There's no mystery about hospital chaos
Do we really have to face yet another year pretending we don't know what's wrong with the hospitals? Because that's what we're doing now - we're pretending we don't know what's wrong.
Do we really have to face yet another year pretending we don't know what's wrong with the hospitals? Because that's what we're doing now - we're pretending we don't know what's wrong.
These days, we've got used to the end-of-year arrival of a flock of books that assess political and current affairs. They're an alternative to the incessant torrent of news.
The Veritas shop in Abbey Street, Dublin, is a retailer of Catholic publications and paraphernalia. It should be alien territory for a long-time non-believer, but nostalgia brings me there most...
Last week, at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, there was some rage about "unscrupulous" behaviour by bankers. Turns out thousands of people on tracker mortgages were "ripped off".
The first thing most "sensible people" agree on this weekend is that it would be damaging to have a general election just now. The second thing is that this email to Frances Fitzgerald is a trivial matter, and hard to understand.
It should have been a good week for Fine Gael. The Brexit carry-on gave Varadkar a chance to look good by comparison with the clowns who currently govern the UK.
You can't, as Sir Michael Jagger used to sing, always get what you want. Last week, a chap with illusions that he has a talent for burglary was sentenced to three years, at Trim Circuit Court.
The crime, the corruption and the social evils are coming at us in waves. And the very expensive defences we have in place to protect us have turned out to be bugger all use.
Last Wednesday, Leo Varadkar publicly rejected responsibility for those paid to speak anonymously on behalf of his Government. These "spin doctors" and their mouthpieces, paid agents of the Government, can now tell the media any nonsense they want to spread, with no ministerial responsibility for their actions.
There are good things and bad things about the Belfast Agreement, but anyone treating it as a political poker chip is gambling with other people's blood. And that seems to be what went on last week.
You've heard of the "Deep State"? It's an allegedly sinister hidden state-within-the-state, up to all sorts of carry-on. Intelligence agencies, groups of higher civil servants - that kind of thing.
Credit where credit is due. It's uplifting when politicians do what they say they'll do. It's worthy of note when the Taoiseach, for instance, recognises the dreadful plight of children in pain...
Remember the good old days? Remember when Dublin councillors wore a groove in the O'Connell Street pavement as they left their meetings and waddled around the corner to Conway's pub to...
We were told last week that the guards have created another half-million imaginary breath tests. That's "unbelievable", said minister Denis Naughten.
Just six years ago, people in their early 30s made up the largest group within the homeless. It's a horrible way to have to live, but most adults can at least try to steel themselves against the dread that envelops such a life.
When it comes to grand announcements on the state of the nation, and predictions about economic recovery, some of us are inclined towards scepticism.
The low point in last week's Kevin Myers circus was, for me, the moment he went on BBC Radio 5. Myers climbed down into the hole he'd dug for himself, took out his trusty shovel of contorted rhetoric and proceeded to dig.
To spare his blushes, we'll call the man Paddy Murphy, though that's not his name. On February 20, 1997, he and his partner and their three-year old son approached Kealfadda Bridge, in West Cork.
Heaney is handy. If you're a political leader with a featherweight image, and you need some gravitas, it helps to flick through a volume of Seamus Heaney's poetry.
For some time, humiliation has been part of the job description for members of the Irish establishment. The pay is still good, and you still get to wag your finger at the common herd, but the position has lost its moral swagger. Because they know that we all know what's going on. The remarkable thing is the extent to which the Irish establishment brought itself into disrepute.
There are times when the mask slips, and this is one of them. While Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were squabbling over the appointment of a judge, they disclosed some rather startling things we're really not supposed to know.
May God forgive me for what I'm about to inflict on you, but in a moment it will be necessary to replicate some praise for our new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. It won't take long and you might even enjoy it, in a quirky, masochistic sort of way.
It's hard to know who has looked more ridiculous since the results of the UK general election started coming in. There's great fun to be had watching shocked Tories circling one another, deciding which back to stab first.
It'll be all right, won't it? Eventually? Let's say five years from now, we won't be having one crisis after another in basic services, will we?
Ok, complete the following sentence: "I'm really glad Leo Varadkar was Minister for Transport from 2011 to 2014, because otherwise . . ." Take your time. Search your memory.
When Sean FitzPatrick walked free of the charges against him, wild allegations flew.
