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John Drennan: Dail gets a message set in concrete

IT was the week where the most abject governing class Ireland has suffered under since the Ascendancy, who sold our independence under the Act of Union of 1800, finally confronted the greatest crisis the Irish nation has faced since the Famine.

The scale of the issues we face meant the political tableau that unfolded was all the more crepuscular. Last week, the ending of the summer recess ripped away the emperor's clothes of a political system that is no longer fit for purpose.

We are now in the extraordinary situation when the leaders of the two major parties do not command the confidence of a majority of their own deputies, let alone the country.

They are not alone, for the trade union wing of the endangered social partnership plutocrats called a mass demonstration against the current crisis and barely managed to get a thousand bodies out on the streets.

They may cause the Government to cringe, but James Connolly's tiny Citizen Army commanded more popular support in 1916 than the imaginary battalions of the Siptus and Ictus, who have been corrupted, in the eyes of the public, by the tainted fruits of social partnership.

Against this backdrop, the driving of a concrete lorry into the front gates of Leinster House was, by the close of the week, starting to look like an entirely reasonable response to the state of the nation.

Such is now the abject state of politics that were the 'Anglo Avenger' Joe McNamara, to be included in any future polls on who we want for Taoiseach he would probably trounce Mr Cowen, Mr Kenny, Mr Gormley and Mr Adams.

Indeed, the new 'Avenger' might even run Labour's 'new Bertie' fairly close, for he certainly at least appears to have more concrete policies than Mr Gilmore.

In fairness, we could hardly blame the electorate if they did turn to the angry man in the concrete lorry.

When Mr Kenny promised to make Fine Gael as popular as Fianna Fail, he could never have suspected that the realisation of this dream would end in dust and ashes.

Last week, however, after Kenny read the result of the Irish Times poll to the Fine Gael parliamentary party, like the denouement of the Picture of Dorian Gray, it was as though Fine Gael's ever-youthful leader suddenly aged by a decade.

It is a tough call, but after eight years of 20-hour days Enda Kenny now looks like a man who knows deep down that his day is done.

Both the bounce and the golden-haired bouffant are gone, replaced instead by a pallid public routine that has

left poor Enda looking more like something out of Tales from the Crypt.

From now on, poor Enda must shiver at every knock on the door, for the time is surely coming when one of his own will arrive and whisper about the right time and duty, and guide the stumbling form out of the office.

It may not even be so bad, for if he goes easily, Leo Varadkar's kind option of Foreign Affairs where you can travel as much as you like will be a real option -- and in fact the more of travelling you do, Enda, the happier everyone will be, for no one likes a ghost hanging around the place.

Enda can be consoled by the even more abject state of Mr Cowen. In the Dail, the Taoiseach may have indulged in his patented trick of slamming not only the Opposition but the media for our inability to understand the full complexity of the disaster his indolent stewardship of the country has plunged us into.

Nothing, however, captured the enervated state of this insolent flat-track bully more completely than the revelation that Mr Cowen is to be arraigned by the Fianna Fail party over the exploits in Galway, which has now seen the leader of a country that urgently needs American investment being compared to a 'drunken moron' by an American chat-show host.

Like any defeated general, Mr Cowen is leaking troops and, most importantly of all, hope. The army is now ready to mutiny as the soldiers slink away from the defence of their beleaguered leader with all of the political courage for which they have become notorious.

Ironically, against a backdrop such as this the man in greatest danger of all may yet be the 'pink but perfect' Mr Gilmore. It was once famously said that if you want to make a man your slave you must offer him the possibility of hope.

The political flip-side to this however is that if you offer the voters hope and fail to deliver, then the wolves may start working overtime on Labour's 'new Bertie'.

In this abyss of leadership, surprisingly, there are two things the Government, and the Opposition, can now do to be of service to the State.

If we wish to retain our status as an independent country -- and such is the terrible mess we are in that this is swiftly becoming a moot question -- then the only useful thing our system can do is formulate a Budget and then go to the country.

Of course, already the cowardly opportunists of Fianna Fail are already slinking away from the carcass of Budget 2011 like jackals who hear the pad of lion's feet. After last week, however, it is clear that if the political system cannot put together a Budget that provides us with certainty for the next year, they will be throwing the people to the wolves of the bond markets, the IMF and the EU.

And if they take that option then the only decent thing we can do is drag our politicians down with us. For now, the only thing that is preventing a mass flight is the belief of the even more delusional wing of the current junta that if they can but get one more Budget through they can last until 2012.

It is, however, a simple practical fact that this Government cannot continue. An administration dependent on the support of a collective of eccentrics, opportunists and refugees from the land of The Quiet Man is incapable of guiding us through the blood and fire that is ahead of us.

That cankered ship known as the 30th Dail and Seanad has sailed.

We cannot continue to be ruled by political ghosts.

Instead, the people want a reckoning with those who looted the country and the politicians who stood idly by.

We want the greedy bourgeoisie of second-rate university professors, semi-State bosses, civil service mandarins, bankers, levy-dodging judges, hospital consultants, county managers and cabinet ministers to experience liposuction economics.

And such now is the growing anger, if our politicians do not give us this the easy way, do not rule out the arrival of far more 'Anglo Avengers' at the gates of Leinster House.

Sunday Independent