RTE debate gave little light and too much heat
Samuel Johnson assured Boswell that, "a man may write at any time if he will set himself doggedly to it". I wonder.
Samuel Johnson assured Boswell that, "a man may write at any time if he will set himself doggedly to it". I wonder.
Micheal Martin has a working moral compass and always acts with good authority: he tells the truth, about women's issues like abortion and cervical cancer, about Brexit, and the dangers of a deal...
Vicky Phelan's call to action is clear. Do your duty or be held accountable.
Noel Hill has no rival as the master of the humble concertina, which he raises to high art by playing it as if it were a set of uilleann pipes.
Last February 26 I hoped here that President Higgins would seek a second term as he was best fitted to give us a pluralist position on the coming centenaries of the War of Independence and Civil War.
For the past six months I regularly predicted a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein coalition - and will prove that claim further on.
As I want to write about both the flagging Repeal the Eighth and the Brexit campaigns I will ration my rage about alleged breaches of data in INM while waiting for a fuller picture from the High Court hearing on April 16.
Moral courage is rare. Gerard Murphy must know his new book on the death of Michael Collins* risked return fire from academic nationalists but he still forged ahead.
Two questions this week. How did a mesmerised media miss the Taoiseach's major mistake on Brexit? Why does one of the "hooded men" see so clearly?
Leo Varadkar's largely successful American visit was rich in raw material for my fat mental files on the incoherent interaction between media and politics in Ireland.
Dan Donovan, who died last week, was what Dr Johnson would call a man of parts: actor, producer, director. But mostly he was a brilliant teacher who left an indelible mark on those he taught.
We are still dealing with the aftermath of two blizzards, one natural, one political. We are coping a bit better with Storm Emma than the Brexit blizzard.
Let's hope President Higgins decides to seek a second term - and that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have the sense to stand clear.
Sinn Fein trolls often take me to task for supporting different political leaders and parties down the years.
If the political fudging of the past week continues for 16 more weeks there will be no Repeal, and no change in our abortion laws.
Although I favour Repeal of the Eighth, I have always avoided writing about abortion for two reasons.
The latest Churchill film, Darkest Hour, opened last week in Irish cinemas.
The recent deaths of Maurice Hayes and Donal Barrington deprived Ireland of two of our greatest public men and left me mourning two of my long-time personal heroes.
We all lived our own year in 2017. Looking back, I find one big lowlight and two smaller personal highlights.
Our Christmas trip to Cork began under the cloud cast by Brexit.
Ryan Tubridy's reversals on the royal wedding provide the perfect peg for pondering our ambivalent attitude to England and its institutions.
The Taoiseach and Tanaiste are being acclaimed on all sides for winning the battle of Brexit, so my criticism of how they conducted the campaign won't bother them.
Four words sum up the past two weeks: complicity, character, cowardice and civility.
Let me start by making three predictions about which I further predict I will not have to eat humble pie.
In spite of being one his most consistent critics, I would never belittle the dark brilliance of Gerry Adams, both as a political leader and strategist.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be a young woman in the West was very heaven.
Last Tuesday, 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg and began the Protestant Reformation, a topic to which I shall return later.
Last week, I spent some time catching up with the new shows on TV3, hoping for fresh ideas to compete with RTE's predictable menu of political correctness and myopia about Sinn Fein.
Conor Cruise O'Brien was born 100 years ago this year. Trinity College is marking his birth with a major symposium next Thursday and Friday.
Hurricane Ophelia hurt but Hurricane Regina Doherty was full of hot air. She told Morning Ireland that Fianna Fail had never raised pensions and could not be trusted on them.
This week I want to touch briefly on what makes for a good party leader, a good current affairs show, and, above all, good judgment.
Liam Cosgrave's political credo, like his father's, was salus populi suprema lex: the safety of the people is the supreme law. In practice this meant protecting the State from the IRA, and he was never slow to use its initials.
Cui bono? Who benefits most from the Taoiseach's spats with Mary Lou McDonald?
Last Sunday night I rang the bell of my Mayo neighbour who had been bravely flying the flag in Dublin all season.
Sam Maguire, who died in poverty, was a patriot who still continues to serve his country.
Last Sunday, Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein were in trouble in the Republic on two issues: Gerry Adams's call not to prosecute the murderers of Tom Oliver, and Sinn Fein's rejection of Arlene Foster's olive-branch speech on restoring the Northern Executive.
Last Tuesday, Simon Coveney said he was worried about North Korea. He would do better to worry about the North of Ireland - and its increasing impact on the politics of the Irish Republic.
Sean O'Callaghan inverted our idea of an IRA informer. Rejecting the role of despised tout, he finished as a flawed, tragic hero, at least in my eyes.
Michael Twomey, famous as an actor from Cha and Miah, was more than the sum of his parts but rather a "man of parts". That was Dr Johnson's admiring phrase for a man of many talents but also of moral substance.
Leo Varadkar's recent skilful speech in Queen's University Belfast came just too late for me to praise the sure touch of his new speechwriter, Professor Patrick Geoghegan of TCD.
