Cad atá le déanamh againn anois? Where do we go from here?

An tseachtain seo caite, do chaith mé roinnt ama ag faire a gcuid fianaise á thabhairt uathu ag na huaisle Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte, Joan Burton, Bertie Ahern, et al.,ós comhair an Choiste Dála.

Last week I watched some of the testimony given by Mr. Enda Kenny, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, Ms. Joan Burton, Mr. Bertie Ahern, et al.to the Dáil Committee.

Gaeilge (English version follows after the Irish version)

B’fhéidir gur rinneadh trácht ar seo le déanaí ach ní fhaca-sa é. An tseachtain seo caite, do chaith mé roinnt ama ag faire a gcuid fianaise á thabhairt uathu ag na huaisle Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte, Joan Burton, Bertie Ahern, et al.,ós comhair an Choiste Dála.

Agus mé im’ shaoránach ríméadach na tíre seo, do chuir sé clár ar mo chluasa ag éisteacht le, agus ag faire ar, a gcuid iompair ós comhair a gcomhghleachaithe, agus ba léir é go raibh siad ag tapaidh an deis chun “toghchánaíocht de réir an sean-nós” a chur ar siúl. Ní raibh ann dóibh ach ‘charade’, gnáthgheamaireacht na Dála. Bhí mé ag feitheamh, agus ag súil, le réimiúlacht, le meas, agus le humhlaíocht. Dhéanfadh leath-‘apologia’ an ghnó, fiú leithscéal ón gcroí.

Tháinig an smaoineamh chugam: “Níl san ócáíd seo ach cluiche dóibh, iad cosúil le páistí seanchríonna, agus iad ag ligint orthu gur daoine fásta iad, fad is atá siad ag magadh faoinár n-institiúidí, gan ar bun acu ach iarraim cúis ar nós matadóra. Ni hea, ach ar nós fir sorcais ag ligint orthu gur matadóirí iad. Ní raibh san éisteacht seo de réir dealraimh ach cró sorcaise. Bhí áiméar ar fáil dóibh an bhinnbharraíocht a bheith acu ar duine agus fonóid a dhéanamh faoi dhuine eile. Ócáid dóibh chun a lucht leanúna a mhúscailt, saillte le dea-chaint, amhail is gur orthusan a bhí an cáipéis.

Bhí mé am shamhlú go raibh cailíní deasa ar an maide luascáin, go raibh fir cróga ar an sreang ard, agus, cinnte, ba chóir go mbeadh ‘pierrot’ ann. Fir sorcais i ndáiriíre, agus deor ollmhóir ar a leiceann acu agus iad ag déanamh trua don chine daonna faoi fhulaingt do-inste. Ach, tada le feiscint. Ní duine sorcais le croí óir a bhí os ár gcomhair amach, ní raibh grá ná trua le feiscint ann. Ní raibh ann ach dróid-anna nua-aimseartha amháin, Daleks na Dála, agus caint an gheilt á chogaint acu. Ba mhaslach a gcuid cainte agus iad gealsúileach agus tom-eireaballach, ag tabhairt masla do mhuintir na tíre seo atá ag fulaingt go huafásach faoina réimeas, muintir a bhfuil deacair orthu foighneamh lena ngréasán bréag, lena bhfeall ar iontaoibh, agus lena seápála.

Ach gan amhras ní raibh na daoine atá faoin fhulaingt is mó feasach faoin bhfeic náisiúnta seo ar raidió agus ar teilifís. Bhíodar ag codail amuigh ar an sráid agus faoin sceach, ag maireachtáil i lóistíní sealadacha. Nó faoi fhulaingt sa bhaile, gan dóthain airgid acu , gan teas, gan solas, gan bia, gan sólás. Nó ag faire ar glao Skype ó aird i gcéin chun a chlann páistí a fheiscint, chun a chéile a chloisteáil, daoine a ligeadh le sruth mar chacamas le sruth dramhaíol as obair dramhaíola na tíre seo chun áit a chur in áirithint don Déine. Don diabhail le clár damanta na Déine!!

