallible guide to good politics - witness his wise observation that the most stable societies have a large middle class.
My Christmas week column, the last for 2016, is modelled on that cheerful annual magazine, the Cork Holly Bough, with lots of positive red berries but perhaps a bit more prickly holly.
The Stack family failed to get answers from Sinn Fein while many in the media sat on the fence. Now they want to move on to the Arlene Foster story.
Monday: To Tralee, to conduct a week-long skills course at the ETB National Digital Skills Centre with film, television and radio students from all over Ireland.
Gerry Adams has long lived happily in a media-made 'post-truth' world, where facts have no power to dent his propaganda.
William Trevor, John McGahern and Frank O'Connor are my three favourite Irish short story writers, but not simply for literary reasons.
Brexit and Donald Trump show that the British and American political and media elites have lost touch with large tranches of working people.
Last Monday, my sister Bridget, the radical socialist in the family, who recently retired to Ireland after 40 years' working as a trauma nurse alongside black and Latino staff in some of the toughest American hospitals, flew back across the Atlantic to vote for Donald Trump.
The late agony aunt and psychologist Patricia Redlich (who was never late in her life - she saw habitual unpunctuality as a sign of narcissism) believed that most of the political trouble in the world was caused by weak people.
Most weeks, I settle for the sniper shot of a single-issue column rather than a shotgun spread of pellets over a wide target.
Last week, while shopping in Blackrock, I experienced two epiphanies about the next general election - neither of which were good news for Fianna Fail.
Like many Irish people, I hate the Americanised Halloween, its expensive exploitation of parents and infantilised adult antics.
The big drop in Fianna Fail support in last Thursday's Irish Times poll was a shock but not a surprise. A shock is something that happens suddenly without warning. But a surprise only jolts us for a second before we realise we subconsciously knew it was coming all along.
The Siege of Jadotville, directed by Richie Smyth, inspired by Declan Power's fine book, is the best battle film since Zulu, a powerful tribute to the courage of Commandant Patrick Quinlan and the troops of A Company, 35th Battalion.
Last week, I resolved to take a break from monitoring Gerry Adams and other green gnomes who will not go away and leave us in peace.
Last Friday, Micheal Cottrell took us from Baltimore, back up the estuary of the winding Ilen River to the stone bridge at Skibbereen.
Last Friday, I set out in lashing rain from Baltimore to Bandon, to pick up a copy of Kieran Doyle's newly published, but already out of print, Behind the Wall, The Rise and Fall of Protestant Power and Culture in Bandon.
Last Tuesday, I set out on another trip to Tallow, Co Waterford, where I spent the first five years of my life, with a lot on my mind.
Dun Laoghaire did Annalise Murphy proud. But it will still be a pale shadow of the pandemonium that awaits Gary and Paul O'Donovan in West Cork tomorrow.
Trish O'Donovan thinks back to when her two sons took their first steps to Rio. "They were rowing before they made their First Holy Communion."
Friday three o'clock. From the window of Field's coffee shop in Skibbereen, I see a town totally out of its mind with pride. Lisheen is levitating, too. A lovely townland, home of the O'Donovan boys, where Jack Lynch spent his summers.
Local heroes like Roger Casement can also be global heroes. That's the ambition of the three women and two men of the Skibbereen Rowing Club whose local Ilen river has carried them to Rio and the Olympics Games.
Cheerleading, talking to crowds and charisma are my three topics this week.
Shakespeare was obsessed by the problem of political order. His 10 history plays are about political authority versus political anarchy. Looking across Europe, from Istanbul to Nice, we can see why. As Yeats warned, the centre cannot hold, the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Regina Doherty's ultimatum to Enda Kenny, while welcomed by many in Fine Gael, was reckless in its timing and added to the sense that Fine Gael is having a nervous breakdown.
Last week, dealing with the results of the British referendum, Micheal Martin made the most important speech of his political career.
My late friend, Patricia Redlich, used to say that most trouble in the world was caused by weak people.
In a week fogged by bigotry and the murder of Jo Cox, Northern Ireland's football victory flashed like a small beacon of hope.
Sinn Fein's northern strategy is to finish off the SDLP - just as its southern strategy is to finish off Fianna Fail.
Summer is here. And just because I’m stuck in Dublin is no reason to rain on your bank holiday parade.
Confronted by a complex political problem, Lenin cut to the core by asking two questions: "who/whom?" and "what is to be done?"
Even a week abroad allows you to absorb the bigger political picture. Brian Hayes spends a lot more time abroad than me, so I'll give him first go.
Let's not be toxic like the Labour Party. Let's give a fair wind to the new Government and Dail.
