I've a confession to make. I quite like Eamon Ryan TD, though he would seem to have so little going for him, being not just a politician, but a Green Party one. It's the political equivalent of not just being an alcoholic, compulsive gambler, but also beating your wife when you get home.
But Ryan has always struck me as a man apart. He's never been too fond of a mindless soundbite, doesn't seem to believe that cycling to work will make all our troubles go away, and is more capable than most of the self-serving halfwits that masquerade as our country's leaders.
But has he made an arse of himself this week... It must have seemed to him like a surefire winner to him -- support the poor, impoverished proletariat, seeking their regular diet of rugby but raging against the capitalist forces that profit from their love of the game, by removing the sport from the hands of multinational satellite TV networks, and placing it back in the hands of decent, friends of the common people terrestrial channels.
Forget about the cheap political trick at work, the attempt to divert attention from the unutterable bollox his Government is making of running the country. Forget about the breath-taking lack of business logic -- removing the TV money from sport will hit not just grass-roots rugby, it will also force our best players abroad to seek a decent wage.
Forget even about the pandering to our national broadcaster by handing it rugby on a plate. After all, if RTE ran an efficient business, rather than squandering millions of taxpayers' money on a bloated bureaucracy, it would be well able to compete for these rights in a commercial auction.
No, Minister Ryan has made an even bigger gaffe -- he's misjudged the mood of the people he serves.
Most rugby fans aren't TV-watching, armchair supporters; they actually like to go and watch rugby matches. And if they can't make it to the game, they like to watch it in groups -- in a pub, where you can almost feel like you're at the match courtesy of a rowdy, convivial atmosphere.
Making the matches free to air will have no bearing on most of the people who watch it -- all it will do is save a few publicans a few hundred euro a year. Let's be honest, most of them can afford it... As only a politician can, Eamon Ryan has sought to solve a problem that didn't exist in the first place.
It would be a shame, however, if he goes the way of say, Noel Dempsey who, no matter what he does, will always be remembered as the man who was on holidays getting a suntan during the worst of last winter's big freeze.
But I'm willing to give Eamon Ryan the benefit of the doubt, and chalk this up as a temporary moment of madness.
A word of advice though, minister -- drop the idea all together, and quietly, but quickly, move on. You're better than this.
Katy's tale ends as Memery walks free from court
TWO and a half years after her death, it seems the Katy French saga has come to an end not with a bang, but with a whimper. With an inevitable sense of anti-climax, the only person indicted in this whole sordid affair, Russell Memery, right, has received a suspended sentence for his role in delivering drugs to Katy on the night of her death in December 2007.
He walked free from court for his role in the events that led to Katy's death, and maybe now everyone can get on with their lives. The man who supplied the drugs will continue to lap up the sun in Spain. The man who acted as go-between will feel he has had a lucky escape. And the man who ultimately gave the drugs to Katy, whose identity is known to all her friends, will continue with his sad, pathetic existence.
And her family, as they have done all along, will maintain a dignified silence, and maybe try to move on.
Just about everyone can now get on with their life. Everyone, that is, except Katy.