Ach fós anois, agus na hócáidí á leanúint agam ar nuacht an lae, agus na pobalbhreitheanna ag teacht ar shála a chéile, cuireann sé iontas an domhain orm faoi chad atá i ndán dúinn. Tá dian-rialú ann ag na Deasaigh anois, agus iad tacaithe le hairgead a ghoideadh, agus le cambheartanna sracaidh leathdhleathacha a bhí dlisteanaithe ag rialtas i ndiaidh rialtais thar na blianta. Tá an Ceartlár plódaithe leis an iomarca polaiteoirí ainléanta atá deamhéineacha agus garúla agus iad ag iarraidh greim a fháil ar sopanna agus ar gearróga an daonlathais. Agus na Ciotaigh, cosúil le Néandertálaigh i bhfolach ó na dineasáir caipitlíocha atá ar díbheargach ar machairí móra na hÉireann, tá na Ciotaigh ina bpluaiseanna díospóireachta, ag míníneacht, ag cur faobhar ar bioranna oighir, agus ag beartú conas ar féidir leo, cosúil le madraí, na conablaigh curtha de láimh ag sealgairí vóta níos éifeachtúla ná iad féin a chosgairt. Meascadh bróid bhréagaigh ar bhonn prionsabal amhrasacha, éide nua don Impire snite as bréaga, as calaois agus deartha ag claonbholscairí. Sea, is soiléir anois é, go bhfuil toghachán ag teach chugainn anois, in éineacht leis an ngnáth-bhús! Tuigim, a Yeats Uasal, beidh “the catch-cries of the clowns” againn, mar aon leis.

Ach an bhfuil sé riachtanach go dtitfidh sé amach mar sin? Cad is tuairim duit faoi? Fad is atá guth fós againn, ar bheartaigh tú conas a gcaithfidh tusa do guth? In ionad a bheith ag glamaíl ar an ngealach agus tú ag súil go haonarach le macalla glaime a cloisint ar ais, an bhfuil dóthain suime agat ann, an bhfuil an ‘nous’ ionat, an bhfuil tú cróga go leor chun an fód a sheasamh? Chun an fhírinne a rá, táimse in amhras faoi, agus fúm féin chomh maith. Dá mbeadh caoi agam air anois, “I would arise and go now, and go to a little Greek island”, chun mo shaol a chaitheamh i gcomhluadar le daoine a bhfuil meas acu ar a ndéithe, ar a stair, ar a dteanga, agus ar a gcultúr. Ach ní bheidh an caoi agam é sin a dhéanamh. B’fhearr liom fanacht anseo in Éirinn. Is i mo thír dhúchais í. Is oth liom é a rá, áfach, ach ní bheimid in ann tada a dhéanamh chun an tír áluinn seo a chur le chéile arís go dtí go ndéanfaimis tarrtháil ar spiorad na tíre seo, ar spioraid na ndaoine. De réir dealraimh, níl meas muice ag formhór na ndaoine anois ar ár n-oidhreacht, mar Ghaeil, ar na bunphrionsabail a cheangal an pobal le chéile in aghaidh ár namhaid san am atá thart. Cinnte ní foláir dúinn ár n-aigne a dhíriú ar sin agus 2016 ag teacht in ionad Disneyland bréag-Gaelach a thógáil ós cionn uaigheanna ár muintir is ár laochra.

English

Perhaps this has already been commented upon and I missed it. Last week I watched some of the testimony given by Mr. Enda Kenny, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, Ms. Joan Burton, Mr. Bertie Ahern, et al.to the Dáil Committee.

As a proud citizen of this country, I felt deeply offended by their attitude towards the questioning, their general behaviour towards their peers, and their obvious seizing of the moment for “d’oul bi’ of electioneering”.  The whole thing was just a charade for them, the usual Dáil circus. I waited and waited for dignity, respect, and humility. Even half an apology from the heart.

