All aboard: guard Brendan Howlin and fireman Michael Noonan. FRANK McGRATH
• The gravy train is up to speed. Engine driver E Kenny and fireman M Noonan are at work in the cab. In the first-class carriages adjacent to the restaurant car repose the TDs and senators. The special advisers are travelling next door. Hooked on next are the MEPs and the EU jazz band.
There then follow the Croke Park carriages (the only ones in railway history designed by the passengers) carrying the €200,000-plus-a-year public servants.
The next string is full of county councillors and officials; linked to that is another rake of carriages packed with urban councillors and officials; next, the carriages loaded with quango board members.
A following carriage has a contingent of €150,000-plus-a-year people in the health services.
Next, the carriages with flags flying are packed with retired politicians and senior public servants.
A special carriage marked "reserved" is provided for political dynasties. In the next set, with blacked-out windows, are the bond-holders and the troika; then come the fortified carriages carrying Nama, the bankers, the developers and the financial gurus.
Special carriages are added for the millionaire lawyers.
At the end are carriages packed with bogus asylum-seekers and their supporters, and foreigners looking for child allowances in the post.
The baggage carriage travels under heavy security to protect allowances, expenses, increments, bonuses, pensions and lump sums. In the guard's van, waving red and green flags, is guard B Howlin. The train is timetabled non-stop.
"Why no carriage for us?" shouts the man on the trolley.
It's the system, stupid -- your healthcare needs could derail the train and, anyway, your free travel is to be withdrawn.
Dundalk, Co Louth