One of my favourite writers is Francis Wheen, who gave us How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World and a well-received biography of Karl Marx.

I’m currently enjoying his overview of some of the darker aspects of the 1970s,  Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia. And in Chapter 12 I found highlighted a quotation from the Italian writer and political theorist Antonio Gramsci (1891 – 1937) which Wheen felt was apposite to Britain’s situation in the mid-Seventies:

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.”

It struck me that Ireland in 2010 is experiencing such symptoms, and we are perhaps in an interregnum of our own.  I live in hope that the era of corruption and incompetence (of which Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil was the paradigm) is coming to an end, and a more honest and mature society will evolve.  But in the meantime, we witness our own circus of “morbid symptoms”: the banking crisis, the property crash, NAMA, the rise of Labour, the bizarre success of Joe Higgins, and execrable politicians such as Willie O’Dea, John O’Donoghue, Ivor Callelly, Mary Coughlan and Brian Cowen.

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Stevie Wonder’s concert last night in Dublin got a favourable review in today’s Irish Times.  And I’m glad to read that there was a capacity audience.  This doesn’t surprise me as RTE Radio ran what was effectively a 5-minute promo for the concert during its key morning news show “Morning Ireland” yesterday, no doubt ensuring a last-minute rush to grab any unsold tickets.

This infomercial/plug was ostensibly about “Heritage Acts” who continue performing decade after decade; however it was heavily biased towards how wonderful last night’s show was expected to be.

This was a strange choice of item to have on the main radio news programme, and one that would be more suited to being a filler on one of the chat/magazine programmes that run during the day. As with so many things in Irish life that appear slightly odd, one is tempted to ask cui bono?

I’m usually a fan of Sarah Carey.  But I am having second thoughts after she wrote a most unfair (bitchy?) article about Richard Bruton in Wednesday’s Irish Times.  Fittingly for a piece in which she played the man instead of the ball, she headlined and introduced it with World Cup references.  The first paragraph gives a foretaste of the quality of what’s to follow:

Ladies, have you checked out the German manager with the porn-star good looks? Thick, shiny black hair, a chiselled jawline and that steel-blue T-shirt and jacket ensemble showcasing a well-toned torso.

But the really dodgy bit comes later when she discloses details of a one-on-one meeting she had with Richard Bruton.

It was so odd. He was as pleasant as you’d expect, but his body language was really disconcerting. He couldn’t look me in the eye. He shrank away from me. He rocked and fidgeted. When I say he adopted a defensive pose I don’t mean that he simply crossed his arms but he was actually hugging his knee, drawing it up to protect himself. From what? He knows who I am for heaven’s sake.

This is objectionable stuff, even if she thinks it’s an accurate portrayal of what she perceived (and I suspect some artistic license was used).  It’s also irrelevant, as her meeting was arranged to discuss Bruton’s policies in relation to banking issues, and not his schmoozing ability.  Maybe he didn’t fawn over her as much as she expected?  Maybe he was impervious to her (undoubted) charms?  Give me somebody of intellect and integrity any day, rather than a chancer who can effortlessly work a room and charm the pants off women;  we had enough of that with Charlie Haughey.

The meeting also presumably happened some time ago.  Moreover, Bruton’s demeanour on the day in question might have been caused by any number of factors, and he was entitled to assume that Carey was interested in the substance of the issues rather than presentation.  To some extent, the Kenny/Bruton battle was about this very issue,  substance over style.

The timing of Carey’s piece seemed calculated to hurt Bruton at a critical juncture in the run-up to yesterday’s parliamentary party confidence vote.  If somebody in the Kenny camp had wanted to plant an article to damage their opponent, they couldn’t have done much better than this.  However I have no doubt that Sarah Carey would not allow herself to be used in this manner, no matter who asked her, so I assume that she really does believe that Kenny is a better choice than Bruton as leader of the party she (presumably) supports.

Still, I’m struggling to explain why Carey was compelled to write such a personalised and damaging article about Kenny’s opponent.  Is there something I don’t know?

I had hoped that my previous public sighting of a stray apostrophe in a verb present tense was a once-in-a-lifetime horror (see this post, where we were alerted that “the Gate Theatre Celebrate’s [sic] Friel”). 

But the TV listings in today’s Irish Times suggests that this (laughable if it weren’t so tragic) solecism may actually be developing into an outbreak.  See below.  For God’s sake, if the once-great Irish Times doesn’t have a competent editor or proofreader on its staff, I suggest that they give me a call and I will do it in my spare time. 

Where will it all end….?

If , as some people are asserting,  Senator Callely fiddled his expenses and claimed tens of thousands of euros from the public purse to which he was not legally entitled, then surely this would go beyond “cute hoorism” and “stroke politics”?

Would we not be in the F-word territory? Fraud, that is to say.

And fraud is a criminal offense, requiring investigation by the Gardaí.

Just asking.