I thought: “This is a just a game for them, like precocious children playing at being adults, mocking our institutions, trailing their coats like matadors. No, like clowns in a circus pretending to be matadors. It was a circus to them. It was an opportunity to gloat and deride. A time to stir up their followers with their witty barbs and pretence at being responsible.”

There should have been beautiful girls on the trapeze, men with courage on the high wire, and of course, there should have been clowns. Real clowns, with a giant tear on their cheeks in their pity for suffering humanity. But, no. These were no clowns with a heart of gold, who love humanity and who pity it. These were mere clown droids, Dáil Daleks, muttering insanities. Their wide-eyed bushy-tailed efforts at humour were an insult to the people of this country who have suffered terribly under their reign, who have put up with their lies, their deceits, and their posturing.

The people they have hurt most, were probably not aware of this national spectacle on television.They were sleeping rough, living in temporary accommodation. Or suffering at home, without enough money for heat or light or food or comfort. Or waiting for a Skype call to see their children, their husbands or wives, who were flushed like shite out of the sewer jobs of this country to make a home for Austerity. Austerity be damned.

But yet, as I follow events in the news, listen to the polls, I wonder. The Right is in tight command now, supported by stolen money, barely legal extortion rackets legitimised by our Governments for years. The Centre is crowded with well-meaning political illiterates who are grasping for the straws of democracy. And the Left, like Neanderthals hiding from the dinosaurs who maraud on the plains of Ireland, they are hiding in their caves of debate, splitting hairs, sharpening their ice-picks, and planning on how they can live off the carcases left behind by more efficient hunters of votes. A mixture of false pride in debatable principles, a new garment for the Emperor spun from lies, deceits and designed by spin doctors, yes, it is clear, that there is an election coming down the road, with all the razamatazz that comes with it. Yes, Mr. Yeats, there will be the catch-cries of the clowns, as well.

But does it have to be like that? What do you plan to do? While we still have the Vote, have you decided how you will vote? Instead of howling at the moon in the lonely hope of hearing howling echo back to you, have you enough interest, enough nous, enough courage to speak up? Quite honestly, I doubt it. I doubt that I am ready for the struggle. If I had the chance, I would arise and go now, and go to a little Greek island, to live among people who have respect for their gods, their history, their language, and their culture. But I do not have that chance. I prefer to stay here in Ireland. I was born and reared here. It is my home. I am sorry to say, however, we can do nothing to restore our beautiful country until we salvage what we can from the wreckage we have left behind us, the spirit of a country, the spirit of its people. It appears that most of the population couldn’t care less about our heritage, as a Gaelic people, about the basic principles that united the people in the face of the enemy in times past. Certainly we will need to direct serious attention to this area with 2016 getting closer by the day. Especially if we do not wish to erect a pseudo-Irish Disneyland over the graves of our ancestors and our heroes.

Back to the Future with Rip van Winkle

We fool ourselves if we think that we can change things on our own by the Flurry Knox antics of plying the Medea-like Mme. Lagarde, with drinks and banter in some late-night haunts in Dublin.

I am not a soothsayer, but I will be surprised if the dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis don’t emerge like the Phoenix from the burnt-out ashes of media toilet paper that has railed against them and what they stand for.

I suppose with the day that’s in it, Greek Referendum and all that, plus all the campaigns and the shouting of obscenities that is going on in the different threads of ersatz debate online, in pubs, around kitchen tables, over fences, alone in bedrooms, we all need to check our sanity and our wallets. I have been taking stock and I must say that the scene depresses me. It is clear that a general election is going to be sprung on us pretty soon, and a lot of the issues that are raised are going around and around in ever decreasing circles like the proverbial Wogga Wogga bird, where they have disappeared up its own dietary outlet, reappeared again, disputed and inconclusive, to fuel more abusive language and further displays of anger, but again without progress. So, to sharpen the appetite, I decided to push the boat out a bit further and challenge the thinking before the Sunday lunch hits the linen table cloth.

