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The tomatoes are perfect, it's the politics that's rotten

THERE'S a series on TG4 called Garrai Glas. It's a very useful programme for anyone who is planning to grow their own organic vegetables, and for the rest of us, it has plenty of relaxing images of scenery, and of other people doing interesting work.

Last week for example, presenter Sile Nic Chonaonaigh went to north Galway to meet Joe Hogan, who weaves his own baskets and who grows tomatoes and suchlike. It was good to think of him out there, doing all that, while on the other side of the country, Fianna Fail was wrestling with the great question of whether or not it had confidence in Brian Cowen -- indeed given the issues of self-esteem with which he must struggle, it is not entirely certain that in the secret ballot, Brian Cowen voted confidence in himself.

All we know for sure, is that when we see those pictures of backbenchers being interviewed outside Leinster House, and we see those other pictures of tomatoes growing, it is the tomatoes which give us hope.

REGARDLESS, men such as Charlie O'Connor and Noel O'Flynn were given quality time on the main evening news, just a few weeks after the IMF moved in.

Ireland is f****d. That is important.

What Charlie O'Connor and Noel O'Flynn have to say about their hopes and fears for the party that they love, is not important.

And it was never important, but it is particularly unimportant at this time.

Yet if a TV microphone is put in front of them, the illusion of importance is created all round.

A terrible failure of the imagination is going on there, on the part of the interviewer as well as the interviewee.

It was a terrible failure of the imagination that helped to destroy Ireland in the first place -- they just didn't think it could happen -- and it is a terrible failure of the imagination that allows them to carry on with their games as if Ireland wasn't destroyed at all, but instead was just coming to terms with some EU declaration that a couple of beaches had lost their blue flags.

They couldn't manage the big stuff, so they go back to the small stuff -- and the cameras are there, and the reporters are there, unable to tell the difference.

THEY are all part of the same community, a bit like one of those villages that closes ranks when something terrible happens. And it is a syndrome which is by no means confined to the world of political hackery. We are seeing it too at the highest echelons of the books business, in the increasingly small world of literary fiction.

In recent weeks, after a powerful programme about the writer Dermot Healy, the second documentary in the Arts Lives series featured the former vagrant John Healy, writer of a great book called The Grass Arena, who just didn't understand the rules of the new community in which he found himself, back in the Nineties.

Indeed, he found that the ways of literary London were as savage in their own way as life on the streets, but much more sophisticated, and so beautifully bred.

Of Irish parentage of course, Healy was a one-off genius with a terrifying story to tell. He was the sort of writer that publishers are supposed to crave, the authentic voice of a city full of low-lifes, not some Cambridge man making it up, or worse still, some Cambridge man writing a "campus novel" about someone in a creative-writing class writing about the other people in a creative-writing class.

Healy was having none of that, he was the real thing. And they could't handle him.

The most saintly of men have been known to rant at their publishers, driven to the point of madness, but Healy's rants allegedly struck fear into his literary masters, because of where he was coming from. They couldn't deal with him. And as the saying goes, he never ate lunch in that town again.

So if anyone wonders why they keep putting out those "campus novels", written by their friends, and people such as them, it's a bit like that Fianna Fail leadership contest -- it is all they can do. And likewise, it doesn't really matter.

Sunday Indo Living