Forget your banking inquiries. If you really want to know why the state is in the state it's in, look at the events of last week. All of the evidence points towards a political system that is entirely bankrupt. The vanities, frailties and cynicism of a system that does not serve its purpose were writ large in the passage of what should have been a minor piece of legislation.
Last week, there were serious issues that a national parliament should have debated with passion and purpose. The slashing of respite hours for the carers of children with an intellectual disability; a survey that shows Ireland has the second-highest food prices in the EU; the revelation Nama is already acting as a cash cow for all manner of professionals; another leap in the live register.
Instead, the drama and passion was reserved for a group whom Tony Gregory referred to in the Dáil in February 2005 as "some of the richest, most powerful and most influential developers and businessmen in this country". A slice of their wealth may be gone, but some members of the Ward Union Hunt have retained their power and influence.
The plight of the leisure activities of this small, exclusive group dominated discourse inside and outside parliament in the early part of last week. The Wildlife Bill bans the hunting of carted red deer with hounds. The only group affected by the ban is the Ward Union Hunt. One of its prominent members is Michael Bailey, who was deemed corrupt by a tribunal and who, with his brother, settled with the Revenue for €25m in 2006. In developed countries, Bailey may well have been the subject of a criminal prosecution, but we don't do that kind of stuff here.
The hunt also includes one of Nama's finest, Johnny Ronan, who, like the late George Best, enjoys the company of Miss Worlds, one of whom he flew to Morocco on a whim earlier this year, at a time when his debts were being socialised into Nama.
You might think high-profile developers would not be flavour of the year with politicians. But these boys are as popular as ever. Members of the national parliament were bending over backwards to ensure the likes of Bailey and Ronan could continue scaring the life out of defenceless animals, who are reared and retained for the purpose of having the life scared out of them.
Obsequiousness to the wealthy and powerful was a feature of the political system in the bubble years. Another was the subsuming of the state and wider society's interests into the agendas of those who shouted the loudest.
Last October, the Green Party inserted the Wildlife Bill into the revised programme for government. By the standards of any half-developed European state, it was a tame measure. In January, a "pro-hunting" group, Rural Ireland Says Enough! (Rise!) emerged. With an office in Ashbourne – in the heart of Ward Union territory – and fronted by top PR man Liam Cahill, it was obviously well funded. Cahill had previously worked as PR man for Intel, with Fianna Fáil's David Andrews and with the Labour Party. He doesn't come cheap.
Over the last six months, he brilliantly purported to represent the interests of rural Ireland with a campaign to "mobilise public and political opinion in support of traditional field sports and rural pastimes".
The Nama boys and their fellow hunters were thus transmogrified into saviours of rural Ireland, the last bulwark against the rampaging instincts of the Green party. Apart from the Wildlife Bill, the only other proposal of concern was the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill, which pre-dated the Greens in government, and arose out of recommendations from a group comprising all stakeholders in the dog breeding industry. This was an overdue bill in any half-developed European country, but facts are the enemy of spin. In the hands of Rise!, the breeding bill was another stab from the great Satan of rural Ireland, John Gormley.
Throughout the country, beyond the pale, Rise! spread the word. Ten county councils adopted motions endorsing the campaign. Constituency clinics were visited and politicians asked nicely to support the Nama boys.
A Rise! rally in Trim, Co Meath last Saturday was told that "the revised programme for government agreed between Fianna Fáil and the Green party will go into the records as one of the most shameful deals ever perpetrated on rural people by an Irish government".
The programme contained only one provision affecting rural Ireland – a two-page bill banning carted red deer hunting.
The speaker at Trim, Des Crofton, warned TDs: "Vote down Gormley's bills next week or pay the price by losing your seat."
For some of us who grew up in rural Ireland, this hijacking of the travails that have dogged that section of the country is insulting. Where were these people when manufacturing disappeared from rural Ireland? When the post offices and the garda stations closed? Where were they when towns and villages were being emptied of the young, when the land no longer provided a proper living? Slavish devotion to the market was the only game in town, and if that ripped rural Ireland to shreds, nobody was shouting stop. There was no Rise! to wield influence over the political system on these matters. Instead, rural Ireland was reduced to a flag of convenience by lobbies engaged in flogging drink or chasing deer.