For politicians in heat, words are dust to be thrown in the eyes of others, while they position themselves for victory. And during any election, truth is a handicap. So, never mind what they say, watch what they do.
Siobhan Phillips was a vulnerable woman. In October 2015, Garda Tony Golden was murdered trying to protect her. Dara Quigley was a vulnerable woman. A month ago, when she was at a very low ebb, utterly defenceless, a video of her plight somehow emerged from Garda custody. It was displayed for the world to see.
Yesterday, Enda Kenny's second government was a year in office. And, about two weeks ago, Enda finally managed to beat John A Costello's record and become the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach.
Last Friday afternoon, I went online to the Department of Social Protection's website - welfare.ie. There, I found the fraud tip-off page. A glaring red warning sign said there are criminals "cheating welfare". It says that last year the department saved €500m "thanks to people like you".
You will not be surprised to hear that in 1968 Fianna Fail tried to pull a fast one. At any given time on the calendar, since 1926, the chances were that FF was trying something on.
Want to hear about another Garda scandal? It features a petty criminal we'll call Paddy. And it tells us why and how the Garda crisis just gets worse, with no serious effort at reform.
Did the Irish media keep people ignorant of a brave lecture on immigration that Enda Kenny delivered to Donald Trump in Washington?
There's a bit of a political fight coming up. On the face of it, it's such a stupid issue that no sentient creature should have to spend more than three seconds thinking about it.
Enda goes to Washington and Trump says: "You know how Farage is my messenger boy in the UK? I want you to be my messenger boy in the EU - are ya up to that?"
The evidence is there, beyond any doubt: they knew from August 1927 that the babies were dying at a terrible rate. And they were cool with that.
Talk about bad timing. There are important things happening - real moves within the machinery of democracy.
Enda Kenny faces a small but potentially embarrassing predicament. And no one dares mention it. Let's do so.
Political journalism has of late entered a fog of fantasy thicker than any I can remember.
Here's a quote from the current political debate about the Garda whistleblower scandal. It's from Martin Heydon, no less - the chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.
Could happen, I suppose. You're copying and pasting material within a child abuse file - we're not sure why that was happening, but let's see where this goes.
You'd almost feel sorry for Enda Kenny. If he bends to kiss the ample hindquarters of Donald Trump, we'll sneer at him.
Poor Shane Ross. In the week to come, Fianna Fail is about to get terribly concerned about the state of Bus Eireann.
We're told we're now in a "post-truth society", where facts don't matter. You promote your politics through bluster and lies, and when you're caught lying you deny you lied and immediately repeat the lie.
It's all connected. They're reported separately, in different parts of the media - news pages, political analysis, business pages, court reports, property pages - but it's all connected.
It's hard to feel sympathy for Simon Harris, but it was unavoidable last week. There's something pitiful in the sight of a person of high office in obvious panic.
Suppose Jesus Christ came back. How would that work out in today's Ireland?
So, it was a good week for Simon Coveney, yeah? And a bad week for Leo Varadkar? Simon's edged ahead of Leo as the would-be FG leader, huh?
Last week, Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell smeared two Sinn Fein TDs, under Dail privilege. He did this by associating them with murder.
In recent days, many from the political and social gentry have been agonising about Irish Water. We've heard what TDs and ministers have to say. Academics and other experts, lowly columnists and startlingly well-paid broadcasters have all had their turn.
This happened last Thursday. It's on the official record of the Dail - page 15, for November 24, 2016 Leaders' Questions. If you can stomach it. You think they've learned, you hope they've learned, and then you look at what's happening - and you know that for them it's not about achieving things; it's about keeping the show going.
What will President Donald Trump do after he's inaugurated on January 20? Rhetoric aside, what will the American right, now in total control of the Presidency and Congress, actually do now that they're sweeping into power?
After what happened last Friday, it's tempting to conclude that it doesn't matter who wins the election on Tuesday, to become the President of what Americans insist is the Greatest Country in the World.
We who work in the media love political set pieces. And we're already into the one that's going to entertain us for weeks, if not months: the change of party leader.
Last Thursday the Government crossed a line. It let us know that certain crimes are tolerable. It did so almost casually, with no hint of shame. The Fianna Fail "opposition" went along with its Fine Gael partners. As did the "independent" ministers. This State has chosen to engage respectfully with criminals. Not with all who break the law, but with a chosen few.
