British prime minister Theresa May returns inside 10 Downing Street, following her statement after she survived an attempt by Tory MPs this week to oust her with a vote of no confidence.  Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Unless it escapes from this mess now, Britain will be locked into a decade of political crises

Comic capers: “The terms and conditions of Brexit now look like they were written by the Marx Brothers.” File photograph: Getty Images

Fintan O’Toole: Brexit looks like it was written by Marx Brothers

Protest meeting in 1918 in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, against conscription in Ireland. In April that year,  Lloyd George’s government had given itself the power to extend conscription to Ireland. Photograph: Photo12/UIG/Getty Images

In an act of peaceful secession, Irish people chose to be citizens, not subjects

Do we have to see children being tear-gassed on the US-Mexico border before we believe that a slide into authoritarianism is under way?  Do we have to crucify Christ in every generation before we can understand our own capacity for cruelty? Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Fintan O’Toole: Why must we experience the worst before we can believe in it?

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s Brexit. Illustration: Angelo McGrath (with apologies to Jamie Reid)

The UK’s decision to leave the EU is like living through the anarchy of punk all over again

The expedition has now arrived simultaneously at Cape Disappointment, Delusion Point and Exasperation Bay. Photograph: iStock

HMS Brexit moored between Cape Disappointment, Delusion Point and Exasperation Bay

Up Yours Delors: the pantomime image is a distinctive genre of English fiction. One of the tragedies of Brexit is that it will become redundant

Brexit is the outcome of decades of spoofery by Britain’s media

File photograph: Boris Johnson speaking at a rally for the Vote Leave organisation during the Brexit referendum campaign on March 11th, 2016 Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

To get to Brexit, a society has to dream itself into an unexperienced condition

Theresa May gives a statement at Downing Street. It is easier to keep pretending that, if only May had stuck it to the Europeans in the negotiations, the perfect have-cake/eat-cake Brexit would have been delivered. Photograph:  Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty

A truly patriotic politician would now ask the British people again if this is what they really want

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley, who said: “I didn’t understand things like when elections are fought, for example, in Northern Ireland – people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa.” Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Future chroniclers will in fact have to distinguish between three kinds of ignorance

(Original Caption) 'Germany: World War I Armistice: Officers celebrate at captured German canteen.' In reality, the industrial nature of the slaughter destroyed all the notions of individual heroism and chivalry.

A century after the Armistice of 1918, we are still living in the world it created

 U.S. President Donald Trump gestures at a campaign rally on the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Success in the Senate race consolidates his control of conservative America

Theresa May:  it is crucially important that she  is allowed her Dunkirk moment. Photograph: Getty Images

It is vital that May is allowed to save face even as she performs the great Brexit climbdown

Illustrator: Fuchsia MacAree

Capital ideas: Irish architecture is part of the solution to a major social problem

‘Hysteria can turn moral decency into hatred, and hatred can make monsters of us all.’ File photograph: David Sleator

Avoiding hatred is not about being nice to Travellers but about preserving democracy

  Peter Casey decided to save his floundering campaign by picking at the scab of Ireland’s deepest prejudice. Photograph:   Collins

Casey’s rivals, to their credit, did not follow by picking scab of Ireland’s deepest prejudice

Murdered: the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2010. Photograph: AFP/Getty

The deal with Saudi Arabia has always been: everything’s fine as long as the oil flows

Áras an Uachtaráin: I would not trade any of our recent presidents for all the crowned heads of Europe. Photograph: Frank Miller

As a Republic we can be proud we elect presidents of eloquence and gravity

Let us consider the following scenario. In order to come to power, Jeremy Corbyn agrees a pact with the SNP. But he is still three seats short. Photograph:  Leon Neal/Getty Images

It’s time to think about the unthinkable – a disintegrated UK, a reignition of the Troubles

Any unionist with a stim of wit would understand that Northern Ireland’s future in the union depends on the Remainers. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The little Englanders the DUP has aligned with have no desire to subsidise the North

Crumlin housing project. File photograph: Tony Linck/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Millions of us grew up in local authority houses. We are no worse than anyone else

Former Garda commissioner  Martin Callinan. “We are drawn by Charleton into a world where we cannot trust appearances. We could not trust the person, Martin Callinan, who had the job of keeping us safe.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Only enduring comfort of this moral tale is that it has a hero in Maurice McCabe

The Minister for Finance delivering Budget 2018. Paschal Donohue today, like all of his modern predecessors, is so busy making sure the ship is not sunk by gross inequality that he can barely think about the course of the voyage. Photograph: Alan Betson

Ireland’s finances are worse than other countries in four key ways

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, earlier this week: the image of the “blood red line” was not in good taste, but it was revealing. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

When it’s all over, what will be left for Northern Ireland to be united with?

