Danny McCoy of Ibec has issued a warning about the shrinking of the State. Photograph: Alan Betson

Even the business community recognises our public sector is currently too small

In the general election exit poll, housing was by far the biggest issue for people under 35; health drew level with it for those between 35 and 50; and for the 50- and 60-somethings, health was far ahead of housing. Photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Time not on side of electorate in terms of housing and health

Mary Lou McDonald with fellow Sinn Féin TDs at Leinster House on Thursday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Sinn Féin leader has a talent for intimacy, but she remains utterly mysterious

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at the RDS count centre on Sunday after she was re-elected in the general election. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Behind the election’s radical result is a desire to make the Irish system ordinary

Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald celebrates with her supporters after she takes the Dublin Central constituency on the first count Ben Stansall/AFP

It may be days before the allocation of Dáil seats is complete but we know this: the old political system is finished

Stephen Parlato of Colorado protests outside the US Capitol in Washington.  Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

The acquittal of Donald Trump without a real trial puts the US on the road to autocracy

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and party members at a press conference in Dublin on Sunday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A real democratic alternative has to include the biggest party of radical change

'In the ultimate irony, Brexit has ceased to be a release from the EU and has become a release from itself.' Photograph: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Brexit as advertised – all the benefits of being in the EU, none of the costs – was a fantasy

Most people would be much better off being treated in local primary-care centres rather than going to A&E departments. Photograph: Alan Betson

Political parties must be honest about what it takes to get real fiscal prudence

The problem is that this unity of national purpose functions within a nation that does not actually exist: non-metropolitan England and parts of English-speaking Wales. Photograph: iStock

Issue of a populist project without a people, nationalist project without a nation remains

We are invited to choose between the outgoing Taoiseach and the outgoing leader of the Opposition who has kept him in power. We are offered two mildly different flavours of the same centre-right politics of continuity. And if anything, the differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are narrower than they have even been in the almost century-long history of Civil War politics. Photograph: Alan Betson

We have devised the most risk-averse political system in the democratic world. But more of the same is no longer the safe bet

How would Ireland cope with the loss of its corporation tax bonanza? That’s just one of the big questions that will challenge the next government. Photograph: Alan Betson

In choosing a government, we should think of the major challenges between now and 2025

The main parties don’t have a very high opinion of our aspirations. They think we’re lying when we claim to want a better society. How do we know this? Just follow the money. File photograph: Alan Betson

Our politicians think we are not interested in long-term policies. The election will test if their cynicism is justified

Sir Hamer Greenwood, chief secretary for Ireland, inspecting the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC)

Are Ireland’s wars truly over? For some people, there is still a hierarchy of victims

US law gives Donald Trump as president sweeping powers to attack whoever he “determines” planned, authorised, committed or aided the 9/11 attacks. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP

False claim of involvement in 9/11 attacks used to justify Suleimani assassination

A new era is coming, much faster than the previous ones, whether we choose it or not. Illustration: Getty

Can we decarbonise the global economy? Will democracy die? Could Ireland unite?

 Varadkar  has no interest in or understanding of the lives of people who work in low-paid jobs – to merit his concern one must “pay a lot of tax”.  Photograph: Getty Images

The Taoiseach’s campaign for the election will revive his catchphrase about ‘people who get up early in the morning’

Year in Review: 2019 was a year of lots of extraordinary activity but not much movement

Behind Christmas and Craciun and Noël and Nollaig, there is that universal experience of trying to get a baby to sleep

Embedded in the Nativity is the universal human experience of being cared for

No Child 2020: Ireland, as one of the richest societies in the world, can provide for every child. But we are failing in that duty

There was some progress on child poverty in 2019, but many of the problems grew worse

The Decade in Culture: t’s up to us to reclaim the private self from Google and Facebook

