Leo Varadkar: failure to win the Dublin Bay South byelection could have serious implications for his leadership of Fine Gael. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

High stakes for all the major political parties in Fine Gael heartland constituency

Queen Elizabeth shakes hands with then Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness watched by then first minister Peter Robinson (centre) at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. Photograph:  Pacemaker Press/ PA

British monarch’s contribution to peace process has been undermined by Brexit

Mary Lou McDonald: The Abú database apparently cross-references facts from the electoral register with information about voters gleaned from Facebook. Sinn Féin is being investigated for potential breaches of data law. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sinn Féin remains IRA mouthpiece and is untroubled by its ‘sinister’ database

La Defense in Paris: “There are good grounds for believing that the EU’s slow and steady pace may enable it to draw level with the UK and the US.”

Stephen Collins: Member states emerging from Covid crisis more bonded than US and UK

The future of the Coalition depends on getting the vaccine rollout back on track so  the promised easing of restrictions next month can take place as scheduled. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Stephen Collins: tricky tax and spending decisions loom

‘If history is any precedent all talk of a united Ireland by politicians in the Republic should be taken with a large dose of salt.’ Photograph: Presseye

Demand for an early vote is further encouragement to those bent on creating mayhem

Ursula von der Leyen:  let annoyance cloud her judgement and  proposed a course of action that would have done more harm than good in the long term to the people and institutions she is mandated to protect. Photographer: Martin Bertrand/Pool/Bloomberg

Ireland right to oppose vaccine export ban promoted by European Commission president

The biggest and most obvious challenge to the Government is how it deals with the Covid pandemic and the related issue of the vaccine rollout. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Guillaume/Getty Images

Coalition also facing internal pressures which could have destabilising impact

The  Commission has unanimously agreed to support Rusbridger’s continued membership. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Episode could undermine Future of the Media Commission and its likely recommendations

British prime minister Boris Johnson: Doubts are growing again whether the EU can trust a government led by him to honour treaty obligations. Photograph: Scott Heppell/PA

Latest breach of trust by British government over protocol has potential to destroy trade deal with EU

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addresses the nation at Government Buildings on Tuesday. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

Stephen Collins: Response to Covid strategy is starting to strain Government relations

European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen has taken a pasting from politicians and media. Photograph: EPA/ARIS OIKONOMOU/Pool

Attacks on EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen are short-sighted

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

One of the big lessons of recent history is that SF devours those who do business with it

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen: Her  protocol screw-up indicates Irish concerns can be pushed to one side when the struggle between great powers becomes intense. Photograph:  Kenzo Tribouillard

Pragmatics of NI protocol forced to top of political agenda in Brussels and London

People returning from holidays abroad displaying no embarrassment at breaking travel guidelines has caused considerable anger. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Mistakes made and costs incurred but HSE has outperformed NHS

Joe Biden’s  plea to American politicians to “stop the shouting and lower the temperature” could well be applied to Dáil Éireann where aggressive grandstanding by Opposition TDs like Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and Richard Boyd Barrett have become the norm.  Photograph:  Getty Images

Trump playbook has taken firm root in Irish politics and his values look set to prevail here

‘The future of the Coalition hinges on how well it handles the rollout of the Covid vaccine in the coming months.’ File photograph: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg

Stephen Collins: Coalition needs to prove it has a plan for final phase of Covid-19 battle

 President Higgins and his wife Sabina at Áras an Uachtaráin:  his recent address  urging an inclusive approach to commemoration was a vitally important contribution to public life. Photograph: Maxwells Dublin

Nationalist Ireland must choose between two competing visions of the future

Whether or not there is a trade deal the consequences of Brexit will be serious for Ireland but going on our ability to make our way in the world in recent decades we need not be too apprehensive about the future. Photograph: Aaron Chown/Getty Images

Brexit saga shows Ireland can play a part in grown up world of international politics

Warrenpoint in August 1979 when 18 British soldiers were killed in an IRA ambush. The republican narrative claims such violence was not only justified, but succeeds activities of an earlier era. File photograph: Pacemaker

There is an increasingly one-sided presentation of the struggle for independence

US president-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address in Wilmington, Delaware. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty

US president-elect has done a great service by beating Trump and will be firm on Brexit

Dr TK Whitaker: A conversation between him and Albert Borschette, the Luxembourg permanent representative to the EEC, is revealed in the latest volume of Irish foreign policy papers from October 1961 to April 1965.   Photograph: Tom Lawlor

RIA historic documents: Monnet questioned if Ireland could face demands of free trade

The remains of Roger Casement were exhumed and returned to Dublin  in 1965.