Rise! was pushing an open door with politicians. Many of them are clueless in their nominal duty of bettering society, but they are brains on wheels when it comes to protecting their seats.
The more sensitive noses sniffed the wind. Seven Fianna Fáil backbenchers spoke out against the bill. Meath deputy Thomas Byrne is regarded as the future of the party. He said the bill could be unconstitutional. Thomas is a solicitor. Maybe he really didn't know that he was talking through his hat.
Fine Gael's resident hyena, Michael Ring, must live in another universe. He told RTÉ's Late Debate, "People are sick and tired of it. They can't fish, they can't farm." Maybe he believes the Ward Union fish for their deer.
Others saw the thing as an opportunity. Time to jump ship with a big splash.
On Morning Ireland last Monday, Michael Healy-Rae came on to speak for his father. Michael was introduced as Jackie's director of elections. Is there another country in the developed world in which a parliamentarian's director of elections is wheeled out to speak on policy mid-term?
The slot gave Healy-Rae a chance for the voters of Kerry South to familiarise themselves better with him. Ninety years into independence, and still the post-colonial practice persists of seats in parliament being treated like a family heirloom.
Jackie Healy-Rae showed up on RTÉ's News at One to explain why he was tumbling overboard on this bill. He denied he had told a Sunday newspaper: "Letting a pack of dogs loose after a deer and scaring it half to death isn't something I agree with." The newspaper's deputy editor rang in to say they have him saying it on tape.
Another government supporter to hop off was Michael Lowry. He is a proven liar and cheat of whom any self-respecting government would have nothing to do with in the first place. He told Sean O'Rourke he was worried about the horse-racing industry in Tipperary. Do they chase deer around Fairyhouse?
Then we had the Fianna Fáil tribunes of rural Ireland, Mattie McGrath and Christy O'Sullivan, both of whom represent constituencies many miles from where the Nama boys hunt and whoop. This is the second so-called assault on rural Ireland in which both got their knickers in a twist.
The previous occasion was the lowering of the drink-driving limit to a level deemed necessary by every other developed country in Europe. For these two lads, drink driving and hunting deer are the only real pastimes in rural Ireland.
The Labour party's position on the bill suggests it doesn't stand for anything anymore, apart from the pursuit of power. Nine of the party's 20 TDs have publicly opposed blood sports, yet all but Tommy Broughan had no problem voting against the bill. Maybe the party's position was adopted on foot of research from focus groups, the favoured governing tool of Bertie Ahern when he was leading the country into perdition.
That was politics at ground level last week. Matters of urgency and, in some cases, desperation, were sidelined for a pantomime of what occupies politicians. The energy spent on self-preservation, making the other guy look bad, sucking up to powerful interests, is all energy lost from any effort to do proper work.
Up at leadership level, the bankruptcy is just as stark. Brian Cowen is a busted flush, leading a discredited party. The most obvious alternative for Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, is not wanted by the majority of voters polled. A fortnight ago, he showed how he could be the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to protecting his power. Yet he can't inspire confidence in an electorate crying out for some – any – leadership.
Eamon Gilmore is promising there will be no recession when he's in charge and everybody will get what they want. He looks more and more like Bertie Ahern with each passing day.
Gormley is being wrongly vilified over his Wildlife Bill. But he undermines his party's position by abusing his power to block an incinerator in his own backyard, which has been given the green light by all the relevant agencies. In this, he is more Fianna Fáil than Fianna Fáil itself.
They protest about all being tarred with the same brush, about how hard they work. They claim they are victims of media cynicism. And they can't understand how the general public don't appreciate all they do. The answers were there in stark detail last week. The system is bankrupt, and so far there appears to be little will to reform it into something fit for governing an alleged developed country.