 Judge Brett Kavanaugh  testifying   before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Thursday, September 27th, 2018. Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The nominee for the US Supreme Court is part of a wider reactionary mindset in which being Irish means you can dismiss your own pr(...)

Eyes on Gibraltar: the enclave’s 34,000 residents voted 96 per cent to remain in the EU. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty

The Spain-Gibraltar border shows what a customs-union divide looks like

Ian Buruma: edited the ‘New York Review of Books’  with grace and intelligence, but  was wrong to publish the Ghomeshi piece. Photograph:  Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty

The departure of Ian Buruma as editor of the ‘New York Review of Books’ should worry everyone who values the freedom of the press

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern signing the Belfast Agreement in 1998. Photograph: Dan Chung/Reuters

Britain’s new Brexit strategy is a cynical reversal of the Irish adage. But it won’t work

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at the launch of the Land Development Agency. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Developer-led planning has never met the basic need for shelter. Yet the Government clings to its blind ideological faith in the m(...)

Boris Johnson:  trying to snatch glorious defeat from the jaws of his accidental victory, to recreate Brexit as a Lost Cause.  Photograph: Steve Back/Getty Images

Johnson is not evil, but he is a deeply unserious manchild who pursues only his own pleasures – while ruining the country he purpo(...)

In every vile regime, there are people who tell themselves that they are working on the inside in order to protect the state from the worst excess of a half-crazed tyrant. Indeed, vile regimes can’t work without these people. Photograph: Getty Images

Fintan O’Toole: Self-exculpating mindsets of the enablers are not a form of resistance

Gabriel Fitzmaurice in Moyvane, County Kerry, one of those places that is about to lose its post office

Ireland needs a joined-up national plan for vibrant villages

George Orwell, in 1944, wrote that “almost nobody seems to feel that an opponent deserves a fair hearing or that the objective truth matters so long as you can score a neat debating point”. Photograph: AP

We should not despair about apparent impossibility of civil discourse – we’ve been here before

Pope Francis arrives to attend the Festival of Families at Croke Park. Photograph: Getty Images

Francis cannot escape reality that he heads an institution struggling to confess its sins

Pope Francis candles are seen for sale at a stall at the Pastoral Congress at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Francis seems a fine person, and the faithful will greet him with joy. But he can’t repair the ruins of a corrupt, abusive institu(...)

Margaret Cash with six of her seven children. Margaret Cash and her family are very real people, but they are also ghosts haunting Irish Catholicism.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Church’s failure to embrace Margaret Cash is at odds with their teaching

Why do we spend enough money to have a first-class health service but end up with waiting lists that will top a million patients this year? Photograph: Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images

The Republic is a rich, young, stable country. So why is it so dysfunctional?

Poolbeg power station, its towers just visible above heavy coastal fog in Dublin Bay. We thought about climate change when we had a little heatwave – but when the rain and clouds returned, our thoughts vanished with the sun. File photograph: Eric Luke

Our climate cheques are bouncing but we still think we are an exceptional people

The Irish Hockey following their reception at City Hall. The fabulous women who mesmerised us all on both sides of the Border are from Coleraine and Cork, from Belfast and Dublin, from Derry and Larne. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

There are very real ways in which there is no such singular place as Ireland

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.  “Now that the boom keeps getting boomier and the property market is in full-on freak-out mode, it is time for our political leaders, as the great man famously put it, to ‘start throwing white elephants and red herrings at each other’.” File photograph:  David Sleator/The Irish Times

‘Granny grant’ a symptom of political culture that refuses to build decent public services

What we’ve ended up with after 16 years is a tendering process in which there is just a single bidder which has no experience at all of building this kind of infrastructure. Photograph: Karl Hussey/Fennell Photography

Using the 1950s State electricity model would be a sin against the new orthodoxy

Who do you think you are kidding Monsieur Barnier/We’re preparing to kill each other for a can of Spam.

