Still waiting . James Reilly at a 2011 press conference committed to abolishing the HSE by 2016 and delivering a Dutch style universal health insurance system.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

Anyone who’s ever had children will remember the moment. You walk into a room and find your lovely three-year-old radiating bliss. He looks at you and(...)

 Brian Friel at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Near the end of one of Brian Friel’s greatest plays, Translations, the old schoolmaster Hugh, whose world has fallen apart, proposes an ironic toast: (...)

Portrait of the artist: Brian Friel in one of Colin Davidson’s portraits of the late playwright

The boy, in this memory, is about nine years old, and his father is in his early 40s. It is summer in the beautiful Donegal village of Glenties, where(...)

Deep in thought: Brian Friel in Dublin in 1980, at the Gate Theatre opening of his play Translations. Photograph: Tom Lawlor

(...) house farther into Donegal, in Greencastle. Fintan O’Toole The first thing I wanted to ask you was(...)

"The sleight-of-hand is more Tommy Cooper than Penn and Teller". Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

If you got a euro every time you turned on the radio or opened a newspaper to be told that Ireland has one of the most progressive tax systems in t(...)

The cast of the 2001 production of Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark at the Abbey Theatre

In the same year, 1959, that John B Keane’s Sive won the main prize at the All-Ireland amateur drama festival in Athlone, a brilliant one-act play cal(...)

The key to this extreme inequality, even by the miserable standards of the contemporary world, is education.

If you want to understand why inequality is so deeply rooted here, you have to get your head round a paradox: Ireland is outstandingly good at punishi(...)

‘Unlike most of the other unknown knowns, the doublethink on abortion is fully institutionalised. It’s written into law. On the one hand, a woman has a constitutional right to travel abroad to get an abortion. On the other, if she performs the very same act in Ireland she and her doctor and anyone who has helped her are all liable to 14 years in prison.’ Photograph: Getty Images

We don’t know ourselves. We talk, of course, relentlessly. There’s scarcely a donkey in the country with hind legs – they’ve all been talked off. And(...)

 Charlie Kelleher and Tom Vesey  in ‘Sive’ by John B Keane. Photograph: Dermot Barry

In John B Keane’s first and most famous play, Sive, which he wrote when he was a 30-year-old publican recently returned to his native Listowel, in Co (...)

‘It’s a pity that the discussion of the Fennelly report has focused so much on the mysteries of the Taoiseach’s behaviour.’ Above, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

A few years ago, a beer company had an ad campaign that appealed rather brilliantly to the Irish psyche. It was based on the idea that whenever you(...)