US deserves better than this dirty game
Politics was never for the effete or the faint-hearted: at its best it is full-blooded, frank and fair; at its worst, it is base, snide and brutish. The American election is fast falling into the latter category; descending into a squalid peep show degrading the dignity of an office that befits the most powerful position in the world.
At first, Donald Trump was dismissed as a boorish diversion, an entertaining buffoon. His durability has confounded the most seasoned commentators but being perpetually controversial guarantees attention. He has allowed the campaign become obnoxious and toxic; his sexism and racial stereotyping trampling the last threads of decency into the ground.
In Sunday night's debate, Hillary Clinton quoted Michelle Obama, saying: "When they go low, we go high." But she too has failed to soar. The parading by Trump of Bill Clinton's former accusers indicated what a dirty game it has become to be the 'leader of the land of the free'. The Trump tapes speak to a rushing undercurrent of misogyny in America. Yet Ms Clinton's exposure to the emails controversy, and her past behaviour in going on the offensive against her husband's accusers when he was president, suggest that she too has questions to answer.
Many see this race as one between the great outsider and the powerful insider. Whatever it is, it cannot be won at any price. Values such as equality and accountability were established after heroic struggles and cannot be lost in the mire of 'the Missouri mud fight'. The first black woman to enter Congress was Shirley Chisholm. She once said: "The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: 'It's a girl'." The contest to get to Pennsylvania Avenue has become a tawdry embarrassment. A nation of 360 million deserves better.
Harsh reality of Brexit is now becoming very clear
Too often, fates are determined by inattention: those who voted for Brexit believed that they could get something for nothing. And the idea that Britain could retain all of the privileges of EU membership post-Brexit, while imposing its own migration controls was always spurious. This was never on. Nonetheless, the fiction is still peddled.
Another more immediate and dangerous miscalculation was the notion that the status quo in the North could be maintained. Clearly, divorce from Europe has consequences for the future of the Border. Yet none of this featured in the pre-Brexit debates. It was as if the legal foundations of the Good Friday Agreement never existed. Was consent not the cornerstone of relationships between these islands?
Brussels is unlikely to accede to UK requests to make exceptions when it comes to maintaining the present free travel and trade arrangements. The entire package will be unravelled when negotiations begin. The bartering will be hard fought and anyone who believes otherwise is deluded. Angela Merkel has already told us that Ireland's voice will be just one of 27 when the talks are held with the UK.
Yesterday the minister responsible for European Affairs, Dara Murphy, warned: "It is a matter for the UK if they want to change how people move. My own personal view is it wouldn't be acceptable to anybody if we would engage in doing that work for them." Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan claims that immigration controls at the country's ports and airports are the next step in order to avoid a hard Border on the island. People clearly were caught napping in the run-up to Brexit but there can be no excuses for any more sleep-walking, given the stakes.