We will see later this evening the results of the Greek Referendum. I am not a soothsayer, but I will be surprised if the dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis don’t emerge like the Phoenix from the burnt-out ashes of media toilet paper that has railed against them and what they stand for. Even if they lose, the result will be the same anyway. Things will get tougher in Greece and there will be a knock-on effect on Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and probably in Britain at a later stage, when the unholy Trinity, hidden in the romantic image of the Russian Troika, (except that Dr. Zhivago has been replaced by Wolfgang Schaűble played by a Peter Sellers look-alike in a role like that of the mad German scientist) succeed in the beating down of better men and women.

We fool ourselves if we think that we can change things on our own by the Flurry Knox antics of plying the Medea-like Mme. Lagarde, with drinks and banter in some late-night haunts in Dublin. If the rapidly approaching snap General Election is to yield a change in Government, as the anger sweeping most of the country likes to suggest, then it is time for our political infants to perform or arise from their potties. I find it neither heart-warming nor encouraging that Irish parties claiming to represent left-wing ideologies are queuing for trips around the neo-mythology of Greek politics in the hopes that some of the glitter on the wings of Icarus might rub off and enhance their image. But the heroes on the Left in Greece are in the image of Theseus rather than the eejit who thought he could fly to the Sun by night and avoid the heat by day – anyway, I think that’s the way an Irish myth would have rationalised his endeavours! The dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis are following a well-conceived and carefully mapped visit to the chthonic Global Minotaur hidden in the labyrinthine caves of the EU/ECB/IMF. Unfortunately the image of our political Jasons will be judged by the policies they produce for the election and their share of the fleece of the electorate will be measured accordingly.

Accordingly, in the interests of stimulating thinking, I would like to throw some fresh bread on stagnant waters (officially supplied by a new State water quango with well-concealed Bonga Bongas arranged by a nearly=jailed former Italian showbiz personality.

Let’s think positively about this.

Enlightened voter (Homo selectus)
Enlightened voter
(Homo selectus)

DAFT DRAFT

First of all, for the voters, I would suggest the following:

  1. Elect the people you can trust, not those who promise to cheat the system to get you things to which you are not already entitled.
  2. If they offer to make applications on your behalf, for grants, medical cards, or anything like that, just ask them to explain the process to you so that you can do it for yourself. It will be a valuable lesson in citizens’ rights for you.
    • N.B. This work could be done in consultation with existing Citizens’ Rights offices and may require access to additional resources described below in item #6.A
  3. If you are constrained by having young children to mind which would restrict your spontaneity in getting information, attending community meetings (see #4.A below) or even voting, just ask them would they supply a registered baby sitter to mind the kids for you while you go on a citizen’s errand. Note that this would be infinitely more meaningful and useful than a Job-Retch programme. If by any freak of chance, they agree, be sure to bring your partner with you and get full value out of the night off.
  4. Each household should sit down now and draw up a list of their “red wine line” items in preparation for the ritual “You won’t forget us now, (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) when you’re voting, will ye” visits of canvassers.
    1. If households were to begin this activity now, then they could take it to a second level and have meetings of household representatives to share these lists and strengthen the bonds in the community. It would be certainly better for your peace of mind, than watching “Big Brother’s House” on T.V.
  5. Depending upon the list you draw up in #4, then you may feel you should ask for training programmes (see items #5.A, #5.B, #5.C, below) to be provided free with any necessary software and hardware required. (They do it for foreign companies setting up in Ireland, so why not for you). In this regard you might consider some of the following random suggestions. When you have read them, I am sure further ideas will come to mind. If not, then I have probably lost you already, so you can just go and
    1. A simple computer terminal for each home so that you can be polled immediately for your preference when the Government, acting on your behalf, needs to confirm their mandate, for example, to guarantee a bank or other financial institution on your behalf, and with your money, or to alert a community when Her Majesty or a member of her family is being brought on a tour of reconciliation-relation binges guilt-trips study tours, or advance notice of any unexpected intrusion upon your rights as a citizen by a government official acting on a tip-off;
    2. A local community centre or other suitable building that can also be used for community support activities. A part-time administrator and secretarial assistant will be needed. These roles could offer good work experience for local people in real work situations.
    3. A timetable for each group of local Senators and T.D.s, to attend monthly meetings with the local electorate to brief the people on what is being done on their behalf, to update them on any decisions that will affect them, or to announce publicly that they are coming out, before you read it in the media. I
    4. t is important that these meetings be organised by the community. The use of small sub-groups with each member taking it in turn to be the facilitator and another the recorder of the subgroup meeting will require training as described in #6.A and also provide valuable skills in community development.
  6. For those housing estates that have experience of dealing, shall I say, diplomatically with Irish Water contractors installing shiny new meters, then there will be some neighbours who can advise on ways in which you might seek to influence or deal with the party canvassers.
  7. Candidates should be asked, on behalf of their Party, to agree and sign the “Red List” as a gesture of sincerity and truth. Be prepared to explain the concepts of sincerity and truth, if needs be.
A dynamic government for a people who are not going anywhere somewhere
A dynamic government for a people who are not going anywhere somewhere