Boris Johnson on the steps of 10 Downing Street. If it was not already blindingly obvious after the election results came in on Friday morning that the political settlement on these islands is in serious danger of unravelling, it sure is now. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The fragile UK is now in the hands of a man with the touch of a chicken strangler

Boris Johnson presents a 21st century postmodern version of this “theatrical show of society”. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Key voters know the British PM is a liar but they choose to collude with the spectacle

If Jeremy Corbyn cannot say what he believes on Brexit, voters cannot believe him on all the other things he cares about. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty

It is tragic that a potentially transformative moment for Britain depends on this man

Unless something dramatic happens in the UK election, Julian King will be the last British member of the EU Commission. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty

The departure of the last UK member of the EU commission has poignancy for Ireland

Ajai Chopra of the IMF in Dublin. Illustration: Eoin Coveney

A German official admits the cruel cuts imposed on Ireland were unnecessary

Kids who are comfortably polylingual are much more at ease with Irish than those who live in a monolingual English world. Photograph: iStock

Blanchardstown school turns coping with 51 languages into a new way of teaching

For both mean and women the relationship between wealth and time moves rigidly in lockstep: the better off you are, the more years you get

People in the top layer of Irish society get five years more of life than those at the bottom

“It’s all ‘heritage’ now.” Bottle kiln beside a canal as a barge passes in Stoke-on-Trent, England. File photograph: iStockPhoto

In Leave heartlands, people must decide if Brexit dream still worth sacrificing all else for

US president Donald J. Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the East Room of the White House in Washingto. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

The facts of the Ukrainian scandal are utterly damning, but that won’t matter

Jeremy Corbyn and Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Brian Lawless/AFP via Getty

Party’s voters have a right to know on what terms abstentionism might be abandoned

A lorry at the Border town of Carrickcarnon has a slogan marked on it during a protest by anti-Brexit campaigners Borders Against Brexit. File photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/|Reuters

In backing Ireland on the Border, the EU has been acting in its own interests too

Never before in our history (indeed in all of human history) have children been given access to unlimited amounts of extreme pornographic imagery. Photograph: iStock

We are doing something to our kids that has never been done before

A Syrian family living in direct provision. Six months in limbo is fine – if you’re warm and safe and fed, you can put up with it. But this was always a lie. Ireland never had a system for processing applications for asylum fairly within six months. Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Direct provision is based on the lie that even if the experience is miserable, it will be short

Gay Byrne in 1979: He was everybody and no one. File photograph: Eddie Kelly

There is no other country in which light entertainment could lead into such dark territory

Back to the future; forward to the past – Brexit has a way of defying linear time. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Brexit will never be laid to rest. It may even be destined to meander on forever

Nguyen Thi Phong and Pham Van Thin, mother and father of Pham Thi Tra My, who is believed to be among the 39 people found dead in a container truck in southeastern England, in their home in Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province, Vietnam. Photograph: EPA/STR

Migrant workers, like our ancestors, are heroes and heroines of the global economy

“Boris Johnson’s breath-taking reversal of his previous position on the idea of a Northern Ireland-only backstop makes October 10th, 2019 – the day of his meeting with Leo Varadkar in Wirral – a watershed in British and Irish history.” Photograph: PA

English nationalism is changing the political architecture of these islands

 Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson: Has struck a terrible deal for the people of Britain – it opens the way to a hard-right, radically deregulated version of Brexit.  Photograph: PRU/AFP

Deal with Brussels limits damage to Ireland by increasing damage to Britain

A file image of DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds leaving 10 Downing Street.  The party has foolishly trusted Boris Johnson. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Northern Ireland will be in the United Kingdom by law, but European Union by fact

 Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson waves as he speaks in the House of Commons in London on Monday. Photograph: UK parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit/AFP via Getty Images

Brexit deal depends on Britain restoring disinterest towards Northern Ireland

Minister for Finance Paschal O’Donohue at Government Buildings on budget day last year. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Rules that shape budget are part of disastrous response to banking crisis