Contingency plan was to scare Brussels but really only echoes with ‘Don’t panic!’

 William Butler Yeats: After the election of Donald Trump, there was a massive surge in online searches for his magnificently doom-laden “The Second Coming”. Photograph:  Getty

Use of WB Yeats by politicians and media is an index of how bad world has become

British prime minister Theresa May. “While Ireland can’t make Theresa May ask for more time, it can try to make it clear that more time will be given if she asks for it.” Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Extension of Brexit deadline beyond March 2019 is now a vital Irish interest

US president Donald Trump and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference after a meeting  in Helsinki, on Monday. Photgraph:  Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The humiliation of Trump is the greatest revenge drama since ‘Hamlet’.

Yes to Europe: Britain knew its decision to join Common Market was a profound moment. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty

When Britain joined the EU it realised the stakes. Now it is mired in petty politicking

'If anyone had proposed in the run-up to June 2016 what Theresa May’s White Paper proposed this week, there would have been howls of derision from all sides.' Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Second thoughts are the essence of democracy. The Brexit promised in 2016 has vanished so it is time to ask the people again

Former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson  and former secretary of state for exiting the European Union David Davis: “The Brexit the British are now officially seeking is indeed miserable.” Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Best possible Brexit outcome is the worst of both worlds, a state neither in nor out

 Migrants wait at a naval base in Tripoli, after being rescued in the Mediterranean.  Photograph:  AFP/Mahmud Turkia/Getty Images

Cutting the numbers of migrants will not stop the rise of the far-right because the anxieties it exploits are ultimately not about(...)

US president Donald Trump. “What the far right does is to make power very scarce . . . One man embodies all dominion. He invites all citizens to surrender their power to him.” Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

What can the far right offer in return for people surrendering democratic power?

Religious power: the priest was at the centre of Irish life, and the Catholic Church kept the population under control. Illustration: De Agostini/Getty

The Victorian notion of charity is dying, along with Catholicism and Anglophobia

US president Donald Trump: his claim that immigrants “infest” the US is  test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language towards “vermin”. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo

Babies in cages were no ‘mistake’ by Trump but test-marketing for barbarism

David Drumm is too small, too trite, to bear the weight of tragic meaning. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Anglo Irish Bank boss was inflated by people’s need to believe in his magic money

Anglo Irish Bank: in 2007 David Drumm (left, with chairman Seán Fitzpatrick) was paid €3.3 million, €2 million of it as a bonus for his magnificent stewardship. Photograph: Alan Betson

Pressure is mounting for top bankers’ pay limits to be lifted. It should be resisted

Tax haven: Yanis Varoufakis says Ireland is a freerider piggybacking on the rest of the world. Photograph: Matteo Bazzi/AFP/Getty

Our national symbol is no longer the Tricolour but a big sign saying ‘12.5%’

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson:  “We’re allowing the whole of our agenda to be dictated by this folly.” Photograph: Getty Images

The truth is that the Brexiteers don’t give a flying frig for Ireland, North or South

Unshamed Magdalenes: among the women who met President Michael D Higgins this week were Rita Lawlor, from Raheny in Dublin, Sally Donohoe, from Ballymun in Dublin, and Catherine Mary O’Connor, from Julianstown, in Co Meath. Portraits by Cyril Byrne

The last Magdalene laundry, which shut only in 1996, should become a memorial centre

“Belting out impassioned nonsense is one way of expressing an Irish identity, and the National Anthem is the primary mode of articulation for a notion of Irishness that is as dead as coffin nails.” File photograph: Getty Images

Enshrining ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ in law is out of tune with radically altered identity

The vigil for Cameron Reilly at St Brigid’s church, Dunleer, Co Louth. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The authoritarian version of Catholicism is over. In other forms it is alive and well

Two-year-old Rossa Maloney looks at his picture with his mother Emma in a Love Both rally in Dublin, ahead of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment  Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ireland is too ambiguous to sustain culture wars. Post-vote, we need to win the peace for social justice

