Fintan O’Toole (centre) as a boy

We Don’t Know Ourselves is the story of Ireland’s growth since the 1950s

Members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party and candidates at party’s think-in. Photograph: Fine Gael

Party’s self-perception as the paragon of propriety actually encourages bad behaviour

Polls have consistently shown that support for a United Ireland drops very sharply if the question comes with a real world qualification, like paying higher taxes to sustain it. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

The biggest mistake is to confuse what Irish people say they want with how they regard what happens in the real world

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: should beg Tom Keane to come back to the Sláintecare Advisory Council and invest him and his committee with the full authority of the Taoiseach’s department. Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography

Sláintecare debacle shows State lacks political will and sense of what to do

For people living in poverty, cash may be a much more effective mental health treatment than anything pharmacology has invented. Photograph: iStock

The lie that giving cash to poor people makes them lazy has been exposed by Covid

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney appears to have been destroying official records as a matter of routine. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Entitled Coveney and Varadkar behave lawlessly with information

Fintan O’Toole (left) and his brother Kieran, in the cassocks and surplices they wore as altar servers, with their siblings Mary, Valerie and Patrick

The brother’s incredulity released itself in a volcano of rage. ‘Who threw this?’

 Osama bin Laden hoped to lure the Americans into a long war in Afghanistan where they, too, would be defeated. Photograph: AP Photo

By dividing the world into bad guys and good guys, the US did bin Laden’s work

Sally Rooney photographed by Ellius Grace/New York Times

Review: Even when the characters in Rooney’s third novel are overwrought, her writing never is

Charlie Watts: The postwar expansion of art schools in England was driven by a wild idea: give working- and lower-middle-class kids who can’t or won’t go to university an alternative place to be. Photograph: Hayoung Jeon

Great explosion in English rock music was unintended result of art schools

 Cenotaph at Enniskillen with the devastated community centre in the background after it was hit by an IRA bomb. Photograph: PA

Sinn Féin seeks to exercise power on both sides of the Border. It must account for how it uses power

Scenes at  the Hamid Karzai International Airport: the disastrous defeat of the American and European mission in Afghanistan is a failure to sustain the western idea of progress in the face of   the Taliban’s certainty that time was on its side.   Photograph: EPA

Belief in inevitable progress is an illusion; as is the brutal fantasy of an eternal Islam

Fintan O’Toole: If I suggested that the State should spend an extra €50 billion over the next decade to eliminate consistent poverty, I would be laughed at. But we will spend at least that on the fiscal consequences of deprivation. Photograph: Tom Honan

Why fund the consequences of poverty instead of investing in its outright elimination?

Scorched forest on Evia, the second largest island of Greece, August 10th, 2021. The fires in northern Evia had destroyed more than 120,000 acres of pine forest, to date, razed homes and displaced hundreds of people. File photograph: New York Times

We are in charge of the planet, but not in control of ourselves

The EU country with the highest level of acceptance of the need to be vaccinated is Ireland. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The low level of anti-vaccine sentiment is a very good sign for our democracy

The Griffith Wood apartment complex under construction on Griffith Avenue in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A new development in the city is a microcosm of 250 years of control of land in Ireland

Ian Bailey  is the black hole of Irish journalism, sucking in attention and emitting nothing of any value. Photograph:   Michael Mac Sweeney/ Provision

There are 40 unsolved murders of women in Ireland since 1996. The obsession with one case is a way of avoiding this truth

People take the knee during a demonstration in support of Manchester United striker and England player Marcus Rashford in  Withington on July 13th. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Gareth Southgate’s team chose decency and dignity over the toxic ‘Ingerland’ identity

Then taoiseach  Albert Reynolds arriving at the beef tribunal in October 1992.  Photograph: Jack McManus

Once its hold on power evaporated, so did the party’s reason for existing

Raw sewage running into the Avoca river in Arklow, 2016

Our fecklessness with nature might be interpreted as a postcolonial hangover

Did Paschal and Leo dream, when they were nerdy kids, of hanging out with the bad boys of international finance? Photograph: EPA

Government is defending the indefensible on corporation tax by placing State in company of tax havens and rogue state

Last year Simon Coveney predicted: ‘Ireland, post this crisis, will be a different place.’

The political environment has changed radically but can the existing parties adapt to it?

