And so the waiting begins.  Bertie has bid farewell to Mr. Justice Alan Mahon and his esteemed colleagues down at Dublin Castle, and when Owen O’Callaghan has given his tuppence worth the three judges can get on with writing their final report.

I must say that I will miss the tribunal.  In entertainment terms it has been the best show in town for quite some years now and had come to feel almost like an old, reliable friend.  The sort of old friend who could always be relied upon to cheer me up and give me a giggle on a dreary, wet Monday in Dublin traffic.  After a 12 year run the end of it will seem a bit like the last episode of The Riordans.

The tribunal even outlived the Vincent Browne Show.  The re-enactments pioneered on the show were always fantastic entertainment.  Way back in the dim and distant past, before pod-casting had been heard of, I used to set my cassette recorder on a timer to record the show before I went to bed at night.  Driving out the N4 at 3 or 4am the next morning I was often convulsed with laughter while listening to Tom Gilmartin of Liam Lawlor giving evidence.  Gilmartin’s recounting of the occasion when Lawlor gate crashed a meeting in London nearly put me in a ditch west of Enfield one dark morning.

You see, there were one or two consummate entertainers at the tribunal a few years before Bertie came on the scene.  Imagine how disappointing it would have been if Bertie had completely flopped in the comedy stakes.

Good old reliable Bertie, though, he really didn’t let us down.  Bertie’s run had many highlights.  Everything from how as minister for finance he didn’t engage with the banking system to Michael Wall not eating the dinner and many more fabulous anecdotes in between proved his status as a raconteur without peer.  However, the day he told us that he won the money on a horse has got to be the pinnacle of a performance with more peaks than the Himalayas.

I look forward eagerly to the publication of the final report.  It is sure to be a bestseller and should easily outstrip Justice Floods interim report from a couple of years ago.  Perhaps it will enliven the blogosphere, which quite frankly has been a little quiet of late.

Over in Dublin 4 work on the new Lansdowne Road stadium continues apace.  When the newly built venue opens to the public in 2010 rugby and soccer fans can expect a much enhanced day out for their sports viewing.  What they won’t be expecting, however, is the crowds of spectators urging them on as they go to spend a penny in the stadium’s many toilet facilities.

“The other big thing is the toilet facilities, something that the old stadium was lacking in, to put it mildly. It’ll be a much better spectator experience.”  So said Martin Murphy, Lansdowne Road Stadium Director

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Just spotted this over at Dublin Opinion.  A must read.  Deja Vu doesn’t even begin to describe it. 

A Saturday evening in February.

Drimnagh, Dublin 12.

At about 6.30pm two men are returning home from a day’s work.  They stop at the local take-away, get some food and then pop into the off-licence to purchase a few beers to enjoy with their burgers and chips.  Just two ordinary working guys.  They could be Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian or even Irish.  These guys happened to be Polish.  Twenty nine year old, Pawel Kalite and his friend Marius Szwajkos, just 27, were two decent, hard working young men.  They were described on radio by their landlord this week as ‘dream tenants’.  For Pawel and Marius this was a pretty ordinary Saturday evening in their new life here in Ireland.  Pretty ordinary, that is, until they bumped into the vicious, savage thugs who killed them.

Maybe they did physically bump into them.  Maybe they had words with their killers, having refused to give them the beers they had just bought with their hard earned Euros.  We don’t yet know exactly what happened last Saturday evening.  We may never know, but what we do know is that two innocent men were savagely beaten and killed in broad daylight outside a busy shopping parade in Dublin 12.

Bertie Ahern, coincidentally, was in Poland this week.  Yesterday he told Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, that Irish people were shocked and saddened by the killings.  He also said that, thankfully, this was an isolated incident.

Hmmm…..

I suppose if he means that it doesn’t often happen that two Polish friends are murdered on Benbulbin Road on an other wise unremarkable Saturday evening in February, well yes, it is an isolated incident.  We know, though, that he doesn’t mean that.  He is spinning.  Take a piece of spin (this particular piece of spin tells us that there is not a problem with violent crime among young men) and wrap it carefully in an expression of sympathy on the death of two innocent young men and it slides down like Ben & Jerry’s.