Well, they're certainly not over-modest, you can say that about our current leaders. Last week, two of them, Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath, were so overcome with their own sense of mission that they felt the need to portray themselves as saviours of the nation.
It's now five months since we found out that the Garda Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan, made a very serious allegation against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
These days, to be an intelligent supporter of Fine Gael is to experience a high degree of embarrassment. The level of political competence, whether among the old heads or the new, ranges from the comic to the farcical.
They've been buggering around with the A&E debacle since Mary Harney announced a "national emergency" in 2006. Ten whole years ago.
Once upon a long, long time ago, I attended a court case in which a bank sued a businessman. The man hadn't paid off a term loan. Interest had pushed the debt up to £36,000 and the man wasn't happy with the interest he'd been charged.
What is going on? Big things, obviously, things that will affect this country for generations. But a lot of it doesn't ring true.
You want to get out of paying taxes? We'll tell you how it's done.
Now, let's be fair and balanced about this. On the one hand, it's no joke. I mean, a 71-year-old pillar of Irish society arrested in the nip in a Brazilian hotel, in front of a TV camera. With armed cops swarming all over the joint.
Yes, there are a lot of very important things that are seriously wrong with Irish politics and politicians.
Did you see the knife going in? Last Tuesday, as the Trump presidential bid seemed on the verge of imploding, Barack Obama spoke softly. He appeared at his most thoughtful. In truth, he was being vicious, partisan and unforgiving.
Fair play to the Spaniards. Last week, they got fined by the EU because they broke the rules on fiscal deficits. There's nothing that upsets Brussels more than someone breaking the rules on fiscal deficits.
It's quiz time, folks - let's see how knowledgeable we are about the current state of political play.
The rest of the world may be reeling from bad news, but last week we got the best economic announcement in the history of the State. I'm no economist, but the people who know about these things suggest we got the best economic news any country has ever received.
About three million people marched in Rome that day, February 15, 2003. Half a million in Paris, another half a million in Berlin, more than a million in London. In Dublin, there were over 100,000 of us.
You'd almost feel sorry for Enda Kenny. There he is, securing his place in the history of this great little nation, and right in front of him Fine Gael is interviewing candidates for his job.
The threat to shoot me came in a phone call to my home from some eejit trying to sound like a character from The Godfather. This was back in the late 1980s, when I was working for the Sunday Tribune. It was chilling - for about 30 seconds. Then, common sense kicked in.
They couldn't conceal their anger. The EU chieftains, caught by the TV cameras on Friday morning, were shocked and they were furious.
You can smell the panic: from Washington to Downing Street, from Strasburg to Leinster House. Things are not going according to plan.
And who, I hear you ask, is the Abraham Lincoln of Irish gays? Is it Enda Kenny or is it Micheal Martin?
Probably my favourite moment in Irish sport was when Roy Keane scored a late try against Real Madrid in the final furlong of the Pro-Am steeplechase at Wimbledon in 1979.
What did the Garda Commissioner know, and when did she know it?
Clare Daly was driving in an unfamiliar part of south Dublin and took an illegal turn. The gardai stopped her and decided to breathalyse her.
So, how's it going, then - the 'New Politics'? Politicians have listened to what the people have said and they've resolved to "do politics differently". None of the old self-serving manoeuvres, none of the old party-first cynicism.
The odds are you didn't even notice - but last week, they did a job on you. Some very smart people did a job on your perception of what's been happening.
The Fine Gael/Fianna Fail Alliance, after spending two whole months forming a government, is agreed on the continuation of the Irish Water project.
Way, way back, when I was more easily excited about these things, a newspaper gravely reported the discovery of "a new erogenous zone". Boy, were we feverish.
Is Enda Kenny lying about what happened at his disastrous meeting with Micheal Martin? Or is Micheal Martin lying? Or was it all a devious plot?
The first thing that has to be said about the Panama Papers is that this is a wonderful example of thorough journalism. It took a year to bring it to print and it cost a fortune, with about 400 journalists involved, in 76 countries. Well done to all involved and may we see a lot more of this kind of thing.
Let's try what they call a "thought experiment". That's something that used to be called "blue sky thinking". Before that the cool people called it "thinking outside the box". Back in my day, we called it "thinking".
Where's Charlie Haughey when you need him? Crooked? Yeah, Charlie was crooked. Shake hands with Charlie, afterwards you had to count your fingers.