From left,   Micheál Ó Seighin, Willie Corduff, Philip McGrath, Brendan Philbin and  Vincent McGrath – the five Mayo farmers jailed  for refusing to give an undertaking not to obstruct the construction of the Corrib gas pipe line. Photograph: Alan Betson

Twenty years ago, the State threw its full weight behind the coercion of small landowners

If you make people feel foolish for obeying the authorities in a crisis, they will be less inclined to do so when the next one arrives. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Vaccine programme has left people in their 60s exposed to the Delta variant

The proposed new national maternity hospital is to be co-located with St Vincent’s hospital in south Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Maternity hospital ownership is essential to end culture of deference

The immediate context for thinking more deeply about the need for a radical renewal is, of course, the pandemic. Graphic: Paul Scott

The pandemic has taught us that things we once thought impossible are achievable

Boris Johnson confronted Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit over the weekend: ‘How would you like it if the French courts stopped you moving Toulouse sausages to Paris?’. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Reversion to old postures of English belligerence is absurd but dangerous

Functions that are locally controlled in almost every other European country – policing, health and social care, schools – are in Ireland almost entirely controlled from the centre.

The lack of spending power at local level is an absence of power, full stop

Mother and baby homes protest at Phoenix Park: The procedure adopted by the commission re-victimised the women by depriving them of ownership even of their own testimony. File photograph:  Tom Honan

Flawed process deprives survivors of their stories and compounds injustice to them

 Boris Johnson  with his wife, Carrie Johnson, following their wedding at Westminster Cathedral,  in London. Photograph: Rebecca Fulton/ Downing Street via Getty

If only the institution had been as flexible for Henry VIII as it is for Boris Johnson

Covid-19 has been a ferocious stress test for the Government. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/Pool/AP

We need to look honestly at the mistakes and report quickly on the lessons to be drawn

If you are not confident working online, you are less likely to get a good job. File photograph: Getty

The lack of basic online skills in our population is now both a marker and a driver of social inequality

Performative victimhood has been at the heart of Brexit. File photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

London strategises gormlessness to avoid taking responsibility for its actions

The rules governing the use of expertise have not changed for good – they have been abolished. Photograph: iStock

It’s time for a government department devoted to counteracting inevitable threats

UK prime minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Matt Dunham/Pool/AFP via Getty

Ireland blindly followed Boris Johnson but failed to notice the game he was playing

A family member of Joan Connolly holds a photograph of Joan after the findings of the Ballymurphy inquest were revealed at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Tuesday. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

It is cruel and dishonest to pretend unsolved crimes will ever see justice in court

In an interview on RTÉ radio, columnist Eoghan Harris referred back to the 18th century to give his operation of the Barbara J Pym Twitter account a heroic prehistory. File photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Putting you name to your work is the most basic form of accountability

The Catholic Church has just published Flourish, a new programme for relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in primary schools

Government pretending it can create national curriculum that respects LGBTI+ sexuality

Edwin Poots:  If Northern Ireland ends up with a first minister for whom all the main scientific developments of the 19th and 20th centuries are bogus, the more excuse there is for British indifference. Photograph:  Edwin Poots/PA

If the earth is only 6000 years old, all the science of the last 200 years is bogus

 Edward Carson’s statue in the grounds of Stormont in Belfast. Photograph:  Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

The events of a century ago led to the creation of two sectarian states

Boris Johnson is not some dude with a big bong writing awful poetry at three a.m. It is, to use the word Johnson has so much trouble with, “actually” the voice of the sovereign government of Northern Ireland.  Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

When the British prime minister can’t be bothered to lie, he lapses into nonsense

The growth of higher education has been spectacular. File photograph: Getty

Education is our greatest asset, yet we produce it in an utterly haphazard way

Don’t get sucked into the vortex. Photograph: iStock

Learning to block out anonymous bitterness is a mental health imperative

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photograph: Cate McCurry/PA Wire

Unionism in disarray is dangerous, and tribalised glee at its plight is idiotic

Prince Philip in 2006 with the then president, Mary McAleese, for the presentation of the Gaisce Awards at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke

A ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ can be the essence of Britishness when it suits the story

Cairn Homes chief executive Michael Stanley cited what he described as a “mind-blowing statistic” that the home ownership rates among 25-39-year-olds is now down to about 12 per cent.  Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)

The great stabilisers of conservative Ireland – priests and property – are gone

John le Carré: the writer took out Irish citizenship, which he was able to claim through his maternal grandmother, at the end of his life. File photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images)

Up to half a million British people are becoming Irish citizens. They help us to recognise our own past

The Isle of Man has three times as many deaths from Covid-19 as Taiwan – in absolute numbers. Photograph: iStock

