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Ian O'Doherty: Shure it makes you proud to be Irish

At a time of almost complete economic collapse, when the country is on its knees and we have virtually handed over our sovereignty to a bunch of anonymous foreign bankers, we need strong political leadership.

We need to put our old enmities away and accept that playing partisan games won't work any more. Yup, we need strong, determined role models who will prove to the world that we still have the stomach for the fight.

Instead we have . . . Fianna Fail and the Greens.

Watching Brian Cowen in action on Sunday was like watching some rural estate agent with a hangover explaining to his local GAA committee that he was still up for the job as treasurer -- despite being hated by everyone else.

Then we saw Micheal Martin kinda sorta make a move against Cowen before deciding that he wouldn't act with any balls after all and do the honourable thing by resigning.

But when you think about it, is it any surprise that we're in the state we're in?

After all, we have a Minister for Health who is morbidly obese, we had a former Finance Minister who didn't have a bank account, coalition partners who are more interested in forcing us to knit our own light bulbs than the reality on the ground and a Minister for Education who looks like she would struggle with a Dick and Jane book and likes to get dressed in the dark.

Ah yes, what a great country we are . . .

POOR HUGO'S NOT IMPRESSED NOW THAT'S A PUT DOWN

Everyone's favourite despot in the making, Hugo Chavez, has been in the news quite a bit recently.

First he suggested that America should appoint Sean Penn as the US ambassador to Venezuela, then he made a series of cracks against the hated Imperialist Pig Dogs being on the verge of collapsing, to be replaced by China.

But now he has turned his attention to far more serious matters -- Colombian soap operas.

Now, anyone who has ever watched Hispanic soaps, known as telenovelas, will agree that subtlety is not their strong point.

And one particular show, Chepe Fortuna, certainly proves that.

Two sisters, Colombia and Venezuela, are at loggerheads in the show and, surprise surprise, the one called Venezuela is a bit of a bitch.

But things really got out of hand in a recent episode when Venezuela is shown searching for her missing dog. And the dog's name is, you guessed it, Hugo.

At one point she is seen calling out: "Little Hugo? Baby? Baby? Cutie?"

Then she is seen later on the phone telling a friend about her missing dog and says: "What will become of Venezuela without little Hugo," to which her friend replies: "Don't worry, Venezuela will be free without her dog. Lately Little Hugo has been defecating everywhere."

Let's hope the writers on Fair City don't take inspiration from that.

Actually, scratch that -- it might make the show watchable.

UM, I THINK I'LL PASS, IF THAT'S OKAY

How do you like to woo the ladies?

Well, for most of us, it involves dinner and a movie.

You know, you let her pick the film and you pick the restaurant.

But there's one restaurant that is unlikely to be a popular first date destination.

There's a theme restaurant in China that boasts a rather interesting concept -- toilets and, ahem, toilet related activities.

Now, we all know the Chinese are a bit mad and have rather different palates to those of us in the West, but even so, this is beyond the pale.

Among the delights on offer are 'excrement ice cream', 'toilet bowl hotpot' and 'deep fried poo sticks.'

Well, that's certainly a first -- after all, how many restaurants actually go out of their way to boast that their food is shite?

NOW THAT'S A PUT DOWN

Here in Ireland we don't have a great tradition of the art of the political put-down.

After all, the most famous political outburst of the last 18 months was that eejit Paul Gogarty shouting "f**k you" -- which shows a worrying lack of imagination.

But Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow has been the subject of one of the best insults ever.

As you know, Bercow is, shall we say, rather diminutive of stature -- but not self regard.

He has previously been referred to as a stupid, sanctimonious dwarf and David Cameron was overheard lately telling journalists that when a rival MP accidentally reversed his car into Bercow's, the Speaker got out and shouted: "I'm not happy!" -- to which the other driver smirked and asked: "Well, which one of the seven dwarves are you, then?"

Really, there's no come back on that one, is there?

DVD TIME

Director Tony Kaye may have sued the studio for $200m over the way star Edward Norton was allowed to re-edit the movie, but there's no denying that American History X is one powerful piece of work.

Norton plays a disturbingly articulate white supremacist who changes his ways in prison. But while he was inside his younger brother becomes involved with Norton's old compadres. And in a tragic trajectory of almost Shakespearean proportions, events spiral inevitably out of control.

A dark, brooding, menacing film that sees the magnificent Norton at his best, this is unmissable.

Sample quote: "Shut up! Shut the f*ck up! I came here for one reason, to tell you that I'm out. And Danny's out, too. And if you come near my family again, I'm gonna f*cking kill you."

Irish Independent