Floral tributes are laid  at a mural to Savita Halappanavar on  Camden Street in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Getty Images

Ireland has voted No to tribalism and fear in overwhelming decision to remove the Eighth

Brexit is fuelled by an English nationalism as crude and self-deluded as Irish nationalism used to be

Twenty years ago we voted for a new vision of Irish nationalism. Don’t let Brexit drive us back

Repeal the Eighth: there is no compassion if we cannot ask “What if that were me?” Photograph: Tom Honan

We cannot vote to impose on others what we do not really know ourselves

“Tom Murphy would have given every one of his great plays for one short hour of that pure, transcendent self-expression.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

This is the text of O’Toole’s eulogy delivered at the service in the Mansion House

Then Minister for Health Charles Haughey with ‘Irish Times’ columnist John Healy, right, in November 1978 at the launch of ‘Nineteen Acres’, Healy’s new book, published by Kenny’s of Galway. Photograph: Tom Lawlor

In 1983, the conservative Catholic John Healy could also be a staunch opponent of the Eighth Amendment

Tom Murphy: He gives us a world of broken, displaced people, a culture that cannot cohere. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Writer of ‘A Whistle in the Dark’ and ‘Conversations on a Homecoming’ dies at age of 83

Women such as Vicky Phelan, above, have to give up everything – privacy, intimacy, ultimately life itself – to try to make the State break its long habits of secrecy and silence. Photograph: CourtPix

Our Republic still exists in the long shadow of shame. Why would it not?

The 13th Amendment of 1992 enshrined the right to travel to have an abortion – it did not actually say “travel to England” but that is  what it has come to mean in  practice. Photograph: Getty

Anti-abortionists depend on pagan England to uphold their vision of a holy Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: Along with many others, he has lacked the will, the skill, the ruthlessness and the vision to create a national health system that starts with the patient. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Ireland has failed to create a health service owned by people and not vested interests

Bertie Ahern: will his achievements be eclipsed by his shortcomings? Photograph: David Sleator

The former taoiseach resigned 10 years ago this weekend. We assess his legacy

In all the justifiable outrage about the  failures of the State’s cervical cancer screening programme brought to light by Vicky Phelan’s legal action, we must not lose sight of the brutal truth that unnecessary death is a systemic question. Photograph: Collins Courts

Women’s health is a matter of faith and the medical and political authorities must be believed without question

The referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be held on May 25th.

Constitutional ban means Ireland too extreme even for mainstream social conservatives

Jacob Rees-Mogg: the Brexiteer blends Warren Mitchell’s Alf Garnett and Al Murray’s Pub Landlord with PG Wodehouse’s Gussie Fink-Nottle and Monty Python’s Upper-Class Twits. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

If Brexiteers knew anything about Irish food they would keep their mouths shut

“She wasn’t weeping or pleading. She was calm, controlled, determined. She had a mind and she had made it up.” File photograph: iStockPhoto

I was 18 when asked to help a girl get an abortion. I knew it was not about me, it was about her

Family values: If Barack Obama’s lawyer paid off a porn star to conceal her story of having sex with him shortly after his wife had given birth, conservatives would have reacted with rage and disgust. Photograph: Retrofile/Getty

The rich were only pretending they cared about prudence, law and family values

The Brexit referendum: one of the most important moments in contemporary British and Irish history. File photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

The party is implicated in what appears to be a serious undermining of the voting process

Military footing: Donald Trump salutes coastguards shortly after firing FBI head James Comey. Photograph: Getty

The blowhard president is poised to bumble into a major military conflict

An anti-abortion march in Dublin in 1982. “If you believe that abortion is a great moral evil, Ireland before the Eighth was just about the best place on Earth.” Photograph: Tom Lawlor

Effect was arguably to break silence on abortion and make it more acceptable

Borderlands: A disused border post near Newry. Photograph: Getty Images

Essential reading: From bleak pictures at border towns, to the threat of a return to a raw and recent past

Denis O’Brien: There is no doubt  that he genuinely sees himself as an embattled figure. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

He has long seen himself as a victim of widespread media and political efforts to do him down

