Where do we start? With the guns, perhaps? Or maybe with Santa and his elves and the dangers that hover over them? Or should we kick off with the totally expected news about the Cabinet deciding to reward the money-grabbing avarice of top bankers?
One thing you can say about Ireland these days — it’s not boring. Worrying, bizarre, even frightening — but our wacky politicians seem intent on making sure we’re not bored.
Last week, I began to wonder what some of our politicians might be smoking.
You’d almost feel sorry for Fianna Fáil. In two weeks, they hand over the Taoiseach’s office to Fine Gael — the party they truly, madly, deeply hate, but without which they can’t govern.
I think the appropriate term is “simmering resentment” — but, then, that term could be fairly applied to elements of Fianna Fáil at most periods since 1926.
A large percentage of the party’s brightest sparks have long had a grudge against Micheál Martin’s leadership. Nothing to do with the state of the country or any real concern about the housing emergency.
No, the Soldiers of Destiny can shrug at such things and move on.
However, several of the party’s top tier seethe with resentment. They’re bitter they’ve had to linger so long on the backbenches while Fine Gael nonentities swan around the constituencies in ministerial cars.
Right now, you wouldn’t know whether some leading Fianna Fáil figures are about to insist on a national celebration of Micheál Martin’s term in office or toss a coin to see which of them gets the pleasure of stabbing him in the back.
But it was the other lot, the Blue-shirts, who went positively peculiar last week.
At first, it was business as usual — odd, but not worrying (a phrase that could fairly describe Fine Gael at any time since the late 1930s).
Having thought deeply about the many issues that afflict the Irish people, one of the party’s deepest thinkers came out in favour of — I kid you not — protecting Christmas.
Charlie Flanagan, former minister, current chairperson of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party — and deep thinker — appears to believe the National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland is awash with anti-Christmas elements.
Really, Charlie is angry. He tweeted that the tourism authority has chosen not to “mention the festival of Christmas” in its adverts abroad. Instead, the heathens used the slogan “Winter in Dublin”.
This reasoning is borrowed from Fox News in the US, which for years chastised liberals for waging an alleged “war on Christmas”.
It rallied lots of silly eejits behind the American far right — so maybe it will work here for Fine Gael?
A couple of lesser Fine Gaelers made a fuss about protecting Dublin’s farm animal Christmas crib. When the Green Lord Mayor expelled the animals from the crib outside the Mansion House, the pair claimed to have found a home for them in St Stephen’s Green, thereby saving Christmas.
Well, I’ll say this for the Fine Gael lads — they’re putting a roof over the heads of the sheep and the goats. No doubt, before too many Christmases
go by, their party will get round to tackling the problem of the people sleeping in shop doorways and back lanes.
They might even do something for the people sleeping on friends’ sofas and in their parents’ box rooms while global hedge funds reap giant profits from a dysfunctional housing market.
Charlie followed his “I’ll Protect Christmas” theme through the week, but by then we were past such nonsense and into the political Twilight Zone.
Talk about weaponising Christmas. Out of nowhere, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar announced his ambition to strap a great big automatic pistol
on to the hip of every garda in the country.
In an interview, Mr V was asked if he favoured arming the police, which arose out of the assault on two gardaí in Ballyfermot.
Now, the answer to this is simple and obvious.
“We have a system of policing by consent that — thankfully — doesn’t require the guards to behave like an occupying army. The gardaí have always been unarmed — apart from specialist units — and we will not be panicked into changing that.”
Instead, Mr V was panicked into committing to guns all round, and whatever you’re having yourself.
Sheriff Varadkar said he’d “absolutely say yes” if the Garda Commissioner wanted the rank and file armed. Our once and future Taoi-seach seemed enthused by the notion of gunplay on housing estates as tobacco-chewing gardaí challenge youngsters to gunfights at high noon.
There are members of the Kinahan cartel less enamoured of guns than Sheriff Varadkar seems to be.
And through all of this nonsense, the party stalwarts — not to mention the political pundits — kept straight faces. It’s as though this was normal, responsible behaviour.
Neither the party nor the media seemed bothered that without discussion with anyone — much less a cabinet or Dáil debate — Varadkar was claiming to have the authority to abandon the policing model that has existed since the founding of the State and replace it with the gun culture of Dodge City.
Happily, the police have displayed more maturity than Sheriff Varadkar. The commissioner isn’t keen on guns galore. The rank and file assure us they don’t want to shoot people — or to be shot. This is Ireland, not Texas.
Arming the police would not even be a political decision made by elected and answerable politicians. Sheriff Varadkar believes he can on his own authority — at the request of a garda commissioner — reverse state policy to ensure the sound of gunfire would echo through every housing estate in the country.
And right then — at the height of all this nonsense — Varadkar and his political buddies gave Paschal Donohoe the nod.
Paschal was authorised to move a beloved policy to the top of the Urgent Business list. What distressing circumstance was getting priority? Hospital waiting lists, perhaps?
No — the Government at the moment is intent on relieving the oppression of top bankers.
Having done nothing wrong — except to crash the economy — some of these bankers have for some years been denied salaries any higher than a mere half-a-million euro.
It tugs at the heartstrings, apparently, in Leinster House.
There has been a steady, relentless and expensive campaign by top bankers to go back to the old days of top boss salaries of at least two or three million and massive bonuses.
The more loans the bank made, the bigger the bonus. Which is what encouraged reckless banking and crashed the banks in 2008 and subsequently brought in the IMF to run the country.
If ordinary bank workers are under- paid, pay them proper wages. That can be done without touching CEO salaries.
Once upon a time, Fine Gael minister Brian Hayes denounced bankers for “fleecing” their customers. Then the banks hired him as a lobbyist. He then argued for the removal of the bank boss pay cap.
Good move, lads. Value for money.
Think positive, I say. Guns, mistletoe and bonuses — if there isn’t a Christmas No 1 in this for Chris de Burgh, I’ll eat my Santa hat.
Meanwhile, could I ask that someone keep an eye on Charlie Flanagan at the Fine Gael Christmas party?
If you see him in quiet conversation with Sheriff Varadkar, do the country a favour and break it up. If the deep thinker gets together with Taoiseach Smith & Wesson, there will be a gun under every Christmas tree from Cork to Larne.