Racism has blinded us from learning how Asian countries save their citizen's lives

John le Carré was determined to remain a European citizen. File photograph: PA

One of the last photographs of author ‘is him sitting wrapped in an Irish flag’

The Beacon Hospital in Dublin. Coronavirus vaccine operations at the private hospital are to be suspended after it used spare doses to vaccinate teachers at a private school. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Beacon incident reflects how money, not need, is how we allocate access to healthcare

This has been a dark time, a time of grief, loss and impoverishment. But within it there have been discoveries of deeper bonds with our immediate families, of reconnection with nature. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Sign of the Times survey shows Covid-19’s profound influence on our lives and minds

Grafton Street in Level 5 lockdown. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

We have chosen not to properly track the virus. The result is endless lockdown

 Handwritten  and floral tributes to Sarah Everard  placed at Clapham Common in London. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Far more attention paid to gangland violence but domestic murders more common

The Davy cabal spotted the chance to make a quick killing out of the relics of our collective suffering and shame. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

They stuck in the knife of greed and arrogance when our wounds were raw

A lone pedestrian on the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, in early morning fog. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

We are at the top of Mount Misery and must endure, but forbearance is not always a virtue

Monitoring what the Government does is supposed to be one of the main jobs of the Oireachtas. Photograph: iStock

The State is not imposing a tyranny but, if it were, would the Dáil really notice?

If the virus was crushed in Ireland, it could return only if it was brought back in from somewhere else. This isn’t xenophobia or paranoia. It’s just logic. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Government’s dogged denial of danger posed by international travel remains bewildering

The National Archives of Ireland: there is a huge backlog  because there is nowhere to put the files, as well as no staff to assess and catalogue them.

Ireland fails to preserve the records that constitute public memory

President Michael D Higgins talks to Fintan O'Toole during their online interview. Photograph: Maxwell's

'It would be disastrous to recreate the conditions that preceded this,' he tells Fintan O'Toole

The Northern Ireland protocol is salvage from the shipwreck of Brexit. Photograph: iStock

Instead of using North for proxy wars, Britain and EU need to get back to living with ambiguity

Joe Biden. Photograph: Doug Mill/New York Times

Donald Trump boasted of not having started a war. But he did: a war on nature

A study last summer found that one in 10 parents of primary schoolchildren in Ireland lacked an appropriate digital device for home schooling. Photograph: iStock

If a government moves classes online, it is its duty to ensure every student can access digital learning

Two women  on an almost deserted Henry Street in Dublin.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

In the fight against Covid, the wisdom of the crowd has been proven right

We now know  how to crush the virus while we wait for mass vaccination to take effect.  Photograph: Johnny Milano/Bloomberg

There’s a script for what works, so Ireland should stop improvising


Dublin’s inner city could soon become a ghost town – or reoccupied as a living public space

Passengers at Dublin airport as the Cabinet met on Monday to discuss tightening travel restrictions. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Openness is so fundamental to us that we have failed to shut off the island from danger

US President Joe Biden delivers his inauguration speech on January 20th 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

It’s no Gettysburg Address, but the inaugural speech walked the line between honesty and optimism

The church had the monopoly on damnation and salvation. The  mother and baby homes  were the outward sign of this inward terror. Photograph: iStock

There was no ‘society’ separate from the church’s power to inflict damnation

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: what no one really anticipated was that the Scottish Question would create the English Question. Photograph: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Brexit could help Scotland’s first minister over some of the obstacles to independence

Donald Trump: last week’s testing of the market suggests that he has a hard core of tens of millions of followers now fully committed to the destruction of American democracy. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

If Trump is not impeached and prosecuted for subversion he still has good chance of winning

‘If you think of the many and terrible ways in which trust has been abused and betrayed in Ireland over the last two decades, there is something precious in our willingness to keep doing so.’

The State has issued a vast IOU drawn on the bank of public trust

Protestors climb the Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday. Photograph: Jason Andrew/ New York Times

This was not a rush of blood to the head. It is the logic of a post-democratic Republican Party

A view of Dublin city centre  on Sunday. The urge to downplay the grimness of what we have to endure has lessened the rewards of lockdown. Photograph: Tom Honan

Public losing faith in empty promises that pain will be matched by gain

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican: after our mass experiment in sensory deprivation, our senses should be keener and sharper. Photograph: Lucas Schifres/Getty

The pandemic usurped the artist in 2020. But live performance has long proved resilient

British prime minister Boris Johnson: “his bluster managed to unite the continent against British interests”. Photograph: Paul Grover/AFP via Getty Images