Irish diplomat gave account of London dig after ‘49 years in a waterlogged grave’

Micheál Martin:  courageous leadership will be needed from the Taoiseach and his Ministers for any post-lockdown strategy. Photograph: Getty Images

Experts engaging in PR campaign to keep strict lockdown in place for December

Séamus Woulfe: ‘Did nothing involving impropriety such as would justify calls for his resignation from office.’   Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Judiciary that protested political interference in the Polish judicial system now requires political intervention to rid themselve(...)

Blueshirts: Eoin O’Duffy inspects a guard of honour in 1933. Photograph: Keystone/Gamma via Getty

Claiming continuity with Michael Collins helps Fine Gael forget its troubling origins

‘Trump’s attempt to pre-empt the outcome and then to cast doubts on the legitimacy of the process has created an appalling vista for the US.’ Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg

Stephen Collins: Trump’s threat to electoral process has implications for entire world

The future of the UK fishing industry depends on a deal even if that reality is taking time to sink in. File photograph: Getty

If fishing symbolises emotional appeal of Brexit, it also exposes the contradictions

People in Grafton Street in Dublin during the first day of the Level 5 restrictions in the city.  The shutting down of almost all retail business, apart from supermarkets, will have a devastating impact on employment and mental health, even though there is little evidence that shopping is a major spreader of Covid-19. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA

Government badly needs to find alternative strategy to lockdowns

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. The striking thing about their spending plans was that they went far beyond a range of measures designed to protect people from the fallout from Covid-19. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Coalition must show its actions are based on fairness and the budget is a good start

Coalition leaders Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Having said no to Nphet once, it will be easier to do so next time the need arises

Minister for Education Norma Foley: Coalition must work together to resolve the Leaving Cert problem, as greater Covid and Brexit challenges wait around the corner. Photograph: PA

If Government weathers Leaving Cert error storm, this could be turning point

Lorries at Dover due to industrial action in Calais: Until very recently, there appeared to be a naive expectation that Irish lorries would be able to skip Brexit-created queues. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Stephen Collins: Amid Brexit, Irish trucks need extra ferries to transit goods to and from continent

Micheál Martin: the Government is struggling to deal with two contradictory imperatives. One is to protect public health and the other is to avoid economic disaster. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Major improvement in Irish test and tracing system remains a priority

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson: His adoption of Trumpian disruptive negotiating tactics has already backfired by undermining the prospects of a transatlantic trade deal. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau

Micheál Martin’s measured tone will win support in Brussels and Washington

Frances Fitzgerald: It would be some irony if the last prominent victim of a political witch hunt was to take over the vacancy that has arisen from the latest excursion into self-destructive behaviour by the Irish political system. Photograph: Eric Luke

Stephen Collins: Indecision on new EU commissioner stems from basic miscalculation

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar should have been able to take a broader perspective but instead he led the chorus demanding that Phil Hogan should go.  Photograph: Fran Veale

Government casts more doubt on ability to lead amid Covid-19 and Brexit challenges

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: The lesson this week for the Government is  potential problems and inconsistencies need to be ironed out in advance of Cabinet meetings. Photograph:  Julien Behal/PA

Social cohesion needed to tackle Covid-19 so Coalition must be exemplar of unity

John Hume was the inspiration behind the Sunningdale Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement  and the Belfast Agreement.

Politician had self-belief to repeat same message for decades until eventually it was accepted by almost everybody

New Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill. Coalition TDs should follow her example and take on the Opposition in a robust fashion. Photograph: Tom Honan

The way it caved in on relatively minor issues like stopping the PUP and ministerial pay does not augur well

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and French president Emmanuel Macron at the EU summit in Brussels. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/AP

The State has left Hanseatic League allies high and dry on bloc’s Covid-19 response

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives at Stormont Castle in Belfast on Thursday to meet Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP

Fianna Fáil leader must take advantage of the Apple tax decision to reboot as Taoiseach

Micheál Martin: will have a difficult enough job contending with the political fallout from the daily grind of events.  Photograph: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

New Government has an opportunity to build on trust public has shown over recent months

The behaviour of mourners at the Storey funeral was simply another demonstration by republicans of their belief that they are above the law. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Episode should alert the wider electorate to what a vote for the party means

The Daniel O’Connell statue on O’Connell Street, Dublin. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Stephen Collins: Ireland can take pride in its statue of towering anti-slavery figure

Micheál Martin:  will finally achieve his ambition of becoming taoiseach but at a time when his party Fianna Fáil is sinking in the polls.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Coalition’s ability to govern effectively will depend on high level of trust between party leaders

Green Party  leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin at a press conference last February. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Trust and discipline key to capacity of next government for decisive action

Social Media

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael not at the races in online war of words

Leo Varadkar: has made a number of comments indicating that he would like to speed up the current plan for a return to normality. Photograph: Photocall Ireland/PA

Stephen Collins: State will be plunged into worst of all worlds if action is not taken

 Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters: Of their case, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said: “Unsubstantiated opinions, speeches, empty rhetoric and a bogus historical parallel are not a substitute for facts.”  Photograph: Alan Betson

Covid-19 corrals Irish politics and journalism towards science and solutions

Paschal Donohoe: brought a reality check to the talks on government formation by laying out some very pertinent  facts. Photograph: Ireland/PA Wire

Politicians need to be frank about scale of the economic crisis ahead

 There have been suggestions that Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin are playing a “good cop, bad cop” routine to extract maximum concessions from the two bigger parties. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Whatever is agreed between negotiating teams will have to be ratified by party members

Party leaders Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar have shown a greater degree of realism in their response to Green leader Eamon Ryan’s 17 key demands for opening coalition talks. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

It would be a positive development if the Greens decide to enter government

Éamon de Valera: it is often forgotten that he failed to win an overall majority on three occasions. Photograph: Colman Doyle

Some of the State’s most successful administrations have been propped up by Independents

 Labour Party leader Alan Kelly: described the coalition plan as uncosted and purely aspirational with no mention of timelines. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Stephen Collins: Smaller parties are right to be sceptical of blank cheque offered in document

The Labour Party and its new leader Alan Kelly are in a quandary in relation to the formation of a new government. File photograph: Eric Luke

Social Democrats and Greens have deliberately ruled themselves out of coalition

Something else that has been highlighted by the emergency is the quality of our health service and the commitment and bravery of the people who work in it. Photograph: Alan Betson

Continuing national solidarity will be needed for economic recovery in wake of Covid-19

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: the fact he and his Ministers have shown great leadership skills over Covid-19 has bought them time but they cannot continue indefinitely.  Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

Momentous decisions already made to fight Covid-19 but another coalition partner vital

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  during a visit to the National Virus Reference Laboratory in  Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Level of trust inspired by the Taoiseach on Tuesday night will be needed for what is ahead

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: his announcement of  dramatic measures which will impact on the lives of every citizen has left him and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin with no excuse to engage in any further delay in forming a government. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

Greens must decide if they are serious about being in Government

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  in Dublin, before the general election. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Stephen Collins: Sinn Féin’s rallies show the need for other parties to get on with forming government

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. ‘The big winners this time were Sinn Féin, the party most vociferous in its attacks on all aspects of government policy.’ Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

One in three voters bought idea that Ireland is a hellhole in need of radical left policies

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: has shown political grit by refusing to row back on his rejection of Sinn Féin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Some 70% did not vote for hard left - parties must hold nerve at critical juncture

Labour leader Brendan Howlin with party colleagues following his announcement that he would not contest the forthcoming leadership competition. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Labour leader leaves party in better shape than when he took over leadership

Significant differences across the age groups evident on issues

Health, housing and homelessness were by far the most important issues for voters. Only 1 per cent said Brexit was the most important issue for them.

Voters rated housing and health as by far the most important issues by far for them

Data from the Ipsos MRBI exit poll commissioned by the Irish Times, RTÉ and UCD.

Fine Gael won only 15.5% of the votes among the youngest 18-24 age group

At least half the ballot papers cast on Saturday will not be counted beyond the number one. File photograph: Collins

PR-STV, or single transferable vote, is one of most flexible, subtle systems in the world

‘The evasive response of Mary Lou McDonald to questions about the brutal slaying of Paul Quinn put the spotlight on the fundamental reason why Sinn Féin cannot be regarded like any other political party.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Stephen Collins: SF’s strategy shares traits with that of Europe’s far-right parties

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney: must let voters know in no uncertain terms the dangers of a hard Brexit have not gone away. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health and housing focus may obscure looming threats of Brexit and economics

Seamus Mallon and Charles Haughey during the Fianna Fáil ard fheis in the RDS, Dublin, in November 1995. Photograph: Frank Miller

Former Seanad member fell out with Charles Haughey, had a blazing row with Garret Fitzgerald and felt let down by Bertie Ahern

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: party members could turn on him and back Simon Coveney as leader. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

SF-leaning wing of FF may get rid of Martin, while threats loom for Taoiseach

Election posters for  Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar  and  Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are seen on a lamppost on Merrion Square in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Stephen Collins: Performance of Greens and Labour will be key to outcome of this election

The bulk of salmon in this country, both smoked and fresh, is imported salmon, which is inferior to the Irish organic product. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Most consumers are unaware the salmon they eat is all farmed, as is sea bass and trout

Phil Hogan: “Dublin, London and Brussels need to be inclusive and careful in addressing the sensitivities of all stakeholders in Northern Ireland.” Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty

Preserving the integrity of the single market remains EU trade commissioner’s top priority

 European commissioner for trade Phil Hogan, at the Merrion Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

EU commissioner believes British PM will abandon promise not to extend

Salmon farming is a booming industry worldwide but it has actually declined in Ireland over the past decade. Photograph: Getty Images

