The Brits are well and truly teed off. The Aussies aren’t faring much better. But it is now obvious, more than ever, that US President Barack Obama officially LOVES Ireland.
And it seems that the Irish and our very own Taoiseach loves him too.
Judging by the reaction that Brian Cowen has been getting since he returned home from Washington last week, one would be forgiven for thinking that Ireland is about to become the 51st State of the USA!!
The Obama spell was cast far and wide - not just among Brian Cowen and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, but among the Government officials who travelled with him and the media who got to see the Holy Grail that is Obama in the flesh.
A mere mention of his name along the corridors of power this week sparked smiles of almost disbelief that they got to breathe the same air as the demi-God with roots in Offaly (Obama, that is!)
I was one of that media pack that was left gobsmacked by experiencing in the flesh the sheer charisma of the new US President. And judging by the reactions of friends and colleagues, I certainly count myself eternally grateful to the faithful but well-worn Visa card that got me there in the first place.
It is fair to say that Brian Cowen hasn’t had an ease ride since he took over the hot seat less than a year ago - consumer confidence is at rock bottom, faith in the banks has disappeared down the toilet, the economy is in the sewers and Fianna Fail support has taken up residence down there as well.
So it was nice to see him get a lift thanks to the royal treatment he was given in Washington.
A full day - a meeting, a lunch and a lavish party - all in the company of President O himself, you couldn’t really wish for much more.
So spare a through for poor old Gordon Brown - it seems the Obama administration couldn’t wait to get rid of him when he paid a visit a few weeks back. The poor Aussie Prime Minister didn’t fare just better - he just got a meeting with the Big Man on Tuesday.
And it seems that the royal treatment that our Offaly man got has really ticked off some commentators from across the pond in the UK.
“Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach of Ireland, is hardly a world figure, but he received the kind of red carpet treatment in Washington that would normally be reserved for royalty,” wrote one British commentator.
“The Irish PM has no influence whatsoever over the policies of the United States. Yet he was greeted for a 40 minutes meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday by not only the president but also Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones.”
“In addition, Obama hosted a lavish dinner party for 400 guests in Cowen’s honour to mark St Patrick’s Day. At Michelle Obama’s request, the White House fontain was even turned green to mark the event.”
“When Gordon Brown was received at the White House at the start of March, he was denied a press conference as well as an official dinner and was treated in a humiliating, demeaning fashion.”
“Brown may well be a lame duck at home, but he is still the representative of 60m Britons and a nation that has sacrificed blood and treasure alongside America time after time. The whole affair was hugely insulting to the British people,” the commentator concluded.
It is hard to resist putting your thumb to your nose and going ‘nah, nah, nah, nah, nah’!!!!
‘Surely it is time for Cathal to be Goan’ - declared a press release issued by Fianna Fail on Tuesday night.
Fianna Fail was absolutely furious at a report on the RTE news on Monday night in which it lampooned the now infamous nude painting of Taoiseach Brian Cowen by an anonymous artist.
Most newspapers in Ireland carried the story of how a rogue artist managed to get away with placing his/her work in two top Dublin galleries without anyone seeing them.
But it was RTE’s ‘offensive’ report - in which it showed people on the streets copies of the painting and asked for their opinions - that really irked Fianna Fail.
And in a direct pot shot at RTE Director General Cathal Goan, Fianna Fail Dublin North TD Michael Kennedy, declared that it is now time for Cathal to Goan!!
“The item represented a gross insult to the position of An Taoiseach, not to mention a personal affront to the dignity of the man himself,” fumed Kennedy.
“The position of An Taoiseach deserves respect, especially from our national public service broadcaster,” he ranted in defence of his lord and master.
Relations between the Government and RTE have been somewhat strained in recent months - incidents like the erroneous RTE report that the IMF were coming to Ireland to sort out our finances is just one that springs to mind.
It is highly unlikely that Cathal will Goan as a result of this ‘tasteless’ (Fianna Fail’s description) report.
