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Terry Prone: Why you would really want to be completely mad to go into politics

If it wasn't so chilling, it would be funny. It would be funny because it's so daft.

Experienced ministers like Dempsey, Ahern and Harney sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs, while their departments grind to a halt with decisions not taken and business not signed off.

A handful of ministers, three of them also running their leadership election campaigns, supposedly covering for the disappeared.

All of that, heading into the weekend, was pretty damn farcical.

But yesterday, the junior partners in Government put the Green hat on it by eloping to the Opposition benches.

They couldn't stick being in the audience of the Fianna Fail X Factor show any longer. So they walked. Grimly, they walked. Except for Ciaran Cuffe, who seemed happier than an organic clam. Maybe he saw the funny side. And if he did, maybe he'd tell the rest of us what it is.

Heads down, they walked.

Dramatically, they walked.

Fat lot of good it did them. The pictures in this morning's papers showed their perp walk, but the stories were all about the election.

If they had an issue of principle they wanted remembered, it would be difficult to find today, because when a mudslide gets started, it tends to swamp everything in its path, including self-regard and principle.

For us impoverished people still living in the Bankrupt Bank Republic, it's an eyes to heaven, hands in the hair, "whattaya do?" situation.

Of course, when you realise how much overseas attention is focused on the events of the weekend, it gets a lot less funny.

Emails I received from journalist friends abroad last night were divided in two.

The first lot basically wanted to know if they should send food parcels and bandages, since they figured civilised living had stopped and it was red in tooth and claw over here.

I told them it was grand, really. Yes, we only have a half a Government, and an opposition bursting at the seams and a Taoiseach who isn't a leader and an election date that shimmies like a snake, but in the day-to-day grind, you'd hardly notice any of that.

The other side of the overseas interest was different. Very different.

It was horrified non-comprehension. You have no idea how daft this country's current situation is, until you try to explain it on the airwaves of another country or to an overseas journalist.

"Well, we had this incredibly popular prime minister," you explain, having told them how to spell Taoiseach.

"I mean, so popular they didn't need to count his numbers on election day, and now he's so unpopular, his numbers hardly register in opinion polls. Sorry? Oh, no. No accusations like the ones against that Italian prime minister. Our guy is accused of playing golf with two guys you wouldn't play golf with in the middle of a banking crisis involving their bank."

It doesn't make any sense to an overseas journalist.

But then, it doesn't make any sense to us here at home, either.

So you try to explain about the leadership struggle. Yes, you confirm. Four contenders for the prize. What's the prize? Leading their party into an election in which as few as 15 of them might be elected. As a result of which the one who's elected leader is unlikely -- ever -- to become Taoiseach.


Why would people compete for that privilege? Beats me.

But then, I've always thought you need to be barking to go into politics in this country. Can you quote me on that? Why not?

Yesterday, the international broadcast networks were doing the "You won't believe what's going on in the Emerald Isle" story.

Today, it continues in print. At a time when we needed the global market to think well of us or at least ignore us, we're up there in lights.

Instead of Riverdance, we're doing the Irish death dance.

Funny -- if it weren't so chilling.