One of the Irish newspapers last week (I forget which but the reporter was Pat Leahy) had a revealing little vignette from the Donegal South West by-election — which was won by the Sinn Fein candidate, and in which the Fianna Fail vote collapsed. Leahy reported a conversation he had with a constituent in which he asked her how she intended to vote. She replied that she and all her family would be voting for Fianna Fail, the architects of the current economic catastrophe. “Why?” asked Leahy. “Because Mary Coughlan [Deputy Prime Minister and one of the other TDs [MPs] for the constituency] got my mother into hospital”.

This (and my own story about my father’s death) tells you all you need to know about Irish politics. Parish-pump politicians are not the kind of people you need to run a modern state.