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In sickness and in health

How much should we know about the health of government ministers? Is it relevant to the job they do, or does it really matter given that in some cases presidential office is actually executed by an unseen coterie of top aides and advisors?

On Monday Ryan Tubridy was discussing the subject with his guest Shane Coleman of the Sunday Tribune. It's incredible how unsuspecting the public used to be.

The American First World War President, Woodrow Wilson, had a stroke during his reign and the job of running the country was taken on by his wife and a band of advisors.

US president Franklin D Roosevelt suffered serious ill health, even having a heart attack during his Second World War tenure. Such was his general debilitation that he was only ever photographed while sitting down.

None of this was ever reported to the public due to a gentleman's agreement with the press. They obviously hadn't come up against TV3 news.

What exactly is "being not fit for duty", asked Tubridy?

Coleman cited the example of Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary who, at the time of the peace process, had cancer; her illness may have been debilitating but her absence would have been far more so.

He also asked: Are there any parents capable of doing any job having been woken up three times a night by their children? (Sadly there never seem to be aides to help with cleaning puke off the bed spread or with administering Calpol at four in the morning.)

Nowadays, alas, it is impossible to keep any news secret. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was the subject of a press witch hunt when they discovered that his diet forbade Chianti and cheese.

Apparently Andrew Marr of the BBC "put two and two together and got 600", and decided that this meant that the PM was mentally unbalanced and strung out on anti depressants.

I'm not surprised, doesn't he have young children?

On Tuesday The Last Word's Matt Cooper was discussing the putative hostile take-over of Manchester United by the Red Knights with United biographer Jim White. The club has been plunged into debt by its American owners.

White was quick to point out the 'grand larceny' of the Glazer family, who have increased ticket prices by 40pc. However, he was also unable to answer the critical question put to him by the host.

"Will it succeed?"

The answer was clear but unintentional. No! The main reason is because they have been unable to elucidate clear support for their cause by the manager Alex Ferguson, who plays his cards "close to his chest".

The most telling part of the interview was the fact that even if the Red Knights succeed the chances are that much of the debt will have to stay in place at the club. So what really changes?

Just like our public servants, it looks like revolution just for the sake of it.