But one thing is for sure, if Kennedy - or whomever in the press office responsible for the snappy release - ever finds themselves out of a job, a career in headline writing certainly beckons!
Turn on the TV or radio or open a newspaper and there she is - Green Senator and Euro candidate Deirdre de Burca - either giving us her tuppence worth on national issues or growing out of the shoulders of Green Party Ministers.
The brave de Burca this week, however, has set her sights firmly on her political nemesis - Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald.
Putting it simply, Deirdre wants to reclaim the seat taken from the Green Party by Sinn Fein in 2004 - and she is making it no secret as to who the victim will be.
Now while the Lady Deirdre could never be accused of entering into a cat fight with another woman, she is becoming more and more vocal in her opposition to everything Mary Lou does.
Just this week she attacked Mary Lou over Sinn Fein’s anti-Lisbon stance - a curious attack given that the Green Party didn’t even have a mandate from its members to call for a Yes vote.
Have the Green Party members changed their stance on Lisbon 2 or is Senator de Burca being just a tad previous?
Fancy playing a cruel joke on a friend? Then nominate them to run for Libertas in the European elections!!
The European elections are just over three months away, but Libertas is calling on supporters to either nominate themselves or to nominate a friend to run for the party when the European gravy train pulls into the station to take on new passengers.
“While the other parties rely on the same old politicians with the same old, tired ideas - we want YOU to run. We need real people with fresh ideas, not out-of-touch elites,” say Libertas in its latest news update.
“That is where you come in. Here is your chance to become a candidate, or nominate someone you know to be a candidate, to join our movement,” the group says.
Has Libertas been watching too many repeats of Who Wants to be a Millionaire that they came up with the ‘phone a friend’ idea?
So for those of you who fancy a bit of devilment - or those who are actually serious - just log on to www.libertas.eu/candidate and you or a friend could be in with a chance of winning a first class seat on the gravy train.
We have had the movie ‘W’ by Oliver Stone, chronicling the rollercoaster life and times of George W. Bush.
So for your YouTube fancy this week, we have the movie ‘C’ - The Brian Cowen Story (or how Ollie Stone may have envisaged it if he were to direct it)
Directed by Derek O’Connor and Ian Whelan, it is a five minute long trailer taking YouTube by storm.
Featuring caricatures of Brian Cowen, Brian Lenihan (as a vampire with dark circles under his eyes) and an hilarious Willie O’Dea - it has already received over 3,000 hits and it has only been online for just a week.
Maybe the popularity is down to a cameo appearance by UK Apprentice reject, the glamourous Jennifer Maguire - as Mary Harney!!!
When US President Barack Obama sits down at his desk in the Oval Office this morning, pride of place on that famous desk will go to a piece of Waterford Crystal presented to him by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
The tradition of handing over a Waterford Crystal bowl of shamrock to the American President on St Patrick’s Day dates back to the days of JFK - and it was an Irishwoman who helped to start the tradition that continues to this day.
The lady in question is none other than Dot Tubridy - and if that name rings a bell, yes she is a cousin of the one and only Ryan Tubridy!
It all started when Dot was working with Waterford Crystal in the early 60s. A friend of the Kennedys, she made sure that there was a piece of Waterford Crystal in the famous Oval Office.
It started with an ash tray to hold the Presidential cigar and now, decades later, it has become a bowl filled with shamrock.
The lady that is Dot is very modest about her role in the creation of this tradition and says that it was really JFK who started it.
But her relationship with the Kennedy clan has endured to this day. This week she attended the American Ireland Fund ball with her good friend Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Bobby Kennedy.
And when it comes to her cousin Ryan, the Kennedy apple didn’t fall to far from the tree there!
Ryan is writing a book about the Kennedy era and spent these past few days immersed in all things Kennedy-esque.
The book is expected to hit the shelves in Autumn of next year.
Bertie Ahern will always be known as a peace maker thanks to his role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
But Brian Cowen is also entitled to carry the same title, as according to President Barack Obama - our Taoiseach has the power to bring peace between the Democrats and the Republicans in the Houses of Congress.