Bertie Ahern, evidently, doesn’t read the newspapers.  He doesn’t listen to the radio or watch the TV news.  There is no problem with violent crime against the person among young, alcohol and/or drug fuelled men.

Get it?

We know different, however.

What we don’t  know is why.

The reasons why are many and complex.  Irish society has undergone a radical change in the last ten years.  Perenting has become much less hands on as couples work two jobs to pay for our new decadent lifestyle.  We have seen a certain Americanisation of youth culture, taking them closer to Boston than Berlin.  As the wealth of the nation has increased hugely those left behind feel a great sense of injustice and disconnection.

But let me add another possible cause – Bertie.

Not just Bertie on his own, mind you.  We can, and do, blame Bertie for many things, but fingering him alone for the breakdown in the fabric of society might be just a bit too much.  So let’s throw in Biffo Cowen with him, and Micháel Martin and Martin ‘Anti-Midas’ Cullen and Dermot Ahearne and the Green Party and Eoghan ‘What’s the fucking point of power if it’s not used’ Harris, and don’t forget the mighty midget himself, Willie O’Dea.  God almighty, the list is endless, so I’ll end it there. (Charlie, Ray, Liam, George, Baileys, Lowry etc, ad nauseum….)

When I was a kid the sight of authority when I was up to no good put the fear of God into me.  Gardai, teachers, football coaches and parents.  Basically all grown ups.  Even older brothers.  These were all authority figures in my young life.  For society as a whole politicians are authority figures.  They make the rules that the rest of us have to live by.  They occupy positions of extreme privilege. The higher they soar the more extraordinary the privilege.  When did you last glance to one side in the M50 chaos and see the Minister for Transport fuming in a murderous rage behind the wheel of the family Toyota.  Never.  These people don’t do traffic jams.  I can handle that.  Ministers and Taoisigh are very important people.  If they get whisked around in the rear of a Merc I’ll still sleep at night.  If they get paid ridiculous amounts of money I’m fine with that, too.

However, if they preach about probity and honesty, if they make pious, sanctimonious speeches condemning the wrongdoings of their predecessors and are then revealed to have their porcine snouts in the same filthy trough, then I have a problem.  Over the last ten years or so we have seen a litany of politicians, from lowly county councillors to Taoisigh revealed as being corrupt.  We saw the great and the good queueing up to defend Charles Haughey as the layers of veneer were being slowly stripped from his carefully constructed public servant persona.  Only when it became blindingly obvious, only when the allegations acquired the status of fact, did his fellow Fianna Fail travellers desert Haughey and  cluck their tongues and stroke their beards and determine that it must never happen again.  They watched Ray Burke draw his line in the sand and howled about a  good man being hounded out of office, only to scurry for cover when Burke was jailed for corruption.  Now they stand ‘four square’ behind Bertie, as we heard this week.  The Mahon tribunal is only a witch hunt.  The tribunal, its counsel, Fine Gael, Labour and the Irish Times are all involved in an orchestrated campaign to do down the greatest Taoiseach this great little nation has ever seen.

Bertie’s corruption will be proven, eventually.  Fianna Fail will distance themselves from him and then will rewrite history and re-proclaim him a great patriot.

Our young generations will look on as all of this happens, as they watched the revelations about Burke and Lawlor and Haughey and Bailey and Lowry.  As they watched the unveiling of the unpunished, massive dirt tax fraud at AIB. As they watched the extraordinary behaviour of senior Gardai in Donegal.  They will  not feel the acid drip of cynicism slowly wearing away their respect for authority.  If you are 16 years old and confused and vulnerable you look to authority to give you guidance.  If your parents don’t provide it you look further afield.

The cops are all bent.

The politicians are all on the make.

The church is full of pervs.

And amid all of this no one is being punished for any wrongdoing.  The only ones in prison are the poor and the addicted.

So when an innocent young Polish man bumps into your friend, you run home, get a screwdriver and drive it into his skull.