Charlie Saurin was 18 and he'd a choice to make and I think he made the right one. He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914, with about 180,000 others.
There are lots of dots around - let's try to connect some of them. The necessity to do this occurred to me when I read that Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Transport, is upset.
Official Ireland has long appeared to be terribly nervous about commemorating the 1916 Rising. There's widespread public enthusiasm for the cultural and historical events, particularly among the young, but the Government can't shake off the impression that it feels obliged to do this, and may even benefit politically from it, but its heart isn't really in it.
What are they up to? The two biggest right-wing parties have wasted a week staging meaningless talks that can't lead to anything. Panic? Indecision? I don't think so.
One: The two largest right-wing parties have won the General Election. Between them, they have more than enough seats to form a stable government. But that would permanently end the Punch and Judy act that has sustained them for decades.
The 2011 general election result was pretty good; this one is even better. It's as good as could reasonably be expected - given that we're witnessing the slow collapse of institutions that served us badly for generations.
It was the night of the general election, 2011, the polls had closed and there was a poet on RTE.
There are, of course, other things going on in the world, apart from the general election. And some of them will have a greater effect on our lives than the outcome of that election.
After just two days of the general election campaign, Fine Gael's strategy collapsed. The party is running on its alleged economic expertise. It would "keep the recovery going". That supposed expertise has been irretrievably destroyed.
This week, at no extra cost, we bring you the Soapbox Political Translation Service. Without it, you won't understand half of what the politicians say in the weeks ahead.
From time to time, we indulge in moral panics. Usually, this follows a startling scandal unearthed by the media - and often it's RTE that does the spadework.
You've probably avoided reading any of that stuff in the business pages about the faltering Chinese economy. And about the falling price of oil. Quite right. Me too.
Joan Burton's week (as imagined by Gene Kerrigan)
Deep in all our hearts, we know the floods will come again, and again, down through the years to come.
It isn't really about 1916. Much of the argument you'll hear over the next few months will be dressed up in the regalia of 1916, but the argument is really about politics today. And about the direction we take into the future.
It was around this time last year that Sinn Fein TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn used Twitter to describe Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, as a c*nt. As a result of this, I'm sure you remember, Mac Lochlainn came under sustained attack from Fine Gael, Labour and the media.
For just a while, I thought we'd found a new hero: councillor Hughie McElvaney, star of the RTE Investigates programme. You had to admire his total commitment to unashamedly playing the role of a greedy bastard.
Last Tuesday evening, Judge William Hamill addressed the Law Reform Commission. In another part of the capital city, Mick Wallace TD was enjoying his final evening of freedom. Hours later he was incarcerated in Limerick prison for a grand total of - eh, two hours.
Money is appearing, as if by magic - billions of euros. The people who govern us aren't sure where it's coming from, or who's responsible. And they don't seem terribly curious. They hope it continues, but - to quote one of their leading experts - they're "flying blind".
Here we go again. Into one of our periodic eruptions of moral indignation. Just because an Irish Farmers' Association bigshot had a bumper harvest of lovely money.
For the political parties, 2016 won't be about the centenary of the Easter Rising. It won't be about the economy, stopping the growth of homelessness or ending the chaos in the hospitals.
Last Tuesday, the Dail put time aside for lengthy statements on the Paris atrocities. The speeches got hardly any coverage. But they said a lot about our parliament - some of it good, and some of it depressingly bad.
Wasn't it fun? All those weeks of playacting, with Fine Gael making nasty remarks about Alan Kelly, the Minister for Prolonging the Housing Crisis.
Say the word Stardust in my neighbourhood and it still produces pain, almost 35 years after the terrible fire that killed 48 people.
We know we're being manipulated. But financially we're somewhat better off. So, we live with the manipulation.
What a treat awaits us when we step into the polling booth. From Enda to the Sensodyne Man. Truly, we're spoiled for choice. And to enhance that choice, I'm seriously considering joining Lucinda Creighton's mini-party, Renua.
Remember Tom McFeely? The guy who built Priory Hall? If ever there was a ready-made villain, it was Tom. An ex-Provo, a millionaire builder who went broke with all the other millionaire builders.
We noticed three fellas doing a bit of complaining last week. Paddy Cosgrave, Johnny Ronan and Mick Wallace.