Bertie Ahern threw another wobbler last week. There was a time when Mr Ahern was an unfailingly amiable sort. Nothing would rattle him. Whatever the travails he faced, he'd shake his head, sigh regretfully and move on. Since his third general election victory, Mr Ahern has been uncharacteristically aggressive. These days, he seethes at every opportunity. Boy, does he seethe.
Since the evening of his election victory, when he went on television and foam gathered around his mouth as he denounced the media, Mr Ahern's been in wobbler mode.
Which of us could deny that the media deserves a good thrashing now and then? But Mr Ahern wasn't attacking a particular grave and unwarranted slight -- as many people might be entitled to do. He merely seemed upset that he wasn't universally beloved.
And that upset continues. The medical term for Mr Ahern's condition is Insufficiently Appreciated Syndrome. In recent weeks, he keeps lecturing us about how he's not just worth that €38,000 pay rise -- we're damn lucky he's not looking for more.
And he bristles as he says this. Look at Sarkozy and Bush and all those other lousers, with their yachts and their palaces. "I would invite a member of the media -- it would not be that hard for them. They could write a glowing article about how poverty-stricken we are against the rest of them."
Sure enough, next day a crack squad of number crunchers from the Irish Times was hard at work examining Mr Ahern's relative poverty. Five of them, reporting from two continents, tabulated the pay and conditions enjoyed by a range of world leaders.
I didn't read it. I'm sure it was efficiently done, but I don't give a damn how much Sarkozy earns, or what fringe benefits he has. I don't care if Bertie Ahern takes home twice George Bush's salary. So what if France has 14 times our population? Or Germany 18 times, or the USA 66 times?And it doesn't bother me that our Taoiseach fancies himself as a world leader.
Okay, three hundred grand seems a mite excessive, in a country this size. And a €38,000 pay rise is a bit rich, coming from the chap who keeps telling us we have to tighten our belts.
But, this is Ireland, and Mr Ahern "benchmarks" against the private sector. And, as we all know, at certain levels in the private sector the rewards are notoriously munificent, regardless of performance. Why shouldn't Bertie line up, shoulder to shoulder with the elite, noses firmly buried in the trough?
We have somehow managed to construct a virtual world alongside the world in which the rest of us live. Let's call it Bertieland. They do things differently there.
In Bertieland, for instance, over the past 10 years a remarkable experiment in transport policy has been under way in Dublin. Lots of Quality Bus Corridors, but few buses to use them. Obviously what we needed were fleets of smaller buses, assigned to crucial routes, to whisk us around the city.
In Bertieland, however, the rulers decreed that Dublin Bus shouldn't get the buses it needed for the population it's required to serve.
Instead, once we break the unions, the private sector will step in to manage carefully selected, profitable routes, while the state service will pick up the slack at the more difficult, unprofitable end of the market. (A bit like the health service, actually.)
In the real world, over the 10 years this silly little experiment in market forces has been conducted, many people who need to go about their business gave up on public transport and use cars, further clogging the city.
Now, Dublin Bus, struggling to arrange its resources, insists that the drivers at Harristown pay the price of Bertieland's messing. Accept a worsening of working conditions, without compensation, or be suspended.
The bus drivers -- all of whom have useful, responsible, tiring and stressful jobs -- none of whom earns €310,000 a year, no matter how much overtime they work -- said, "Ah, come on, folks", or words to that effect.
So, we have a strike. And our Bertieland leaders grind their teeth at this unreasonable behaviour, while the media sniffs around for a "political agenda".
Well, the silly little political agenda of "economic liberalism" that caused the problem has dominated Bertieland for 10 years. And not a peep out of the same media.
In the real world, if you have a job you do it. In Bertieland, you hire legions of consultants and advisers to do it. If anyone complains, you say -- as Mr Ahern said last week, we can't expect ministers to "sit in their departments with no staff and properly manage a budget of €52bn".
Ah, Bertie -- your staff numbers tens of thousands. They're called civil servants. Last week, it emerged that the cost of Mary Harney's personal advisers and managers has tripled in five years.
Here's Mary from two years ago, remonstrating with her cabinet colleagues: "In recent times, we've seen excessive dependence on consultants."
In the meantime, Ms Harney constructed the HSE, with squadrons of extremely highly-paid geniuses, so when there are complaints about the health service she can say, "I'm only the minister -- ask Professor Drumm".
In Bertieland, Micheal Martin goes to the Planning Tribunal and expresses outrage that evidence was heard that developer Owen O'Callaghan says he gave Mr Martin a "six-figure" sum. Turns out that Tom Gilmartin made a mistake, he meant a "five-figure" sum. (Mr O'Callaghan denies he said either.)
In the real word, the evidence is that Mr O'Callaghan coughed up £12,200 (six grand of which went to charities on whose behalf Mr Martin appealed, the rest for Mr Martin's political use). Now, I believe Mr Martin is an honest man, and I've no idea what Mr O'Callaghan said or didn't say -- but, that's a five-figure sum.
In the real world, if you accept the political culture of panhandling big business for donations, then it's a bit rich if you complain when it becomes a matter of public discussion.
Speaking of a bit rich, that brings us back to Mr Ahern.
In the real world -- imagine it's your home or mine -- suppose you're asked how come thirty grand in sterling ended up in your account.
Imagine explaining that to your partner, let alone a tribunal.
In Bertieland, when thirty grand in sterling ended up in his account he said, "I had some cash saved, so I bought sterling to pay this guy back, then I decided I didn't have to, so . . . "
And then he's told that can't be true, because in that period no one bought that amount of sterling. So, he says, maybe he bought it in installments, at different banks.
Which ones? Well, maybe he didn't buy it, maybe he was busy so he got someone else to do it. Who? Can't remember.
Imagine that conversation in your house. You'd be in big trouble, right?
In Bertieland, Brian Cowen totally believes that story. Not a blush out of him. Brian Lenihan is convinced. Mary Hanafin, Micheal Martin -- not a dickybird from any of them. In Bertieland, this story is entirely unremarkable.
Yet, despite this supine adulation from his peers; despite his €38,000 rise; despite having 10 years to implement his political agenda, Mr Ahern continues to whine.
Insufficient Appreciation Syndrome is a pernicious disease. Just because the hospitals don't have enough beds and the transport system doesn't have enough buses, and his silly little experiments in privatisation are blowing up in our faces. Just because the cancer services are nightmarish and the classrooms are overcrowded and . . .
A bit rich, indeed.