For Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s special adviser, Brexit is  a wrecking ball aimed at the British institutions he despises: parliament, the judiciary, the Tory Party, the civil service, the BBC, Oxbridge. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP  via Getty Images

But the reality is that the Brexit fantasists have failed. Only the disruptors are still standing

The particular problem of ‘freedom’ in the Brexit project is that you can’t free yourself from imaginary oppression. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Because the Brexiteers cannot articulate the force that drives them, they cannot set its boundaries

Covid-19 has reminded us that if schools are not open, neither society nor the economy can function properly. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Six months ago, schools and colleges closed. What have we learned since?

Boris Johnson’s general election campaign in December was reduced to a single issue and three words: Get Brexit Done. File photograph: Getty

‘Oven-ready’ policy tactic had secret addendum – ‘we’ll go back and edit the cookbook’

 Stephen Donnelly: the Minister for Health signed into law the statutory instrument  requiring pubs and restaurants to “retain and make available” to the Garda and the HSE all information on their customers – including the food they ordered – for 28 days.  Photograph: Alan Betson

There are worrying signs that those managing the pandemic are losing the ability to concentrate on what matters

Then taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Blair House, Washington DC giving his sombre address to Ireland on measures to halt the spread of Covid-19. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

The firm early decisions, the mis-steps, the reopenings as the country grappled with Covid-19

A public awareness campaign for Covid-19 at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Alan Betson

Lack of testing and adequate tracing stand in stark contrast to situation in Copenhagen

The Station House Hotel in Clifden. The great mystery of  Golfgate is that the looming scandal could not have been more obvious if the hotel had erected a giant screen saying, Abandon Public Trust All Ye Who Enter Here

What is truly beyond comprehension is that they did not even think politically

A sign on a motorway bridge in Dublin calls for the resignations of the people who attended the Oireachtas Golf Society event during the pandemic. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

We must not allow controversy destroy social capital that has kept us going

A midlands meat plant. It has been clear almost from the start of the coronavirus crisis here that meat plants are a major hazard. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The obvious threat of meat plants becoming vectors of Covid-19 infection was not met with robust action

A windfarm at Carnsore Point, Co Wexford. “If [climate] commitments are not specific, how can we know whether they have been kept or not? And if we don’t know that, the whole thing is a charade.” File photograph: Getty

In throwing out State’s Climate Mitigation Plan, judges have done a real service to Irish democracy

Monica Hickey, 5th class teacher and Matt Melvin, school principal at St Etchen’s National School, Kinnegad, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Alan Betson

Why are problems entirely predictable in April only being addressed now?

Jacob Rees-Mogg: “Brexit”, he told the Tory party conference in 2017,  “is Magna Carta . . it’s Waterloo, it’s Agincourt, it’s Crécy. We win all these things”. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

The epic story of liberation has become mesmerisingly tedious

 Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp remains free to impose arbitrary blanket bans on any group of people it does not like. Photograph: Frank Miller

Cancel culture isn’t new, just a new term for an old concept of cynical hypocrisy

Minister for Education Norma Foley: There is still no roadmap for reopening schools.   Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

With just five weeks to go, the Department of Education has no ‘clear picture’ of what is needed

British prime minister Boris Johnson. Consequences are merely boring details to the Brexiteers. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Our neighbours are still struggling to believe that Brexit is a real-world event

Jack Charlton of Leeds United goes through before scoring past Arsenal’s Bob Wilson at Elland Road, 1971. Photograph: PA Wire

The two countries’ hybrid urban culture was a truth universally unacknowledged

US president Donald Trump arrives for the Independence Day events at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota, on Friday July 3rd. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The unfinished business of slavery, emancipation and Civil War is still playing itself out

Micheál Martin: Maybe he’s been worn down in the two decades since. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

In 1999 the then minister for education made brave choices. Does he still have it in him?