Leo Varadkar rounded on the Brits about Brexit last Friday week. Gerry Adams led the chorus of approval - and is still gushing.
Saturday in Skibbereen market is no place for souls seeking solitude. For locals and blow-ins, this is a meet-and-greet market, followed by the fast West Cork dismissal - "I'll let you go so" - when you are sucked dry.
Conor Cruise O'Brien was a prophet without honour in his own country and the fire which destroyed his former Howth home seemed symbolic of his current marginal status.
No matter what the summer weather has in store, I am happy to be back in Field's coffee shop in Skibbereen. Here feedback is right in my face.
Martin Mansergh, in a letter to the Sunday Independent contesting my criticisms of the Department of Foreign Affairs, draws attention to my role as backroom adviser to David Trimble, as if that finished off any credibility I might have with nationalist readers.
I believe that if Charlie Flanagan rather than Simon Coveney had been Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sinn Fein would have been forced to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland by last Thursday's deadline.
Let's hope Leo Varadkar was listening to his colleague Brian Hayes MEP speaking to Shane Coleman on Newstalk last Friday.
Like most Irish people, I'm glad Leo Varadkar overcame the many obstacles to becoming Taoiseach.
Let's savour three good bits from the British general election before spitting out the bad.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven. Leo Varadkar, flushed by a hard- fought victory, may feel empathy with Wordsworth's poetic effusion at the dawn of the French Revolution.
Last Thursday, Mr Fuan Chan, consultant at the Blackrock Clinic, said he would have to whip out two cancerous moles from my back caused by too much sun.
Last Sunday, I did a solo interview with Ivan Yates on Newstalk concentrating on three issues.
The RTE news shots of Gerry Adams in a Dail 'doughnut' with Mary Lou McDonald and EU emissary Michel Barnier were a Sinn Fein spin doctor's dream.
Bryan Dobson is not just a distinguished broadcaster; he is adjunct professor of public broadcast journalism at Limerick University.
Coming of age in the radical 1960s, I rejected the Roman Catholic Church of John Charles McQuaid. But as an atheist, I respected the saving grace of Christianity.
Last week saw both the strongest and weakest RTE response to the biggest problem in Irish politics - how to handle the past legacy of Sinn Fein as it bids for power, North and South.
Every columnist needs a good critic. So I was grateful to get a cogent letter of complaint from John Leahy of Wilton in Cork.
Some years ago, I sighted an elusive Irish electoral species whom I christened Moby Dick in honour of Herman Melville's whale.
Last Sunday, a man stopped me in the People's Park, Dun Laoghaire, and said, "If it wasn't for the Sunday Independent, they'd have it all their own way."
Let's pray that the canonisation of Martin McGuinness promotes good politics in Northern Ireland. Because it has delivered a deadly blow to democratic politics in the Republic of Ireland.
Every country has one fatal flaw. Britain's is the mindset that produced Brexit. Ours is an obsession with an outline mental map marked 'United Ireland'.
Mary Lou McDonald sat in the Prime Time studio last Tuesday giving the Sisters of Charity a hard time and going on about "gruesome and harrowing" burials as if she had never heard of Jean McConville.
Tribal passions are putting the centre under severe pressure both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Should this go on, the middle ground will soon give way under our feet.
Who? Leo Varadkar or Simon Coveney?
Last Wednesday, I gave a talk at the Little Museum of Dublin called 'The Primacy of Plot'.
Aristotle says courage is the chief virtue. Luckily for Europe, Angela Merkel, like the late Brendan McGahon, is blessed with bravery.
Last Wednesday, St Brigid's Day, I concluded we in the West will have to decide between the dark vision of Donald Trump's chief advisor, Stephen Bannon, and the bright vision of my German friend, Britta Freith.
Aristotle said everything to excess is wrong - which also applies to attacking Donald Trump or selling the snake oil that is the Sinn Fein peace process.
For the past week I've been filtering Irish politics through the internet and factor 30 sunscreen while soaking up the sun in Agadir, Morocco.
A famous feminist slogan says the personal is always political. This also applies to Donald Trump, Arlene Foster, Martin McGuinness, and the late TK Whitaker.
This week, in deepest winter, I want to try to lift your spirits by writing about Jurgen Klopp, about the Liverpool football team, and about life.
Aristotle is an infallible guide to good politics - witness his wise observation that the most stable societies have a large middle class.
My Christmas week column, the last for 2016, is modelled on that cheerful annual magazine, the Cork Holly Bough, with lots of positive red berries but perhaps a bit more prickly holly.
The Stack family failed to get answers from Sinn Fein while many in the media sat on the fence. Now they want to move on to the Arlene Foster story.
Monday: To Tralee, to conduct a week-long skills course at the ETB National Digital Skills Centre with film, television and radio students from all over Ireland.
Gerry Adams has long lived happily in a media-made 'post-truth' world, where facts have no power to dent his propaganda.
