The not unreasonable assumption (reached after years of hard evidence) that most members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party are empty, vacuous shells is a good starting point in trying to understand the attack of the heebee geebees that afflicted some of them when it emerged last week that public sector workers were not to be flayed alive publicly in town squares around the country.

Devoid of ideology, or any working model of how a country or society should be organised, Fianna Fáil policies and decisions have always been subject to influence by the highest bidder. In the past, as we know, this has involved the payment of money in return for political favours. These days, such corruption is rather frowned upon, even in Fianna Fáil; this has allowed vested interests, pressure groups and Liveline listeners to affect the nature of political debate in Ireland, rarely for the better. Those screaming loudest, and promising retribution and damnation at the next election, receive the most consideration from Fianna Fáil TDs, most of them understandably terrified about joining the ranks of the unemployed. As we saw last week, this can lead to some strange interventions.

For the moment, the running in terms of public debate is being made by people – employers, economists and journalists, mainly – who are hostile to the public sector and who see in it the root of all economic evil. They were all over the place on Wednesday, increasingly hysterical as the day went on, as it became clear that a possible deal existed to cut the public-service pay bill by means of unpaid leave.

Those who had hoped to see Jack O'Connor impaled on the railings of Government Buildings, or who had looked forward to seeing Liam Doran sitting on O'Connell Bridge in a few weeks singing "Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?" were outraged.

First up was Jim Power, the ranting chief economist of Friends First. As a customer of that company, I'd feel much more optimistic about my ravaged pension if Power spent less time trying to run the country and more time ensuring that I can retire before my heart gives out. But that's just a personal thing. Within two sentences of his contribution on Newstalk's Breakfast programme, he was calling on Brian Lenihan to resign if the mooted deal on unpaid leave came to fruition. Later in the day, Eddie Hobbs could be heard complaining that the public-sector unions were running the show, in mournful tones that suggested he felt he should still be in charge.

By Thursday, Fianna Fáil TDs were said to be in high dudgeon over the deal. Some of them were even named: Mattie McGrath, a serial Fianna Fáil whinger; Tom Kitt, who's been nursing a grudge against the party leadership since being sacked from the cabinet by Cowen; Jim McDaid, the incredible sulk; and John McGuinness, also fired by Cowen and, in any case, a lackey of employers' groups, whose main interest in public-sector wage cuts is to use them as a template to screw their own employees.

Still, you could tell from the texts to radio shows from members of the private sector that the ranting and raving of populists like Hobbs was having some effect. The bile against the public sector – on Today FM's The Last Word and right across Newstalk – was astonishing. It was clear that the civil war between public and private sector workers, which some people still think can be avoided, has started.

For the moment, it's a one-sided conflict. Since I wrote a column last week, broadly in support of beleaguered public-sector workers, I have been astonished by the response from civil servants all over the country. Most of them expressed genuine bemusement at the imbalanced nature of the debate, the way in which they – two-thirds of them on less than €50,000 per annum – have been portrayed as a key factor in the economic collapse. They have been keeping their heads down rather than fighting back; as one emailer wrote, he would prefer to tell somebody he was a male prostitute than own up to being a public sector worker, currently.

For the moment, those empty, vacuous shells in Fianna Fáil are only hearing one side of the story. Hence the incessant parroting of received wisdom. But they will have to go to the polls again one day. And while public sector workers might be keeping their heads down currently, you can be sure they will be voting almost as one when the time comes. Those empty shells in Fianna Fáil should consider that this weekend.

Rough justice: dubliner paid for teeing off tiger

September 2006, when Dubliner magazine published a satirical article about Elin Nordegren, the wife of Tiger Woods, seems like a long time ago now. Woods, you'll recall, expressed outrage on behalf of his wife at the insult visited upon her. Friends and acquaintances were wheeled out to solemnly declare that Woods – devoted husband that he was – could not stand idly by while his wife was traduced in a low-circulation magazine. Dubliner ended up paying out almost $200,000 in damages.

As we know now, Tiger (or Lion Cheetah, if you prefer) has had difficulty over the years - euphemism alert ? keeping his driver in his golf bag, and Elin has not been the only woman to whom he has professed his love. Dubliner settled for so much money because of the high profile campaign by Woods. If only they knew then what they know now....