With regard to a programme for Government, then there should be a careful selection of choice items to appeal to the appetite of even the most jaded voter.

  1. A stop on capital movements out of the country must be put into effect immediately upon taking office and before any gougers consultants still left around the place on contract get a whiff of what’s in store, before the following items are leaked.
  2. Prominent or not-so-prominent citizens with Irish passports who hold offshore accounts and maintain a nominal home in Ireland should be requested to justify a renewal of their passports. A special designation of passport could be issued to such people and linked with their bank accounts. Legally, of course. ;-D <ROTGASM> New legislation, of course, will be required under the heading of austerity provisions.
  3. Pass special emergency austerity legislation to slash Dáil and Senate pensions to the national average.
  4. Cut all Dáil and Senate salaries and emoluments to a small multiple of the average industrial wage. They always say that it is a pleasure and an honour to serve their constituencies so be prepared for big smiles of gratitude when they are told of this.
  5. Instead of paying very doubtful travel expenses, issue all public representatives with a special free travel allowance smart-card that is operated on the basis of prepaid top-ups.This should make budgetary controls easier to enforce.
  6. Senators and T.D.s will no longer have need for constituency offices as more interaction will be encouraged under the arrangements indicated in item #6.A following.
  7. Use some of the money saved by these rationalisations (they are never to be referred to as cuts) to accelerate the training of front-line civil servants in customer service and counselling skills, thereby giving them new job enrichment prospects and wipe the smug smiles off the faces of their section heads.
  8. A-teams of the newly assigned civil servants (see remark above re customer service and counselling training) could be assigned locally to work with citizens on Interface Transactions (not to be shortened to I.T. for obvious reasons). These teams would report to an appropriate level in the civil service hierarchy but would also have a role in supporting T.D.s, so that the poor ould divils public representatives are kept “in the loop” and don’t feel completely cut off from their electorate but at the same time are not allowed to interfere in the processes of State. On second thoughts, a little office aide-memoire in bog-thick oak could be provided with the inspirational mantra “YOU are a legislator” (not pronounced “leg-is-later”) in green and gold letters in Roman Uncial on it.
  9. Introduce a national basic wage given to every citizen whose parents were sufficiently irresponsible to born them, including those seeking asylum or here, thereby removing the need for nasty and unpleasant jobs policing the unemployed, or preventing any unintentional effects being experienced by those held in prison-like conditions, alternative accommodation while awaiting deportation, citizenship, etc, etc.
  10. Each local authority should be given the following additional responsibilities and funded from central goverment sources for the following:
  11. A suitably-sized block of flats to be used for young couples who need accommodation but have not yet found a way of purchasing their own homes or getting on a council housing list.
    • It could be designed to allow some units to be used as hostel accommodation for the increased numbers of tourists who will throng to our shores to find out what the fcuk innovative ideas our communities are developing under our new system of participative democracy.
    • This accommodation could also be used for attendees at summer courses on local history, Irish culture, Irish lace-making, franchised sean-nós dancing, and local crafts, held at the premises mentioned above in item #5.B.