Dilemma of continental influence that led Britain to join EU returns as it leaves

The big question to be answered about Donald Trump is why he did not do two things that might have seemed obvious: infrastructure and war. File photograph: Getty

2020 in review: Donald Trump will continue to unleash racism, nativism and a fear of government

This Christmas, we are all following a star of hope towards some place outside of the world as we have known it in 2020. Photograph: iStock

It seems that the virus is playing a cruel game with our efforts to do the right thing

UK prime minister Boris Johnson attendiing the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images

Don’t gloat at Britain, the once-powerful free country that has made itself weak

There is nothing in your life so important that you can’t find 15 minutes to read to your child. Photograph: iStock

Two-thirds of Irish children are not read to at home. This is not progress

Boris Johnson: Britain is left  facing an  excruciating choice he can  no longer avoid. It either destroys its trading relationship with its largest partner. Or it accepts  being bound by rules it has no voice in making. Photograph:  Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

British premier can concede to the EU or foist pain on the most vulnerable

Brexit talks dragged on because Johnson’s regime has been playing its own game

The IRA attack killed 20 British soldiers and a tourist was also killed as the Paras returned fire on  August 27th, 1979. Photograph: Sunday Mirror/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

The British, loyalists and Sinn Féin each have their reasons for distorted storytelling

If you’re born in a body that does not match your deep sense of self, the notion that you can change your body may be, literally, a lifesaver. It is both a necessity and a joy.

Trans people’s enemy is patriarchy, not feminism

Vaccination against Covid-19 has been developed and is being tested. File photograph: iStock

Vaccine suspicion has a long-standing imaginative power that’s hard to overcome

Labour has had a Bill outlawing so-called “revenge porn” before the Oireachtas since 2017, going nowhere. Now, it’s suddenly urgent and the Government is promising action. File photograph: iStock

In a fast world, our slow government gradually digests issues it swallowed years ago

 UK prime minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

The crises of 2016 posed huge difficulties for Ireland but have left us in a better place

Dominic Cummings should have gone in May, when his contemptuous breach of lockdown restrictions was revealed. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

Collapse of Vote Leave gang not timely enough to save Brexit-addled Britain

Joe Biden pauses during a campaign speech. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Haunted by intimate and public grief, he is the most Gothic figure in US politics

US president-elect Joe Biden “knows that the future does not belong to him. But with his late, last reiteration of the Kennedy moment, a part of the past does.” Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

US president-elect is a second coming of the lost moment of the Kennedys

Joe Biden. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Trump is not going anywhere, and Biden cannot proceed as if democracy is saved

People colour in an electoral map during a US presidential election watch party at the US embassy in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, today.  Photograph: Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir/AFP/Getty

Trumpism is alive and kicking – and openly contemptuous of democracy

President Donald Trump invades the inner rooms, occupies the remote cloisters of our interior selves. Photograph: Jim Rassol/AP Photo

The president’s success in forcing himself into our thoughts will be his downfall

US president Donald Trump arrives for a rally at the Des Moines International Airport. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

What is at stake when the US votes on Tuesday? Almost everything

Knock, knock. Who’s there? The garda. The garda who? Photograph: iStock

Passing a law on house parties that clearly cannot be enforced erodes public authority

US president Donald Trump’s campaign now consists primarily of showing himself to his people and inviting them to bask in the wonder of his resurrection. Photograph: Gene J Puskar/AP

The same cannot be said for the 220,000 Americans the virus has killed so far

Barbara and Maeve's wedding, Tinakilly Country House, Rathnew, County Wicklow, 2019. Photograph: © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Martin Parr’s work portrays socio-cultural shift from conformism

Dr Tony Holohan and team at a Covid -19 update press conference. ‘It is not the job of Nphet or of the Expert Advisory Group to make decisions. That’s the Government’s job – the experts advise and recommend, the Government chooses.’ Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

We are bumbling along with ad hoc arrangements created in a panic last March

The rate of US coal industry’s decline under Donald Trump has been much steeper than it was under Obama. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President who promised to bring back coal oversaw its steepest ever decline

“We don’t just have two economies – we also have two very different stories about Irish society.” File photograph: Getty

Covid pandemic is amplifying divisions inherent in having two different economies

US president Donald Trump removes his face mask at the White House on Monday after returning from the Walter Reed medical centre, where he underwent treatment for Covid-19. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

If Aids was Trump’s Vietnam, Covid-19 is his director’s cut of Apocalypse Now

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