It was Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin who thrust the knife into the shoulder blades of Brian Cowen last week with his simple question about the identity of those attending the post-golfing dinner at Druid's Glen at the end of July 2008.

The knife had been provided by the publication of accounts of a series of previously undisclosed contacts between Cowen and Sean FitzPatrick in the book The FitzPatrick Tapes by Tom Lyons and Brian Carey, which featured a description of one particularly long and timely game of golf.

As luck would have it, Ó Caoláin happened to be at the Co Wicklow golf hotel too and his direct question to the Taoiseach about the identity of other members of the party brought two new names into the arena, one being Alan Gray, the managing partner of Indecon economic consultants and an appointee of Cowen's to the board of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator, and the other Gary McGann, chief executive of Smurfit Kappa and another senior Anglo Irish Bank director.

So off we went again as, day by day last week, more murky details emerged – some old, some new, some real, some untrue – about other contacts and examples of cronyism amid the many links between Anglo Irish Bank, Fianna Fáil and the regulatory authorities.

Such is the cynicism and lack of trust in what politicians say that nobody, but nobody, really believes that the golfing party of 28 July were just shooting the breeze and having an impromptu discussion about the economy which, they were just beginning to realise, was on the verge of implosion.

The Taoiseach insists there was no impropriety in the meeting. He was so embedded in the culture of easy informal contacts between business, politics and regulation that he did not, and still cannot, see that the very informality of such contacts was dangerous and wrong. He is widely held as a man of integrity and imbued with a strong sense of duty and respect for the offices and institutions of state. But that respect did not extend to full disclosure to the Dáil of those informal contacts.

And yet, in a strange way, it was the actions of his accuser Ó Caoláin that underline just how endemic such behaviour was at the time. Ó Caoláin was a wedding guest in the Druids Glen Hotel. He spied the Taoiseach in the company of his friends and went over to him to ask a favour. Would he meet and greet the bride and groom? Such deference to power. Such fawning in the face of political celebrity. Such, dare we say it, cronyism, albeit at a very minor level. Was Ó Caoláin himself infected by the mores of the time in which anyone who was anyone aspired to regard himself or herself as a player with ready access to the great and the good? Was that the motivation for his wanting to demonstrate to the wedding guests that he was important enough, 'insider' enough even, to ask the Taoiseach to shake the hands of the happy couple?

Cowen, gentleman that he was, obliged.

Ó Caoláin is no doubt cock-a-hoop that he was able to catch the Taoiseach off guard in the Dáil and force him to 'fess up to the other names who supped at his table. The fact that Cowen had not disclosed either the St Patrick's weekend phone call to Hanoi from Sean FitzPatrick, the round of golf, and then, the final blow, the full complement at the postmatch dinner, has left FF cabinet colleagues aghast. Coming on the back of the first Red C poll of 2011 for Paddy Power showing the party at just 14% and likely to win just 15 seats, the backbenchers are rightly terror-struck.

They now go into an election with a leader branded as a golfing pal of the Anglo lads, with no manifesto, no policies apart from those dictated by the IMF – and even, in some constituencies, with no candidates selected because so many TDs and ministers are not standing again.

The party is literally fighting for its survival. But to the people of this country, the fevered on-again/off-again heave during the first week our politicians were back in the Dáil after Christmas was insulting. As the rumours grew ever more hysterical the people realised, yet again, that they were the irrelevance in the greater game that is the Fianna Fáil party.

The events of last week underline yet again how broken politics is in this country. But disgusted as the electorate is, it is vital to engage politically.

Anger has to turn into telling every politician who comes to the door during the election campaign that the way this country is governed must be reformed forever.

Candidates from every party have to be quizzed about their views on the electoral system, the size of the Dáil, the make up of constituencies, whether we need a Seanad and for their views on regulating the links between business, vested interests and the political parties.

A lot of proposals are being put foward by the opposition parties as well as by different groupings eager for change.

It's vital every voter engages in the debate so that any new government is under no illusion that things cannot – and will not be allowed to – go on as they are.