Bertie Ahern: still happily living in his bubble of delusion

The bubble of delusion took many forms in the last week or so. Take Richard Keys and Andy Gray, the late, lamented presenters of live football on Sky Sports. The pair were out of a job by the end of the week over sexist remarks, and, in Gray's case, the emergence of footage showing him using his power to demean a female presenter.

These two titans of sports broadcasting had been under the impression that they were indispensable to the multibillion pound industry that football has become. All the reports leaking out from the Sky studio suggest that they cultivated an atmosphere of fear therein. It got to the stage where agency make-up personnel were drafted in for the Monday night match because the make-up staff wanted to minimise contact with the celebrity pair. Gray was paid £2m a year for talking about football. Keys enjoyed an annual salary of £500,000 for talking to Gray about football.

In light of the popularity of football, and the attendant high-wattage celebrity, it's easy to see how little guys with outsized egos, huge salaries, and flattering reviews could lose the run of themselves. They were cocooned in their own bubble, until reality punctured the bliss last week. Welcome back to earth, lads.

Jim Corr must live in his own bubble, but at least he's pretty inoffensive. He appeared on the Late Late Show last week to expound on conspiracy theories and what have you, including his allegation that metal detectors in airports are designed to cause cancer to passengers. Jim is the guitarist in The Corrs, a successful pop group in which his three sisters are the main attraction.

There was a time when bored and rich pop stars turned to drugs, or tantric sex, or even religion. Jimbo has avoided these fates of lesser men. He is occupying himself with a mission to alert the world to the dangers of the military industrial complex, going forward. That he is dedicating himself to the dissemination of information for the benefit of the greater good is highly admirable. All he needs now is a sighting of a platoon of space cadets landing in Termonfeckin, intent on contaminating the state's water supply with LSD. Some bubbles are best left alone to blow on by, as the world grapples with more earthy matters. If you see any men in dark glasses stalking Jim, please ring the nearest garda station.

One man in a bubble who has a great capacity to offend is Bertie Ahern. You remember him? Cuddly guy with a tight smile? He scattered money around the country like confetti, collected developers for buddies, and won bags of sterling on a horse.

He was saying goodbye to politics last week when the man from RTÉ asked him to reflect on his tenure as Ireland's greatest politician. "I would have loved if somebody, somewhere would have told me what was going on in the banks, but nobody ever did." This referred to a time when he was running the country.

Any regrets? Go on, tell us the truth for once in your life. Did you get anything wrong? "I still think we didn't get a proper national infrastructural stadium… when I see a little country like Qatar or Kuwait talking about their 10 stadiums and we never succeeded in getting one national stadium. I tried hard to do but I didn't get [it]." This guy who wants to be president is now comparing the country unfavourably with oil-rich dictatorships?

In a country that is being run by the IMF, and haemorrhaging its young by the day, there exists two world-class sports stadia. Croke Park and Lansdowne Road are theatres to behold. And Ahern wanted a third?

His coalition partners, the Progressive Democrats, had a central role in the destruction of the economy, but they do deserve much praise for stopping the bubble king's madcap folly. And Michael McDowell was correct, for once, when he likened the proposed Bertie Bowl to something out of Ceausescu's Romania. Bertie's bubble looks all set to endure.

While we can ignore Ahern inside the cocoon of his bloated pension, the bubble of delusion in Dáil Éireann should concern everybody. Last week's debate on the finance bill was a joke. Pressure from Fine Gael and Labour demanded the debate be fast-tracked. Yet, even in a constrained timeframe, which allowed for just 21 hours' debate on a bill which will have a profound effect on most citizens, there was precious little input from the state's parliamentarians.

Tuesday and Wednesday's sessions were top-heavy with rambling contributions and valedictory speeches from departing deputies. Mary O'Rourke introduced into the second stage debate her thoughts on sexual longing among the aged and the presence of celebrity economic gurus on the ballot paper. She made no connection between the two subjects.

Michael D Higgins delivered a speech on the republic that would have been highly commendable were it not taking up time allocated to discussing how the budget provisions might impact on citizens. Michael Moynihan spoke of building friendships in politics, in which he mentioned the pope.

At one stage, minister of state Dick Roche intervened in an uncharacteristic effort to still the waffle. "In the years ahead, the charade of this finance bill will become known as a low point in political debate," he said. "I support this bill but I would like to see it passed after a full and thorough examination."

The whole exercise demonstrated in the starkest terms the redundancy of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Constitutionally designed to act as a fully fledged arm of government, it is now merely a forum where elected representatives come to make up numbers when they're not taking care of constituency matters. The executive's grip on power is complete. There is absolutely no check on that power, which is in total breach of the spirit of the constitution. Is it any wonder that we're in the state we're in?

Observing clowns and celebrities living in bubbles of delusion can add to the gaiety of the nation. The same can't be said for the political delusion which has a profoundly negative impact on how the state is governed. The incoming government would be well-served to puncture that bubble with haste.