If you miss the Irish Times. . .don't worry, we had it ages ago YOU have to give credit where it's due. Take The Irish Times lead story on Friday, for example.

"Leinster House to get 300 extra staff next year", says the main headline.

"New posts to include 166 personal assistants for TDs", says the sub-head.

So let's give credit where it's due. Which is to the Sunday Tribune's Martin Frawley. "All TDs to get 200 extra support staff", said the headline on his story . . . back on 24 August.

Last year.

"Our 166 TDs currently have one secretary each, but under new arrangements to run the Oireachtas as a standalone commissionf they will get another secretary each, " said Martin's story.

"Under the plan, 166 new personal assistants/ researchers for TDs will be recruited as well as 30 extra secretaries for senators and extra official to staff Oireachtas committees", the Times said on Friday.

If you miss The Irish Times, you miss part of the Sunday Tribune from 14 months ago.

Something funny's happening in Northern politics. . .

STRANGELY, as Northern politics gets more boring by the day, the quality of political humour coming out of the North has improved in inverse proportion.

Newton Emerson's Portadown News is a case in point. With a range of wonderfully-named correspondents such as Helen Brimstone (Religious Affairs) to Billy Shootspatrick (Loyalist correspondent), the book pokes fun at every conceivable faction in the North. Sinn Fein is dubbed "the popular baseball bats to pharmaceuticals corporation".

A journalist called Ed Baloney writes a book called The Secret History of Gerry Adams, which contains the following nugget:

"As early as 1972, Sinn Fein's political project was beginning to take shape.

'Killing people is all very well, ' McGuinness told Adams over tea and jaffa cakes in their Caryduff safe house, 'but what really worries me is the injustice of the 11-plus.' Don't worry love, ' said Adams sweetly.

'Your day will come.'" We also loved the headline 'Queen Mother Dies . . . 54% of Northern Ireland mourns'.

. . . and no, we don't mean Ian Paisley "I OFTEN thank Jesus that Michael McDowell wasn't born in the North. He's the scariest man I've ever met who's not in the IRA." So remarks fictional MLA, Shay Gallagher, an independent nationalist with Fianna Fail leanings who is the hero of a novel called Private Diary of a Suspended MLA by Derrybased journalist, Garbhan Downey. The book is a hilarious romp through the last year of Northern politics with a few pen pictures of real politicians thrown in. At one stage in the book, the hapless Gallagher tries to ring Bertie but is told by the Taoiseach's office to ring Biffo instead and is even supplied with the minister's private phone number.

"Sorry, I don't know who you are or what you're talking about. Now fuck off and never ring this number again, " responds the bluntspeaking minister from Offaly.

O'Driscoll too big for his rugby boots, say fans BRIAN O'Driscoll is, or at least was, odds-on favourite to captain the Lions next year. But subscribers to planetrugby. com have different ideas.

Many, including some from Ireland, seem to be against BOD. "Please pick anyone but BOD, he's cocky enough as it is. I'm Irish but he's really started to get on my nerves". . . Cian, Ireland, is one offering.

"If it is given to O'Driscoll, I feel his head would explode or he probably wouldn't be able to get his head through the BA flight door to New Zealand. He is still a legend though, just needs to stop eating at Micky D's I think" . . . Cobby, United Kingdom is another.

So who is favoured by the majority? Step forward Paul O'Connell.

O'Toole launches attack at sour Kraut
THE OUTSPOKEN Peter O'Toole has launched a blistering attack at his last movie Troy and its director Wolfgang Peterson.

O'Toole starred as Priam alongside a star-studded cast including Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Diane Kruger. But the actor hated working with the German film-maker.

He says, "Ugh, what a disaster. The director, that Kraut, what a clown he was. When it was all over, I watched 15 minutes of the finished movie and then walked out.