Finally we will have a government. We'd have had it faster if the Pied Piper Pundits and RTE had not fed Fine Gael on fantasy.
Garbh i mi na gcuach, fearthainn agus fuacht. (Rough is the month of the cuckoo, wet and cold.)
What is the point of a free press if it speaks with one voice, like Pravda in the old Soviet Union?
Last week, President Higgins called on Irish universities to foster "a capacity for dissent". I could not agree more.
Three state actors, the Defence Forces, RTE and the Presidency, bore the primary responsibility for answering the two questions I posed in my column of February 1, 2015, a full year before.
Easter Sunday 1916. One hundred years ago today, my grandfather Paddy Harris, Adjutant of B Company, Irish Volunteers, Cork, was getting ready to fight for an Irish Republic.
Asked on any one day last week what I might be writing about on Sunday, the list would be as follows.
For the third week in a row, and in defiance of the dying media chorus calling for a grand coalition, I want to repeat two firm predictions.
Last Friday week, on the night of the General Election count, shortly after the first exit polls I filed my weekly political column.
The Oscar favourite for best picture tonight is The Revenant, the story of a man badly mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions, who recovers and returns to visit retribution.
Five days to go. How best to use our franchise to create a flourishing and fair society?
The TV3 leaders' debate proved an old adage of mine: the national question is the only game in town.
Currently two events are engaging political anoraks: the Irish General Election and the US presidential election. And we anoraks need both.
Last week, Heather Humphreys, the Irish Republic's Minister for Art, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, revealed that her grandfather, Robert Stewart, had signed the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant.
We are on the eve of a General Election and halfway through the first month of the 1916 centenary. Do we have special hopes for this special year 2016?
Last Sunday, my beloved terrier, Posy, did her best to kill me. What follows is fact, always weirder than fiction.
Seamus Mallon, speaking on BBC Talkback last Monday, graphically summed up the Provisional IRA's abuse of its secret talks with John Hume, which became public in April 1993.
And the Irish move to the sound of the guns, Like salmon to the sea. - Rudyard Kipling, 'The Irish Guards', 1918
Jimmy Crowley's classic collection of Cork urban ballads, Songs From The Beautiful City, credits my distant relative, Dick 'Cardy' Forbes, with writing the lyrics for The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee.
Last week, Kevin Humphreys TD said Sinn Fein had no "moral compass".
Last week, Fine Gael got a bounce in the polls. And a kick in the backside from the Fiscal Advisory Council.
Let me start with an apology to the majority of moderate Irish Muslims for an angry article I wrote in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders last January.
Last Friday, listening to Pat Kenny stepping sure-footedly through the minefield of the Pat Carey story, I mentally tipped my hat in mournful tribute.
Marx says history begins in tragedy and ends in farce. Irish politics works the other way around.
Last week, looking at the Labour Party flailing about like a fish on a hard hook, I was reminded of my father's favourite lines from a poem by Robert W. Service.
The most frightening play I ever saw was Max Frisch's The Fire Raisers, an allegory on the rise of Hitler.
Enda Kenny has two tasks. As Taoiseach he must do his best by his country. As leader of Fine Gael he must do the best for his party.
Middle Ireland is ready to return this Government. But it wants reasons, rather than bribes.
For months I have argued that Fine Gael should go to the country as early as possible. I still believe that.
Chekhov says if you hang a rifle on the wall at the start of a play you must fire it before the end. Otherwise don't put it there.
September is a calm and clement month in West Cork. Post-tourist peace prevails.
Last week some political commentators took a 'let's be realistic' stance against economic migrants - whom they did not distinguish from political refugees.
Sunday - On this day, August 23, 1939, Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Nazi Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop plan. Appeasement was in the air.
If I do not seem my usual sweet self this week (ignoring the danger of irony in Ireland) it's not because I am off sugar following a firm talk from Professor Noel Caplice of CUH.
Last weekend saw the start of the political silly season. Spooked by a few carefully targeted media questions, gullible Fianna Fail and Labour politicians began a charge towards the cliffs.
Raging at RTE is literally bad for the heart. List, list, O, list!
Field's coffee shop in Skibbereen is the place to take the national pulse. Last Friday morning the main topics were the weather, the recent O'Donovan Rossa centenary celebrations and the sad state of Cork GAA - which we blithely believe to be of national importance.
Ciaran Lynch and Barack Obama have a common concern. Both want to preserve civility in democratic discourse.
Bertie Ahern gave the performance of his life at the Banking Inquiry.
Thank God for Michael Noonan. Thank God for a Minister for Finance who acts with good authority.