Do you get the idea, then? Good.

P.S. Be sure to get enough beers in to celebrate the Referendum results sometime in the small hours of tomorrow. One way or the other. I’m still positive about the results for the Greeks. Even after writing the above.

Simples, Even for meercats!

Austerity just for the craic!

It was once said of the Irish, that “all their wars were merry and all their songs are sad”. Without doubt many Irish ballads and sean-nós singing have a haunting air about them, expressing pain that is too difficult to describe in words, coming as it does from deeply hidden wells of history, of faded dreams, and of exploitation. There is also some substance in the allegation that our wars were merry. It is said that the ancient Celtic tribes of Europe went into battle naked, save for a helmet, a shield and a sword. When a captured Celtic chieftain was paraded before the all-conquering Alexander the Great whose empire once sprawled across the world then known to Europeans, Alexander is said to have asked him, with some grudging admiration, was there nothing that the Celts feared. After some thought the captive chief replied: “Every morning when I go out, I fear the sky is going to fall on my head!”.

I can empathise with that fear, living as I do in Ireland of the Austerities. Beleaguered citizens squeezed by the policies imposed by the Troika, the EU and the IMF as a corrective punishment are now suffering for sleepwalking into a world moulded by the fantasies of the Celtic Tiger years, “But we were only following our leaders. They told us we were wealthy, that we are the greatest little country in the world to do business in. Even foreignors told us the same. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of the money available? And sure, wasn’t it great while it lasted”. And yes, indeed, it was great for a small minority but a large majority were left blinded and crleft, one third died, one third remained, and for what? Is the same pattern to be repeated in the era of the Great Failure? If we don’t learn from the past, then it surely will be repeated.ippled like wounded, would-be warriors of a new and glorious age of prosperity. Little did we realise that we were but bit-part characters in a larger and grander narrative satisfying the egos of the few and providing a story line of their greed. The same leaders are now standing before us like insufferable senior students, toadying up to the Headmaster and Teachers, our betters, as they chide us for “losing the run of ourselves”. We must submit to punishment and take what we deserve.

It is heart-breaking to see and hear the deluge of stories from families and individuals who were caught up in that narrative. The stories of emigrations, of suicides, of financial destruction, of homes and families being pushed beyond their all too human limits are stirring a cauldron of memories. We are being haunted by memories of informers who ratted on our attempts at freedom, of leaders who fled the country leaving the detritus of dreams behind them, but worst of all, the spectre of the Great Famine is hanging over us, chilling our dreams. One third left, one third died, one third remained, and for what? Is the same pattern to be repeated in the era of the Great Failure? If we don’t learn from the past, then it surely will be repeated.

I remember from my studies when I worked on projects exploring leaders and leadership, individuals, groups and organisations, that the “power distance” between leader and followers is an important dimension in defining the effectiveness and behaviour of that leadership. Different countries show a wide variety of tolerance for that “power distance”.  It is a bit like social distance. I am reminded of a joke abut what would happen if a man and a woman were washed up on a desert island. If they were French they would make love; if they were Irish, the man would wander off looking for the local pub; and if they were English, nothing would happen because they hadn’t been introduced!

We Irish do not feel comfortable with leaders who are socially distant from us. We don’t do anonymity. It’s a small country and a dense web of relationships ensures that we don’t need to search far to find a relative or a rival. We distrust leaders who get above themselves and we are quick to wind them in. But when we feel close to them, we are too trusting about their decency and fairness towards us. This has led to an Irish political culture based upon connections and influence. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, it is the normal currency of human society. But our TDs (members of the Dáil) are committed to “stroke” politics and doing “turns” for their constituents, often in opposition to the rules governing our society. In a strange way, it is almost as if our representatives view our government as being in some way alien and not the real authority. That was true when we were colonised, with the King or Queen in London and our other monarch, the Pope, in Rome. For 800 years Irish people had no native symbols of authority other than a precarious and threatened tribal system.

