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A lot can change in a week – especially in the crazy old world of Irish politics

April 5th, 2024 11:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

A lot can change in a week – especially in the crazy old world of Irish politics Image

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BE careful what you wish for. Last week I was desperately pining for the ‘grand stretch in the evening’ before the clocks sprang forward. This week I find myself looking up eyemasks on Amazon to protect me from the dazzling morning light bursting through the window. A lot can change in a week and this one has been a doozy in the small world of Irish politics.

Indeed, the political cliché depository has been running dangerously low on supplies as commentators and journalists struggle to match the epoch-defining events with suitable hyperbole. There are concerns that some stock phrases may have been exhausted beyond use.

‘Political earthquake’ has been relied on far too heavily and is in danger of extinction. Phrases relating to ‘major shifts in the tectonic plates’ have been rendered meaningless in recent days.

There has also been flagrant overuse of explosives-related language to describe political events.

There were rumours of a political ‘bombshell’ in Kildare Street in the run-up to Leo Varadkar’s surprise departure two weeks ago. The news was said to be ‘explosive’ and would likely come as a ‘shellshock’ to coalition partners.

And this was before the reports started to emerge at the weekend that Jeffrey Donaldson was being charged by police for alleged historical sexual abuse, with his wife also being charged for aiding and abetting.

With the cliché depository already depleted, there was little that could be written to accurately describe the surprise, shock, worry and despair across these islands.

‘What the absolute f*** is going on?!!!!’ was the only worthy headline, although I’m not sure if anyone ran with it.

We all know how finely balanced and delicate power- sharing arrangements are in the North. With Donaldson now out of the picture, and Leo throwing in the towel in Dublin, we are suddenly all standing on very shaky ground once again.

And just when you thought the evenings were getting longer and there was more to be hopeful about.

Getting the message?

HOPE was also in short supply over the weekend when it emerged that the death toll on Irish roads this year is 38% higher than in April last year. When you would think that cars are becoming safer and our roads are generally better, how can this be the case?

From a personal point of view, having travelled all over the country during Easter, there does seem to be a bit of an edge on the roads, or a feeling like anything could happen at any time, but maybe my impression is being coloured by all the terrible news. I did notice a strong Garda presence on the road from Cork to Dublin, and in Kerry also, so the message does seem to be landing that this needs to be addressed urgently.

I was glad to see Simon Harris coming out and pledging that road safety would be ‘a priority issue’, but let’s see how that can turn into something more concrete. We all remember Gay Byrne’s very successful intervention when he led a very public road safety campaign in the 90s, which was accompanied by some shocking videos that aired regularly on RTÉ and other TV stations.

With youngsters getting much of their information on social media websites like TikTok and Instagram these days, you’d wonder if something more targeted to that demographic needs to be dreamed up. If only we had a Taoiseach who knew a few things about TikTok …!

One of me is quite enough

I WAS reading during the week that they are now creating AI chatbots that can ‘replicate’ your friends. By feeding in lots of historical text messages to a neural network, they can create AI versions of friends and relatives who have passed away and allow you to ‘chat’ with them.

It is the stuff of nightmares. Personally, I am horrified by how an AI version of myself might misrepresent me after I’m gone.

Imagine an AI-rendered caricature of me, patched together using years of voice and video data, telling my great-grandchildren damaging lies about how I’m a big fan of Oasis and I love nothing more than watching the Kerry footballers succeed in the championship.

If there is a ‘right to be forgotten’ law that allows you to request old articles or information about you to be deleted from Google searches, surely I have a right to demand that I not be resurrected after my death to sell whiskey in Japan, or to become a recurring character in Fair City, against my wishes?

Christy leaves a digital trail

SPEAKING of how you can inadvertently leave a ‘digital trail’ behind on the internet, I was amused by reports in the papers at the weekend that Christy Kinahan has been leaving Google reviews online for the last few years, even though the US government had a $15m bounty on his head.

Posting under the name Christopher Vincent, his reviews included a restaurant in Istanbul in August 2022.

‘The restaurant is chic and plush,’ he wrote. ‘The service was good but not outstanding.’ In 2019, Kinahan attended the Global Humanitarian Aviation Conference (GHAC), held by the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) at a hotel in Egypt.

‘The service and food were good as were the conference facilities,’ he reported. All in all, Kinahan left 102 reviews for establishments in the UAE as well as 45 in Spain, 28 in Zimbabwe, 16 in South Africa and 14 in Turkey.

You can employ whole teams of investigators and special agents to catch bad guys, but sometimes you just need to look in the most obvious places.

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