William Trevor, John McGahern and Frank O'Connor are my three favourite Irish short story writers, but not simply for literary reasons.
Brexit and Donald Trump show that the British and American political and media elites have lost touch with large tranches of working people.
Last Monday, my sister Bridget, the radical socialist in the family, who recently retired to Ireland after 40 years' working as a trauma nurse alongside black and Latino staff in some of the toughest American hospitals, flew back across the Atlantic to vote for Donald Trump.
The late agony aunt and psychologist Patricia Redlich (who was never late in her life - she saw habitual unpunctuality as a sign of narcissism) believed that most of the political trouble in the world was caused by weak people.
Most weeks, I settle for the sniper shot of a single-issue column rather than a shotgun spread of pellets over a wide target.
Last week, while shopping in Blackrock, I experienced two epiphanies about the next general election - neither of which were good news for Fianna Fail.
Like many Irish people, I hate the Americanised Halloween, its expensive exploitation of parents and infantilised adult antics.
The big drop in Fianna Fail support in last Thursday's Irish Times poll was a shock but not a surprise. A shock is something that happens suddenly without warning. But a surprise only jolts us for a second before we realise we subconsciously knew it was coming all along.
The Siege of Jadotville, directed by Richie Smyth, inspired by Declan Power's fine book, is the best battle film since Zulu, a powerful tribute to the courage of Commandant Patrick Quinlan and the troops of A Company, 35th Battalion.
Last week, I resolved to take a break from monitoring Gerry Adams and other green gnomes who will not go away and leave us in peace.
Last Friday, Micheal Cottrell took us from Baltimore, back up the estuary of the winding Ilen River to the stone bridge at Skibbereen.
Last Friday, I set out in lashing rain from Baltimore to Bandon, to pick up a copy of Kieran Doyle's newly published, but already out of print, Behind the Wall, The Rise and Fall of Protestant Power and Culture in Bandon.
Last Tuesday, I set out on another trip to Tallow, Co Waterford, where I spent the first five years of my life, with a lot on my mind.
Dun Laoghaire did Annalise Murphy proud. But it will still be a pale shadow of the pandemonium that awaits Gary and Paul O'Donovan in West Cork tomorrow.
Trish O'Donovan thinks back to when her two sons took their first steps to Rio. "They were rowing before they made their First Holy Communion."
Friday three o'clock. From the window of Field's coffee shop in Skibbereen, I see a town totally out of its mind with pride. Lisheen is levitating, too. A lovely townland, home of the O'Donovan boys, where Jack Lynch spent his summers.
Local heroes like Roger Casement can also be global heroes. That's the ambition of the three women and two men of the Skibbereen Rowing Club whose local Ilen river has carried them to Rio and the Olympics Games.
Cheerleading, talking to crowds and charisma are my three topics this week.
Shakespeare was obsessed by the problem of political order. His 10 history plays are about political authority versus political anarchy. Looking across Europe, from Istanbul to Nice, we can see why. As Yeats warned, the centre cannot hold, the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Regina Doherty's ultimatum to Enda Kenny, while welcomed by many in Fine Gael, was reckless in its timing and added to the sense that Fine Gael is having a nervous breakdown.
Last week, dealing with the results of the British referendum, Micheal Martin made the most important speech of his political career.
My late friend, Patricia Redlich, used to say that most trouble in the world was caused by weak people.
In a week fogged by bigotry and the murder of Jo Cox, Northern Ireland's football victory flashed like a small beacon of hope.
Sinn Fein's northern strategy is to finish off the SDLP - just as its southern strategy is to finish off Fianna Fail.
Summer is here. And just because I’m stuck in Dublin is no reason to rain on your bank holiday parade.
Confronted by a complex political problem, Lenin cut to the core by asking two questions: "who/whom?" and "what is to be done?"
Even a week abroad allows you to absorb the bigger political picture. Brian Hayes spends a lot more time abroad than me, so I'll give him first go.
Let's not be toxic like the Labour Party. Let's give a fair wind to the new Government and Dail.
Finally we will have a government. We'd have had it faster if the Pied Piper Pundits and RTE had not fed Fine Gael on fantasy.
Garbh i mi na gcuach, fearthainn agus fuacht. (Rough is the month of the cuckoo, wet and cold.)
What is the point of a free press if it speaks with one voice, like Pravda in the old Soviet Union?
Last week, President Higgins called on Irish universities to foster "a capacity for dissent". I could not agree more.
Three state actors, the Defence Forces, RTE and the Presidency, bore the primary responsibility for answering the two questions I posed in my column of February 1, 2015, a full year before.
Easter Sunday 1916. One hundred years ago today, my grandfather Paddy Harris, Adjutant of B Company, Irish Volunteers, Cork, was getting ready to fight for an Irish Republic.
Asked on any one day last week what I might be writing about on Sunday, the list would be as follows.
For the third week in a row, and in defiance of the dying media chorus calling for a grand coalition, I want to repeat two firm predictions.
Last Friday week, on the night of the General Election count, shortly after the first exit polls I filed my weekly political column.