‘Brexit is not a soap opera. It is admittedly quite a show and, up to a point, entertaining: a camp performance with its own peculiar blend of farce and tragedy.’  Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

If only the scriptwriters could kill off half the cast, or pretend it was all just a bad dream

 British prime minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on Thursday. Photograph:  Peter Summers/Getty Images

British government has broken its own solemn legal and political commitments

Boris Johnson at the annual Conservative Party conference, on Monday. You don’t need a minister for the union if the union is just going about its prescribed business of existing. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The British PM declared himself minister for the union – a sure sign it’s in trouble

The climate activist is incapable of blocking out truths the rest of us prefer not to think about

There are many possible measures of success – the satisfaction of customers, the wellbeing and prosperity of employees, the reduction in carbon emissions, the company’s contribution to society.  The one that Ryanair and Michael O’Leary have reinforced (“shareholder value”) is increasingly understood even within corporate capitalism as poisonous. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Revolt against staggering bonus shows culture of ‘incentives’ running out of road

Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker. Photograph: Julien Warnand

A version of the Northern Ireland-only backstop would be a triumph of Irish diplomacy

Irish Government should make a clear commitment to bring corporate taxation out of the shadows. Photograph: Andy Wong/File/AP

Government should withdraw the appeal and apologise to our neighbours

Role reversal: British prime minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at Government Buildings, Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

There is far too much at stake to take any pleasure in this bizarre political reversal

Greta Thunberg: It is patronising to be surprised that 15- or 16-year-olds can be clear-minded and articulate and breathtakingly courageous. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP Photo

With adults such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson acting like children in high office, children are providing leadership

UK prime minister Boris Johnson meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Government Buildings during his visit to Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fintan O’Toole: Johnson’s stock of trust is fatally low, not least in Dublin

 British prime minister Boris Johnson visits a farm in Scotland on Friday.    Johnson’s last resort, of course, is to try to create through a general election a parliament in his own image.  Photograph:  Andrew Milligan/Getty Images

Boris Johnson’s Brexit ploy has always been innately absurd

No Child 2020: the Government should start to get rid of the biggest waste of resources: child poverty

No Child 2020: Nothing could be more financially prudent than eliminating child poverty

One thing that still unites the warring factions in England is the belief that Westminster is “the mother of all parliaments”. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga

Britain’s democracy is built on feudalism and its unwritten constitution is feeble

An anti-Brexit and anti-Border sign  in the  Bogside  in Derry. File photograph

Regime change may be forced on us but we must handle it with skill and generosity

The French phrase l’esprit de l’escalier signifies the moment at the bottom of the staircase when you think of what you should have said as you were leaving. The Brexiteers have not yet decided what they should have said in June 2016. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

If a united Ireland is on the horizon a decent departure from the UK must be planned

Harland & Wolff shipyard showing one of the twin cranes in the background. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The unthinkable 20 years ago is becoming ordinary. Our fragile reality must not be destroyed

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and vice president Michelle O’Neill at a Brexit protest in Belfast last week. Beneath their opposition to Brexit lies the belief that the worse Brexit is, the quicker we will have a Border poll. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Three political groups waiting for a no-deal Brexit, each with an odd vision of aftermath

Boris Johnson: his  Brexit campaign statement that the UK sends  “£350 million a week to the EU” is the subject of a prospective court case. Photograph: Steve Back/Getty Images

A bold move by Sinn Féin can transform the dynamics of power at Westminster

Adare Manor Golf Club: The Ryder Cup will be only mighty. We will look at ourselves at the end of it and ask  “aren’t we a great little country all the same?” Photograph: Getty Images

The day the Ryder Cup was funded by Government, plans for Parnell Square's cultural quarter collapsed

Boris Johnson: has always been able to deal with facts he does not like by inventing his own ones. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

The PM doesn’t do detail, but the details of Brexit are people's lives

Boris Johnson represents ‘a complete absence of principle and an endless capacity for mendacity’. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Who better than the next British PM to sell a withdrawal agreement tweak as a win?