US president-elect  Donald Trump  and his wife Melania arrive for an inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on January 19th, 2017.  Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

If Donald Trump is not removed from office, Abraham Lincoln’s republic cannot endure

Big job: Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The task it faces is, in its scale, something like the nation-building of a century ago

Fintan O’Toole: ‘It is probable that Johnson’s slovenly response has ended up killing more than 20,000 people’ Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA.

For once, we didn’t follow Britain – a moment of great psychological significance

“The problem for the Greens is that, on the big issues, they’ve been proven right. What were once eccentric and exotic positions are now the bloody obvious.” File photograph: Getty

It is the Greens’ own values that force them to take the power that is on offer

We figure out what paternity means by emulating or reacting against our fathers and their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. Photograph: Getty

Fatherhood is a kind of makey-up thing, but it has come into its own in lockdown

The scene of the Enniskillen bombing seconds after the blast in November 1987. Photograph: Pacemaker

There will be no justice for victims and the bereaved. But we can at least have the truth

Asleep at the wheel? US president Donald Trump hosting a roundtable discussion at the White House this week. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

Covid-19 has turned the tide against right-wing nationalism and ‘strongman’ leaders

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Pat Kenny on Virgin TV on Friday: ‘We don’t see many black or brown judges, or in the Dáil – I’m the only one, I think, at the moment – don’t see many presenters on TV, for example, and that needs to change.’ Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

If how we treat Travellers is our model for ‘rooting out’ racism, the prospects look bleak

Posters of Patrick Dorismond, seen circa 2000. Dorismond was killed outside a bar in Manhattan.  Photograph: Budd Williams/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

In 2016, white America elected a racist president. That privilege comes with a cost

Thousands throng Galway for the Macnas parade  during the ever-popular annual arts festival in the city. But this year all festivals, big and small, have disappeared.   Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Covid-19 has destroyed live performance, we must support artists in reinventing it

Trollies with patients in the A&E Accident and Emergency Department of St. James’s Hospital, Dublin. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it impossible for the old health system to continue

Members of the  Dáil and  judiciary  completely have misinterpreted expert advice on  management of the coronavirus crisis. File photograph: Getty

Sensible coronavirus advice prompts wild overreaction among establishment elites

A woman points towards a satirical poster from the group Led By Donkeys depicting Boris Johnson as former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain delivering his “Peace for Our Time” speech, Kentish Town, London,  on May 19th. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The attitudes behind Brexit resurface in Boris Johnson’s tragic failure of leadership

The big issue is not the money – it’s what we do with it. Photograph: Getty Images

Ireland will have to borrow a lot of money. What matters is how well we spend it

First minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon attends the opening of The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre located in Aberdeen Bay on September 7th, 2018 off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

How can Scotland meet climate targets while Ireland fails? One word: leadership

 Rupert Murdoch:   between them, Trump and Murdoch have helped to make the US the epicentre of the pandemic. Photograph:  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Spit at someone and you go jail. Spread deadly lies and you enjoy impunity

There is no denying that a sense of the preposterous drifts around Bono like dry ice. But the interesting question is: so what? Photograph: Chad Batka/New York Times

He is a truly global celebrity but we might like him more if he did not try to be so good

The National Public Health Emergency Team: neither elected representatives nor the media have access to the meetings of by far the most influential body in the management of the crisis. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Mistakes are inevitable in this crisis. What matters is learning from them

Even as the US was setting aside $50 billion to bail out airlines, the conservative government in Australia allowed Virgin Australia to go into administration. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

A repeat of the last crash, with ordinary people bled dry, would be catastrophic

Government has a very well thought through system for managing emergencies – but it is more or less completely ignoring it. Photograph: David Sleator

Government adopted system for handling emergencies in 2017 but has ignored it

Donald Trump: his presidency has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

The world has loved, hated and envied the US. Now, for the first time, we pity it