The political  system demands, and is structured so that our representatives will not be re-elected if those norms are not met. Political policies are largely irrelevant in the face of “the catch cries of the clown”. We don’t do political philosophy either. We don’t really have an intellectual framework for discourse about who we are, what we want, and how we can achieve that state. It is a culture built upon activities and not on thinking. It is a culture that we have exported, most obviously to the New World (for Europeans, I hasten to add), where it thrived and spread through the gangs of NY and the Unions and Irish American politicians.

That culture is one of the main reasons why we are now suffering turmoil in trying to cope with our problems. We have known only a corrupted form of politics based upon the Civil War, that was manipulated by an over-bearing Church that interfered with political processes but forbade any questioning of their diktats. Small wonder that there is confusion and growing levels of violence in the streets. We lack a patois, a people’s language for political discourse. Pent up anger, frustration and fear is erupting in the throwing of insults and shouting confrontations with authority figures. It is not a pretty or re-assuring kaleidoscope of possibilities. Our Uachtarán (President) is a mild mannered intellectual, a poet, a champion against oppression in the Americas. This did not save him from an ignomious and hasty departure from an event in Dublin this week.

Unfortunately for Michael D., and I once knew him well enough to address his so, when we were colleagues in the Labour Party that once aspired to socialism, but yes, again I say unfortunately for him, he has had to compromise himself and his principles by lying down with dogs over too long a period. I am sure he hoped sincerely that he could achieve progress and change gradually and democratically. And he has done so but on the very limited palette of the arts where the colour red was verboten. Alas, but when one lies down with dogs, one gets up with fleas. He has been making obvious efforts to use any semblance of power left in his constitutional role as Uachtarán to good effect, but I believe that the New Labour Party of the Roses, that left Connolly’s Starry Plough to rust, merely threw a bone in the form of the Presidency to keep him out of the way and put a veneer of decency on their politically obscene groping with Fine Gael.

We are now in an increasingly precarious position in Ireland. The volume of protest and dissatisfaction is growing to a crescendo. A lot of energy is being generated but, whilst it is clearly directed at the single issue of the privatisation and commodification of water supplies, there is little sign of a new wave rising in Irish political life. Different groups are defining themselves in terms of activities and in so doing are attracting support from citizens who just want the pain to end. Shouting and screaming at the Garda Síochána, hurling abuse at politicians and at anyone who is seen as Other, and communicating in the short-hand of obscenities and spitting byte-sized gobs of abuse is no basis for forming a coherent policy of change. If the mass rallies planned for Jan 31 do not produce a tangible result and an agreed plan for further development of protest, then disillusion which is hovering in the wings, will take centre stage.

And now Syriza and Alexis Tsipras has burst upon the stage in Athens. Is this relative unknown to be a Greek hero in the mould of Athenian theatre, or a tragic figure, or ultimately an Icarus burning his wings in the flames when he challenges the Sun Gods of Finance and Politics. If nothing else he is focusing minds. He is making brave demands that are threatening to rattle the foundations of the European dream but then the Gods of Brussels feel sure they can swot this impudent Greek. Or can they? A lot will depend upon whether we in Ireland, and others in suffering countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy, not to mention the newbies from the former Soviet Union who were getting their first experiences of what might be theirs of right in future, whether we will find common cause and stand together with Greece. That requires leaders who have the courage and the vision to lead. It requires followers who are willing to work together in a consensus rather than fight over compromises. And, above all, it requires people who will not flinch when they look the opponent in the eyes. It looks like we are living in interesting times and whether that is a Chinese curse, or not, is for us to decide.