Britain’s prime minister Theresa May with England’s captain Eoin Morgan holding the World Cup trophy after beating New Zealand the final. Photograph:  Niklas Halle’n / AFP/Getty Images

The Irish captain of England's triumphant cricket team knocked xenophobia for six

Yes votes at the referendum count in the RDS. The 2004 referendum “effectively amended not just the Constitution but also the Belfast Agreement”. File photograph: Joe St Leger

Amendment on citizenship shabbily undermines key provision of 1998 deal

The point was not to get to the moon but to return from its great desolation,  to come back to this astonishing Earth. Photograph: SSPL/Getty Images

What moved me as a child in 1969 wasn’t the moon landing but the dramatic splashdown

Back in 2016, British prime minister Theresa May  with then foreign secretary Boris Johnson and then secretary of state for exiting the European Union David Davis (left): Chris Patten in a foreword to Cook’s book describes Davis as “breezy, open, amiable, lazy and incompetent”. Photograph:  Peter Nicholls

Chris Cook’s book paints UK swing to political and administrative incompetence

Cattle on the outskirts of Kilkenny. Photograph Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

If the Irish beef industry is to fight off competition from Brazil, it has to be more credible in its claims to the moral high gro(...)

Former British prime minister David Cameron: his egotistical capriciousness allowed the Leave campaign to offer a pure negative: vote for what you don’t want (EU membership). Photograph:  Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Brexit is, in its own mad way, a version of that great British tradition, heroic failure

John Wayne (left), Maureen O’Hara, Sean McClory and Charles Fitzsimons on the set of 'The Quiet Man', directed by John Ford, circa 1952 in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Piety about rural values never did anything to stop the receding tide of depopulation

It was Trieste that gave Joyce the sheer cosmopolitan energy that he infused back into the native city he had left in disgust, making it not the dull provincial nowhere he had fled but, in his reimagining, a European metropolis.

Why England and Ireland take vastly different approaches to the Continent

Former minister  Ray Burke arriving at the Flood tribunal in Dublin Castle, November  2001. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Tough new perjury laws contrast starkly with years of impunity for senior public figures

Boris Johnson embodies more than anyone else the weirdly performative nature of Brexit as a jolly jape with real and awful consequences. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Johnson gets away with unabashed lying because he shifts between joker and politician

The Abbey: Ireland’s national theatre. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

If the national theatre is not world class or keen on Ireland’s dramatic canon, what is it for?

Conservative leadership hopeful Michael Gove leaving BBC Broadcasting House in London after appearing on Sunday’s  Andrew Marr show.  Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The coked-up rant in Michael Gove’s Belfast Agreement pamphlet makes more sense now

If Trump were to get his way and the EU were to fall apart, we would have to grovel before him in a way that would make the pimping out of the British royals look dignified. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty

Diplomatic niceties should not blind us to the US president’s aggressive designs

Morrissey has given support to Brexit, and the far-right party For Britain

Morrissey was once an Anglo-Irish critic of Britishness, but he is now a far-right icon

Maria Bailey. Listening to the Fine Gael TD being interviewed by Seán O’Rourke was like watching a clutch of ducklings waddle into the blades of a combine harvester. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg

The Irish neck is both very soft and as leathery as an equestrian’s undercarriage

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: It has taken 10 years for the statute of limitations on past failures to  come into force. The party cannot blow this second chance. Photograph:  Aoife Moore/PA

Old political order is in doldrums but disruptive challenge to it is all over place

Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) to Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart): ‘. . . it appears that terrorism is an effective way to promote political change’.

