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A reprint of a 2010 Irish Times article - for the day that's in it

The other night I was nearing my home after an evening stroll when I saw a strange, shifty-looking man lurking in the vicinity of my garden gate and behaving suspiciously. He was a diminutive creature with spindly legs, hunched shoulders and a big head that never seemed to rest but, pigeon-like, constantly shifted and twitched. There was an aura of the predator about him. He was a stranger to me but nonetheless there was something vaguely familiar about him that I couldn’t put my finger on.

He furtively looked up and down the street as if to make sure there were no witnesses to his behaviour. He didn’t spot me and, after apparently ascertaining that the coast was clear, he opened my gate and slithered up towards the hall door.

Like most people nowadays I’m aware that an increase in criminal behaviour is to be expected in times of recession and, again like most people, I’m not immune to the tendency towards paranoia this knowledge can on occasion induce.

“Aha,” I said to myself. “Here we have a miscreant. A burglar perhaps.”

I followed the stranger into my garden where he now stood, facing the hall door with his back to me. I steeled myself to make a citizen’s arrest and was just about to lay my hand on his shoulder when he reached out and stuck something into my letter-box.

Suddenly he turned around, as if, now that his business was concluded, he was in a hurry to go. He bumped into me and froze, a startled expression on his face, like a deer caught in headlights. Out of his hands and onto the ground dropped a bunch of green and yellow leaflets. I looked down at them and saw that they were Fianna Fail propaganda. The fellow was canvassing for the Republican Party.

“You’re a brave man,” I said. “But away with you. Your day is done around here.”

He grinned sheepishly. Then his eyes narrowed and anger flashed momentarily in them. He picked up his leaflets, muttered something indistinguishable and scurried out of my garden and away down the road as fast as his little legs could carry him.

These are tough times in the trenches for the Fianna Fail foot-soldier. If I was one of them, I’d be applying for a license to carry small arms for the purpose of self-defence. They’d be taking their lives in their hands to canvas strange houses, given the vast number of people who are on their uppers and mad as hell at the party for leading us into the vale of tears we now inhabit.

Who knows what terrible tragedy might be in full sway behind an innocuous-looking hall door, what with people losing their jobs and their houses, their pensions and their sense of security, their hopes for their children’s future and ultimately, perhaps, their sanity?

Maybe this is why many of the party’s canvassers are skulking around in the dead of night, not daring to knock on doors but quietly slipping leaflets through letter-boxes and hoping to make a quick escape before they actually come face to face with a disgruntled citizen.

Likewise, it seems nowadays that Fianna Fail voters are as scarce on the ground as happy tax payers. It’s a bit like it was in London back in the 1980s when you went to trendy parties and you never came across a soul who would admit to voting for Margaret Thatcher. Yet there the lady was. Elected.

I went into the house, drank a cup of cocoa, went to bed and fell asleep contemplating the decline of the Soldiers of Destiny, this once-great movement which had in its hay day regarded itself as the one political entity that embodied the soul of the Irish nation.

It’s a shadow of its former self, the party of De Valera, Boland and Lemass -- founding fathers who, whether or not you agreed with their politics or their outlook on life, you felt you could trust any day and every day to put the good of the country ahead of their own individual welfare.

They were men you knew you could trust to hold your wallet, who’d never dream of taking a bribe or cheating the state out of taxes or bringing shame and opprobrium on the party by dint of their personal avarice.

They were men who were willing to put their lives on the line and give their all for the country. They would surely turn in their graves if they beheld the depths of greed, hubris and irresponsibility to which their successors have sunk.

As the old revolutionaries passed control of the party to the men in the mohair suits, so began a process that saw the organisational culture gradually morph from “slightly constitutional” idealism into a morally ambivalent mindset which in time facilitated the domination of the party’s hierarchy by a rogues’ gallery of wide boys, gombeen men and charlatans. Their stories are told on history’s page and tribunal denouements and would inspire a person to poetry, albeit plagiarised.

I tell them now in verse,

Haughey, Burke and Flynn

And Lawlor and Aherne,

Now and in time to come

Wherever green is worn

All dug out, dug out utterly

And another chancer is born.

Minds boggle at the effrontery of their audacity. You could understand it if they were geniuses, if they were so stupendously good at their jobs as to tempt a desperate nation to turn a blind eye to their deadly sins. But, alas, the level of incompetence they display sometimes beggars belief.

They have strutted, peacock-like, across the world stage while boasting of their greatness. They have swanned around in state-sponsored limousines, jets and helicopters and gorged themselves at the trough of our public purse while their wilfulness, ignorance and recklessness bankrupted the country and impoverished great swathes of our people.

And still they rule the roost. Too conceited to quit and too shameless to apologise. Still they try to fool us with their fading smoke and misty mirrors. Our country’s name is muck in the eyes of the world because of their hubristic ineptitude and the crooked financial carry-on of their cronies. If we were talking about the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases rather than finance, Ireland would be the gonorrhoea capital of the world.

They have made a show of us us. Aherne, McGreevy, Cullen, Cowen, Harney (she’s Fianna Fail now in all but name), Lenihan -- their faces deserve to be carved in monument atop the Mount Rushmore of Cockupland.

But surely now their jig is up. Surely now the voters will despatch them to a well-deserved oblivion. Surely?

In the middle of the night I snapped awake, shocked out of the Land of Nod by a sudden bolt of recognition. I knew who he was -- the spindly-legged, shifty character I’d earlier found lurking at my property. As sure as I was alive I knew him. He was none other than the Cute Hoor, that Beelzebub of Irish public life and custodian of the soul of Fianna Fail. That devil had been in my garden!

The clouds that covered my subconscious parted and I heard in my head the phrase he’d muttered as he parted. The words came to me in a flash and their portent struck icy terror into my heart.

“I’ll be back,” he’d said.

My timbers shivered.