Just after the traditional Shamrock Ceremony, President Obama brought Brian Cowen and the Irish entourage for lunch in Capitol Hill and joked that the Taoiseach was the only man who could unite the two parties at the moment.
Describing the lunch, President Obama said it is ‘a tradition in which Democrats and Republicans put aside partisanship and unite around one debate only - who is more Irish than whom’.
“So I thank the Taoiseach in advance for bringing relative peace to Washington - for at least this day,” he said!!
Among the many guests at the Speakers Lunch on Capitol Hill include Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, SDLP leader Mark Durcan, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Headless chickens, that’s what they all are. They couldn’t even organise a drinking spree in a brewery.
And when it comes to the Cycle to Work scheme, the Department of Finance seems to have buried their heads in the sand.
To be fair, the Department of Finance has bigger fishes to fry at the moment and they can be forgiven for not giving their full attention to the Cycle to Work scheme, which was introduced this year following last October’s budget.
But Labour’s Mary Upton said this lack of action proves that not only does Finance Minister Brian Lenihan fall down when it comes to the big issues, but he also falls down on the smaller matters.
“This was one of the measures in the Budget that had the Green Party jumping up and down with excitement, but their failure to bring this most modest of proposals to fruition means that not even Green Party staff in Leinster House can avail of the scheme,” she said.
“This is an indication as to how serious they are taken by their Fianna Fail colleagues.”
The scheme doesn’t cost a lot of money to implement but now, more than ever, is the time for the Department to just get on with it and introduce it.
With an emergency budget around the corner and hikes expected in the cost of petrol, surely that is the biggest incentive for people to get on their bikes.
In bad times, many turn to religion to help them get through.
So thanks to our friends at politics.ie, here is a little prayer for these challenging times:
“Cowen is my Shepherd, I shall not work. He leadeth me beside still factories. He restoreth my faith in Fine Gael. He guideth me to the path of unemployment. Yea, though I wait for my dole, I own the bank that refuses me. Cowen has anointed my income with taxes, my expenses runneth over my income. Surely poverty and hard living will follow me all the days of his term. From henceforth, we will live all the days of our lives in a rented home with an overseas landlord. I am glad I am Irish, I am glad that I am free. But I wish I was a dog, and Cowen was a tree.”
‘Banging head’ and ‘brick wall’ are two phrases that come to mind any time that a call for Dail Reform is made.
And it seems the archaic parliamentary procedures still in place are causing huge frustration among TDs.
Fine Gael’s David Stanton is the latest TD to call for Dail reform.
“Two measures could be introduced immediately. One would be to allow TDs to raise topical matters on a daily basis. This is currently permitted in the Seanad but TDs have to invoke the archaic Standing Order 32 in order to raise a matter.”
Adjournment Debates are the only opportunity for TDs to debate an important matter with a Government Minister, according to Deputy Stanton.
“But the Government treats these debates with contempt, rolling out inexperienced and largely powerless junior Ministers who refuse to engage in a genuine argument and read out their response from a prepared script.”
“This is ridiculous, as we might as well be swapping emails,” he said.
It is not often you can accuse Fianna Fail of having their heart in the right place, but the youngsters in Ogra Fianna Fail certainly do.
They have kick-started an initiative which, if successful, will see all student cards double as Organ Donation Certificates.
The initiative is part of a national campaign by Kerry Senator, the intrepid Mark Daly to set up an organ donation register that ties into the National Vehicle and Driver files.
All student cards will double as Organ Donation Certificates if a new proposal by Ógra Fianna Fáil succeeds.
Ogra’s Vice-chairman Joe O’Neill said many students haven’t had the option to opt to donate their organs by the time they reach college. He said this system will greatly increase the number of people available to donate in Ireland.
Ogra will now be rallying support for the campaign from the USI, who will be discussing the campaign at its upcoming annual congress.