Star Trek predicted Irish unification in 2024. It’s not inconceivable the series was right

School students in Athens take part in a demonstration to raise awareness about climate change. Photograph: Getty Images

Our MEPs have a dire record on climate change. We must put it at top of EU agenda

 Joe Biden seems to have the quality that more exciting candidates are said to lack: electability. Photograph: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Democrats have to excite the small but decisive group who voted for both Trump and Obama

We have a ruling culture that has already forgotten everything that happened so recently. It has “moved on” into a bland technocratic desert where thinking about all big public projects is outsourced because that way no one has to take responsibility for the public good.  Photograph: Getty Images

Broadband plan designed by same firm, KPMG, that failed to raise alarm about banks

Nothing to sing about?: 10-year-old Mona Abdulmagid (foreground of montage) takes part in the the Ireland Palestine Alliance’s boycott-Eurovision campaign. Last year’s winner was the Israeli singer Netta Barzilai (background)

Israel has used the song contest to present itself as a normal European society

 Secretary of state for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley: When she volunteered that she took the job not knowing nationalists did not vote for unionists, she was revealing an ignorance that is not, alas, outstanding. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Irish history appears to be a mystery to much of Britain’s intellectual elite

Fintan O’Toole: ‘The courtesy of calling people by their own chosen names, individual and collective, is essential both to civil society and to basic human decency.’ Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty

Transgender rights are human rights. They don’t require a hierarchy of victimhood

Mary Lou McDonald: Sinn Féin’s position is to be “heartily sorry” for “those who were hurt by the IRA”, but not to be one bit sorry for the “armed struggle” in which they were hurt. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

Sinn Féin no longer accepts the legitimacy of crypto-fascist ‘republicanism’, but it won’t disavow it either

Ireland: what do we do now, now that we are happy? Illustration: iStock/Getty

The 2019 Sign of the Times survey shows an Ireland more anxious and divided than it seems

While the crimes uncovered in scandal after scandal were committed under the auspices of the church, the State and society are guilty at a minimum of ‘failure of duty, delinquency’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Shame at the abuse of children in Irish institutions has achieved nothing

Heinrich Böll in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, in 1971. Photograph: Gordon Standing

Fascism has no safe dose – it is in ordinary conversations that toxic ideas are checked

Mary Cregan: her descriptive prose is potent and vivid yet so restrained

Mary Cregan’s personal history is gripping, but she also interrogates her depression

A highly educated young generation has little hope of being as well off as its parents. Photograph: Alan Betson

Political middle-ground depends on middle-class way of life that is ever further out of reach

Kirstjen Nielsen with Donald Trump, who dismissed her as  secretary for homeland security despite the fact that she  fully implemented his successful testing of the most basic human boundaries. Photograph: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last year’s trial run for fascism was a success. Now the policy is being refined

The old country: performers during a scene showing a pre-industrial rural England as part of  the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

The distance between the gloriously bonkers opening ceremony of the London Olympics and the sourness of Brexit is not as great as (...)

The Third Policeman: the secret key to another long-running drama in which everyone is lost and everything begins to look a lot like hell: Brexit.

O’Brien’s The Third Policeman – with its unending, hellish plot – is the Brexit Code

European chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier with  Simon Coveney:  The aura of competence that surrounds the Irish State when it is facing outwards evaporates when it is turned towards its own internal problems. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Why do politicians seem so competent on international stage, and so incompetent at home?

Donald Trump: quickly claimed Mueller’s findings meant complete and total exoneration for him. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Special counsel’s findings look great for the US president, until you consider the long-term

Game of Thones: Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in the Battle of the Bastards

Spectacular TV fantasy dramatises climate change, globalisation and political disorder

A lorry driving near Dundalk: The question for all of us on this island is,  what else can make those who see themselves as British feel at home in Ireland? Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

When even The Spectator is playing Give Ireland Back to the Irish, how can people in Northern Ireland hold on to a British identit(...)

A group of  officials attending a meeting of the Congress of Vienna, in  Austria. Photograph:  De Agostini/Getty Images

The British are creating in reality the thing they feared in their paranoid fantasies

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