A staggering level of official incompetence combined with scaremongering has seen Ireland fall far behind Norway and Scotland

A  view of Stormont as cross-party talks to restore the Northern Ireland powersharing government begin, in Belfast. File photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Election proves voters primarily care about getting Northern Ireland working again

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: managed to achieve broad political consensus by framing his 2020 budget on the basis of a no-deal Brexit. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Avoidance of profligacy a fine template for dealing with future corporate tax fall

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Fine Gael won 20.7 per cent of the votes cast in the recent byelections, a drop of one point on its general election performance in the four constituencies. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dramatic increase in support for Greens and significant recovery by Labour

Micheál Martin: He  deserves commendation for not seeking party advantage, which is always the temptation for an opposition leader. Instead he has put the country’s interests first, just as he has done throughout the Brexit saga.  Photograph: Getty Images

Irish nationalism has realised that co-operation rather than conflict is a far better route

The system’s acceptance of insurance fraud is encouraging increased incidents of exaggerated claims and providing ‘an income supplement to the morally challenged’. Photograph: iStock

Utterly disproportionate awards for often trivial injuries have become the norm

Brendan Howlin’s blistering attack on Leo Varadkar at Labour’s party conference was the clearest signal yet that his preference is for a coalition deal with Fianna Fáil after the next election. Photograph: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Party which emerges largest from next election more likely to call shots in coalition

A photograph of a man appearing to read out the latest death threat against the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings. Photograph: Courtesy of the Irish News

Light touch policing has left Cavan-Fermanagh Border in thrall to republican criminals

There are two fundamental obstacles in the way of a united Ireland:  the question of national identity and the question of  how a united Ireland could ever be funded. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

It is essential the Government is clear in rejecting Sinn Féin’s Border poll demand

London street art depicting  British prime minister Boris Johnson and some ministers as the Beatles and Johnson with US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga

Bluster made British slow to perceive that EU solidarity bolstered Ireland with power

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and  British prime minister Boris Johnson  during a press conference on the Brexit deal in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: EPA

UK departure saga from EU shows that political compromise a virtue rather than a vice

  Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe:  almost every lobby group and NGO in the country  called for  spending  increases in Budget 2020. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA

Fine Gael colleagues disappointed over absence of new measures to reduce income tax

British prime minister Boris Johnson’s speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester was aimed at a British audience not the EU. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Taking emotion out of Brexit proposals, or at least minimising it, will be vital on all sides

 Behind all the passion, principle and political conflict that has brought the UK to its current impasse, there lies some crude political calculations about how the Brexit issue can best be used for political advantage. Photograph: Getty Images

Parnell never reduced Commons to sorry state Tory diehards have dragged it into

A photograph made available by the PSNI shows the scene where an improvised explosive device was discovered during a search operation in the Creggan area of Derry.

Violence in Derry and Border areas a symptom of wider political failure

EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan: Ireland has a far greater interest than any other EU country in a deal that allows trade between the UK and the EU move as freely as possible. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Irishman as trade commissioner has vested interest in easing EU-UK trade

UK prime minister Boris Johnson ‘continues to insist against all the evidence that there is a good chance that leaders attending the next EU summit will agree to abandon the Border backstop and give him a good deal’. Photograph: Julian Simmonds/Getty Images

Expectation that EU will cave in and give Boris Johnson what he wants remains far-fetched

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan “avoids attracting unnecessary attention by foolish publicity stunts or rushing into comment about issues which have nothing to do with his brief”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Justice does a difficult job well and avoids attracting unnecessary attention

British soldiers patrol in Derry on August 15th, 1969, after being deployed to end the Battle of the Bogside. Photograph: Independent News and Media/Getty Images

Then taoiseach’s courage and political skill avoided a disastrous civil war

“The team around Boris Johnson is boasting of his willingness to cling to office even if the House of Commons passes a motion of no confidence in his leadership.” Photograph: Julian Simmonds/Getty Images

Boris Johnson has made it easier for EU leaders to refuse to budge on Brexit deal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch on Thursday of the  redevelopment of the former Smithwick’s brewery site in Kilkenny. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Preparing for the worst will mean no tax cuts and tighter departmental budgets

 Prime minister Boris Johnson at  his first cabinet meeting in  Downing Street. The depressing lesson of history is that it is the patriotic hard-line that is always the easy political option even if it has disastrous consequences for the people of the country involved. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Stephen Collins: Doesn’t matter now what Taoiseach or Tánaiste say about the backstop

Farmers protest outside the Dáil in early July when the Mercosur agreement was announced – under it, the EU agreed to accept 99,000 tonnes of South American beef each year. Photograph: Alan Betson

Uninformed decision on free trade bodes badly for serious looming challenges

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