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Nicola Anderson: Foreign media hee-haw at our protesters

A BRAYING donkey paraded through the streets as diddley-i music blared in the background, a scatter of people dressed up like the Bull McCabe danced around in wellies and a woman bellowed like a banshee in agony. It was a 'Punch' cartoon brought unnervingly to life.

No wonder Sky News and the BBC were lapping up this perfect tableau to demonstrate the ongoing crumbling political chaos and practical anarchy in the 'Republic of Arland'.

No need to mention the fact that the surreal scene outside Leinster House was a piece of street theatre highlighting the failings of the health system and set up very much tongue in cheek by protesters against the running down of services at Navan Hospital.

As far as the international media were concerned, this was us and this was for real.

And it was hard to blame them when the original and the finest, Jackie Healy-Rae himself, emerged, minus his cap, and strolled across the plinth to give his spake.

The shenanigans outside the Dail gates merged seamlessly with the sheer looniness within, leading to a feeling of unreality, with a lot of people standing at the railings yesterday who were fit to be tied at what was unfolding by the minute.

Even Alan Dukes, strolling across Kildare Street, could only find one terse word to describe the situation.

"Comedy," the former Fine Gael leader said grimly.

"I am enraged and find the whole political situation absolutely embarrassing -- completely awful given that the eyes of the international media are upon us," said Helen Mulhern, from Drumcondra in Dublin.

"The fact that Jackie Healy-Rae has a voice is ridiculous," she said, adding that it was high time people started to think nationally rather than locally.

As a long-time Labour supporter, Ms Mulhern said she was "anti-Fianna Fail to the core" and found it impossible to understand why many people of her age still believed the party was good for business.

Brandishing a placard, Eamon Reid from Howth, Dublin, said he was "relieved and delighted" that the election had finally been announced.

"I've spent two years outside the Dail, it's cost me a fortune in posters," he added.

Young mother Saoirse Kenny, from Leixlip, Co Kildare, said she was disgusted by the politicians "jumping ship" but said that while Facebook had been "alive" the previous night with the first of the resignations, she believed there was now a sense of dispassion about the whole affair.

Describing herself as a disillusioned Green, she said nobody in that party now inspired her confidence.

"Do they think people are stupid?" she asked.

"I feel very disillusioned. Either something big is going to happen or else nothing is going to happen at all."

The only thing that now excited her, she said, was the prospect of Shane Ross running in the election.

She said the Government clearly did not care about what was happening with young people in this country and she herself was saddened that her 16-year-old son was already talking about going to Australia.

FOR Ian O'Brien from Dunderry, Co Meath, who had taken part in the earlier street theatre, the situation was now "farcical".

"The country is on its knees, the politicians are dropping like flies and they're leaving the taxayers to pick up the bill for their pensions and to clean up the mess they made.

"We now know that it wasn't the Celtic Tiger at all -- it was just the calm before the storm and now we can see the mess we're in."

Undertaker Peadar Farrelly, from Slane, Co Meath, said he was particularly disgusted at what he said was the mess made of the health system by Mary Harney.

Even the dead were paying the price for her errors, he said, revealing that Navan Hospital had closed its morgue facility and that remains now had to be transferred to his premises for embalming.

Trinity student Shane O'Neill dismissed the current political situation, saying: "It's a complete joke.

"Everything that could happen has happened. They can appoint these people to whatever job they want but it doesn't matter because they're not going to keep their jobs for very long. They'll be out soon."

Irish Independent