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a visit to the Civil Defence Dublin Branch to receive a briefing on its contribution to the Covid-19 response. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Post-coronavirus era will demand a radicalism the old parties are not trained for

Anxious Ireland: the hangover from the financial crash weighs heavy on the Irish people. Illustration: iStock

The new government will have to dispel the despair that lingers from the last decade

The hospitals and ICUs have, in this crisis, a kind of dark glamour – they radiate a desperate heroism. But nursing homes don’t. The people who live in them and the carers who mind them are glimpsed only in society’s peripheral vision. Photograph: EPA

It is not too late but the Government must act now to save care workers

There is now the terrible possibility that Britain may match or even overtake Italy and Spain as the country in Europe that suffers most from the coronavirus pandemic Photograph: Peter Morrison/Getty Images.

Johnson’s first response was at odds with rest of world but virus does not respect his delusions of national character

A boy does school work at home  in northeast Australia. It is almost impossible to imagine where we would be, during this coronavirus pandemic, without digital connectivity. Photograph:  Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Technology has made this plague different from anything humanity has known before

 The LÉ Samuel Beckett moored   on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay to help in the fight against Covid-19.  The State, mostly so sluggish during the lifetime of the outgoing Government, has reacted like the crew of a becalmed vessel, snoozing down below, to the order: all hands on deck! It has switched itself on with remarkable alacrity. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Immense task of reconstruction will demand much more than frantic improvisation

Clear skies over London as coronavirus has a positive impact on the environment and levels of pollution. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

The coronavirus crisis reminds us we must find a way not to kill the host we inhabit

Writer Tim Robinson in his home in Roundstone,  Co Galway. Photograph: David Sleator

A poetic genius who marvellously mapped the Burren, Connemara and Aran Islands

Funeral director Pat Blake places a white rose on the coffin of Anne Best, Co Fermanagh’s first coronavirus victim, at St Ninnidh’s Cemetery in Derrylin. Photograph: John McVitty

Covid-19 is cruelly capricious but human beings need to attach significance to suffering

‘The women and men who are keeping the supermarkets going most probably make about €13 an hour.’

The coronavirus pandemic exposes that those who keep us alive are deeply undervalued

The great vindictiveness of the virus is that it robs us of the rituals of grieving: no wakes, no big funeral Masses or secular celebrations. Photograph: iStock

There is no such thing as mass death – people die one by one and each is unique

Ten-year-old Charlotte O’Brien visits her grandad Pat O’ Brien in Clontarf, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

It should not take something as terrible as this to awake us to life’s inherent fragility

Britihs prime minister Boris Johnson speaking at a coronavirus news conference inside 10 Downing Street, London. Photograph: Simon Dawson/PA Wire

Who needs a politics of disruption when Covid-19 is disrupting the world?

Nicolas Poussin’s The Plague of Ashdod in the Louvre in Paris. Photograph: Getty Images/DeAgostini

Artists have always sought to find meaning in pandemics, plagues and mass infections

South Korean soldiers wearing protective clothing spray antiseptic solution against the coronavirus in the Gangnam district of Seoul. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Covid-19 has shaken us out of complacent delusion that health is a private concern

A painting depicting the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Illustration: Ed Vebell/Getty

Review: James Shapiro has fashioned an illuminating, compulsively readable history

 A healthcare professional wearing protective suit and  mask checks the temperature of incoming people at the entrance of a hospital in Pavia, northen Italy. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

New coronavirus has exposed the great weakness within the human triumph

The disconnection between the economic boom and real quality of life is obvious, and it has created the demand for radical political change. Photograph: Getty Images

Public policy is still dominated by fear of a return of Celtic Tiger hubris. But 2020 is not like 2002

 US presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders  delivers a speech to defend his support for a sweeping “Medicare for All” healthcare plan at George Washington University in Washington, File Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

Sanders is an astute, effective politician who understands power and can achieve the impossible

Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin. Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Sinn Féin has to stop legitimising terror

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

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