Yesterday José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, announced the portfolio responsibilities for the next Commission. Several new portfolios were announced including Climate Action, Home Affairs and Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Barosso also reconfigured other portfolios including Education, Health and Consumer Policy and Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
Just a few random facts, not that facts are much in use nowadays. Certainly not facts that contradict the line of the economic and political establishments.
Fact One: Ireland is a very rich country, one of the richest countries in the world. Even allowing for a deeper contraction in the economy here in 2009 than elsewhere in the EU, our per capita income is still at least 10 per cent above the EU average. We are better off than countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece and very much better off than all the 12 new member states.
Around the corner from Dublin Castle, on Castle Street, are the delightful offices of Dublin Civic Trust.
In those offices are the decorations and artefacts rescued from one of the old delights of Dublin - the Irish House, a pub that used to stand at the corner of Winetavern Street and Wood Quay, and which was shamefully demolished by Dublin Corporation in 1968.
Professors of economics know as much about the future of economies as does Mary Coughlan. Perhaps they know even more if they are professors of economics at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Experts on banking know as much about rescuing the banks as does Mary Coughlan. A person who is both an international expert on banking and a professor of economics at the LSE therefore suffers from a triple disadvantage.
Unbelievable. Well, almost unbelievable. Though perhaps it is naive to find anything done by this government at all believable. But almost unbelievable is what Brian Lenihan has done this last few days on NAMA, the bank rescue agency. It is certainly unbelievable that other members of the cabinet knew what he was doing or if they did that they understood it. There is no way the Green Ministers could have approved of what happened, if they knew. Fianna Fail backbenchers never know what the government is up to so what’s new there? But did Brian Cowen know?
Two sturdy stalwarts of our time were on the national stage last week: bold, defiant and heroic - by their own lights, anyway. Both were defending national institutions in their care, without fear or favour. Well, without fear.
The first of these stalwarts was the phalanx of Fianna Fáil backbenchers who have defined contemporary Irish politics in a way that none of us commentators have succeeded in doing. Politics is now no longer about the great issues:
Enda Kenny is seeking attention with a plan at variance with one he flagged just recently.
On Saturday night last at what is called a Fine Gael “Presidential” dinner, Enda Kenny said: “We will shortly publish a report on the New Politics. But tonight I would like to focus on a few key areas where a Fine Gael government would introduce radical change. I believe the Seanad should be abolished, and the next Fine Gael government will put this to the people. I have come to the conclusion that a second house of the Oireachtas can no longer be justified.”
The Green Party is different. It does not try to fool the electorate, as other parties do. It fools itself. They actually believe that the morsels they got in the revised programme for government was “transformational”, rather than just another piece of clever Fianna Fáil condescension. The delusional Greens believe they are principled green egalitarians, rather than the reality: they are a crowd of flaky middle-class dilettantes, amusing themselves with the fantasy of power and the delights of its trappings.