“As fathers and father figures, we need to talk to our boys about what it means to be a man. We need them to be aware, not just of the harm they can do to women, but of the harm they can do to themselves.”  File photograph: Getty Images

Decency shouldn’t have to be defined as manly. Belfast rape trial shows what can happen if it isn’t

Martin Luther King addresses 25,000 civil rights marchers in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 25th, 1965. Photograph: Stephen F Somerstein/Getty Images

King’s murder 50 years ago in Memphis represented an irreparable loss to humanity

Dr Martin Luther King Jr makes his last public appearance at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3rd, 1968. The following day King was assassinated on his motel balcony. Photograph: AP Photo/Charles Kelly

King delivered this speech on April 3rd, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot next day

Save the 8th: the anti-abortion group has hired Kanto, a British data-analytics and political-campaigning company run by Thomas Borwick. Photograph:

Why has Save the 8th hired consultant at heart of Trump-Mercer-Brexit data nexus?

Dark web: Cambridge Analytica is controlled by a key funder of the hard right in US politics, the billionaire Robert Mercer, who also owns AggregateIQ’s intellectual property. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Before the Brexit vote back in 2016 the party hired the firm’s AggregateIQ stablemate

Donald Trump and Leo Varadkar: the Taoiseach speaks for a country that is being forced to think deeply about its place in the world. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Leo Varadkar’s sycophantic US speech was a travesty of Irish culture and history

London children:  we played the same games and watched the same TV programmes and listened to the same pop songs

The Irish culture of my childhood defined Ireland as whatever England was not

Steve Bannon, former adviser to president Donald Trump, and  Marine Le Pen, president of  France’s far-right party Front National (FN),  giving a joint press conference during the FN party annual congress on March 10th in Lille. Photograph:  Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

We need to take the reactionary threat seriously without taking seriously the grandiose self-image of the reactionaries

“Leo Varadkar comes from a generation that places an enormous premium on being connected and being in touch, that is locked in the feedback loop of approval.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

The Taoiseach prefers strategic communications to communicating a strategy

British prime minister Theresa May delivers a speech on Brexit at the Mansion House in London last Friday. Photographer: Chris J Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Recent history shows the UK cannot deliver a smooth and invisible border

  British foreign secretary Boris Johnson: he has suggested the Irish Border could be monitored in the same way the London congestion charge is but it would take a vast infrastructure to cover the 110 million annual trips across 300 different border crossings. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Momentous EU text on the Border has left the DUP and the Tories praying for a miracle

Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest  outside the Houses of Parliament, in London, England. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Tory hardliners are driven by a bizarre and contradictory economic determinism

April 10th, 1998: taoiseach Bertie Ahern, British prime minister Tony Blair and US senator George Mitchell shaking hands after they signed the historic agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. Photograph:  Dan Chung/AFP/Getty Images

Brexit’s true believers have just realised the treaty makes the hard Brexit they desire virtually impossible

“Two World Wars and two World Cups”: Chris Waddle, Stuart Pearce and Gareth Southgate (above) will be allowed to retake their penalties until they score. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Allsport/Getty

From penalty shoot-outs and the Falklands to Rory McIlroy and bendy bananas

Tom Murphy: his daring imagination has found its varied embodiments on the stage. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Scholars and critics will use this fine book as the diving board from which to plunge into the fascinating depths of the great Iri(...)

 Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland. The Muslim population is small but growing rapidly, from 49,000 to 63,000 between 2011 and 2016. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Ten years ago, integration was an imperative. Then the our Republic did nothing

What can be done: the refurbished Shaw Room in National Gallery of Ireland

Plan isn’t visionary but €725m might rescue some national institutions from years of neglect

 The Natural History Museum on Dublin’s Merrion Square is earmrked for priority funding under the National Development plan. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

National Development Plan: €75m a year will go a long towards making the main national cultural establishments fit for purpose

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage speaking at the Freedom to Prosper conference at the RDS. Photograph: Bryan Meade

A campaign to get Ireland to follow Britain out of the EU is doomed to fail

From 1963 onwards, the pill was imported into Ireland to keep menstrual anarchy at bay. This involved lying on a heroic scale. Photograph: Getty Images

Having to make rape claim to access abortion services recipe for deceit and hypocrisy

More articles