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

 Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage addresses marchers from a pro-Brexit bus: Brexit is a dead horse, a form of nationalist energy that started to decompose on June 24th, 2016, as soon as it entered political reality.  Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty

Westminster chaos affords preview of Britain standing alone with its demons

Brexit battle: like English players at Wimbledon, Theresa May has been hyped up far beyond her merits and promoted to Centre Court. Photograph: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty

The British PM’s dullness hides a monomaniacal obsession with staying in power

A Remain supporter sports European-flag socks: Ireland has saved Britain from the disaster of a hard Brexit and perhaps even from Brexit itself. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Irish identities converge accidentally to render Britain a big service

Fr Charles Coughlin created the template for a media-savvy demagogue to acquire a huge political following in the US

A float depicting Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg during the annual Rose Monday parade in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Monday. Photograph: Kirsten Neumann/EPA

We have failed to protect our children – now we are looking to them to protect us

Michael Cohen listens as he finishes a day of testimony to the House Oversight  Committee  in Washington on Wednesday. If Cohen is a rat, Trump is the mafia boss who gets ratted on in the end. Photograph:  J Scott Applewhite/AP)

Michael Cohen may be, in Trump's eyes, a rat. But what does that make Trump?

How much risk are the no-dealers willing to bear? On a personal level, none at all. Jacob Rees-Mogg has moved hedge funds to Dublin and advises his clients on how to “Brexit-proof” their investments. Nigel Farage admitted  that his two children and his wife have German passports and will remain entitled to  EU citizenship. Photograph: Getty Images

In this high-stakes game, the Republic has a three-in-four chance of winning

 Donald Trump: in a sense his wall is just another drug. For his fans, it is a fix of xenophobia that dulls the pain of the real epidemic that is blighting their lives and their own communities. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

The biggest drug problem in the US is not heroin or crystal meth, but painkillers

When we outsiders see Boris Johnson stuck on a zip wire with a Union Jack in each hand or Jacob Rees-Mogg bringing his nanny along to canvass voters on his behalf, we are initially indulgent: how delightfully, comically, English. Photograph: EPA

Brexit has given us a new species and a strange, new phenomenon – the harmful eccentric

Jeff Bezos: the Amazon boss   disclosed attempts to blackmail him by the publishers of the lurid tabloid, the National Inquirer. Photograph:  Joshua Roberts/Reuters  Jeff Bezos: the Amazon boss   disclosed attempts to blackmail him by the publishers of the lurid tabloid, the National Inquirer. Photograph:  Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Ironically the president gave Jeff Bezos the courage to defy the National Inquirer

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker shakes hands with UK prime minister Theresa May. Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP

Sense of danger hides fact the UK is repatriating boring stuff the EU excels at

Liam Neeson:   the actor said in a subsequent TV interview for ABC that “you sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry and it’s there”. He should have known that for black people the surface is their own flayed skins. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The Irish actor seemed not to understand the story he told pressed on an open wound

A surveillance camera shows the abduction of Jamie Bulger (2), in February 1993. Vincent Lambe’s short film Detainment, based on the abduction and its aftermath, has been nominated for an Academy Award. Photograph: BWP Media via Getty Images

Calls for Vincent Lambe’s ‘Detainment’ to be withdrawn are deeply misguided

Italian educator Maria Montessori with young children at her school in Smithfield, London, circa 1951. Photograph:  Popperfoto/Getty Images

Brutality lingered as a set of attitudes long after it was banished as official practice

The Bombardier plant in Belfast is “a living legacy of a British and Protestant industrial world that shaped unionism itself”. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A thousand Airbus jobs in east Belfast will be unviable if there is a hard Brexit

Dubliner Fergus Linehan, director of the Edinburgh International Festival. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Ireland can capitalise on the Brexit brain drain from across the Irish Sea

Pro-Brexit protesters  outside the Houses of Parliament:  hard Brexiteers, under the cover of nationalism, want to unleash an even more virulent form of globalisation that will destroy what is left of working-class communities. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Brexit will not be reversed on the basis of economic arguments alone. The Left must address the crisis of identity at its heart

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney shakes hands with German foreign minister Heiko Maas at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Delusion that EU’s fear of no-deal will allow renegotiation is likely to be obliterated by parliament

The problems children face in Ireland today, and the policies that could solve them

What the ardent Leavers  say about a no-deal Brexit is not that they are really convinced it is a good thing, but that the English will endure the suffering and get through it because that is what they have always done. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Why does today’s vote in the House of Commons feel so anticlimactic? Because it is based on a fantasy of how history works

Photographs from a wanted poster issued for IRA man Dan Breen

The Soloheadbeg ambush of 1919 was as much a strike at Sinn Féin as at Britain

Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage, who said if Brexit was obstructed he would “don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines”. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Only those who fail to take threat of political violence seriously can indulge it

1945: British and American soldiers dancing with German girls in a Berlin street cafe only days after the fraternisation ban was lifted at the end of the second World War II. Photograph: Getty Images

In the US and Britain, 2019 may see disenchantment with the reactionary nature of 2016

  The remains of cars destroyed by the Carr Fire in July in Redding, California. No one was even vaguely surprised that Trump’s response to the wildfires was to deny that they had anything to do with climate change. Photograph:   Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Physical and political wildfires raged across the world – and we began to get used to them

Fintan O’Toole with his sons, Fionn (left) and Sam, at a book launch in 1999. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

There are times when the wonder of death and birth seems overwhelming

British prime minister Theresa May gestures while answering questions following a speech at Complesso Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy, on Friday, September 22nd, 2017. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Irish did not invent the backstop to thwart Brexit. The crisis is a British one

There are no angels or shepherds coming to adore our homeless children; no star from the east to hang over them. Above, a window in  the lady chapel of the Catholic University Church, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

While we worship an image of a homeless child, thousands of children in Ireland will wake up at Christmas in places that are not h(...)

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

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