This article is as a service to the foreign media. When you report on Ireland, you enjoy making us sound colourful, eccentric, charming, unconventional and, not to put too fine a point on it, drunk.
We constantly disappoint you by electing rather sober, technocratic parties full of lawyers, teachers and small businesspeople. Sorry about that. To make up for it, here is a guide to the more mentally individualistic figures in current Irish politics, who will live up to your preconceptions and help you bring home the story you came with:
Michael Healy-Rae: You will never find a crueller living caricature of the Irish politician. Not now that his dad’s retired. This man wears wellingtons in the office, and keeps a pig in the filing cabinet, under “Pig”. He can be called upon for a lurid quote at any time, though unfortunately you won’t be able to understand it.
Michael is the child of a farming clan who have survived by producing a much-prized vegetable product, the “Healy-Rae grassroot vote”, to supply insatiable addicts in Dublin. With changing tastes however this type of vote is no longer in such demand, and it should be noted too that their latest crop came in well under quota. Sadly for Ireland’s biodiversity, the Healy-Rae may soon be extinct.
Richard Boyd Barret: A Communist. C – O – M – M – U – N – I – S – T. COMMUNIST!!! (Repeat as per your newspaper’s style guide.)
Communists, like contraceptives, were once illegal in Ireland. Nowadays they are unremarkable, everyday things of no particular significance. Although you can never quite forget they’re there, can you?
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: An Irishman whose favourite drug is not actually a big dirty pint of black porter, Ming The Merciless is onto the smoke. Everywhere he goes, an exotic miasma lingers about his clothes and (yes) ponytail. From his very hall door there pours a cloud that makes people breathe deep and smile beatifically. He is even seen openly in public, carrying great brown brick-shaped lumps of the stuff.
Turf smoke. The guy is a fiend for it.
Brian Cowen (retired): OK, this one really is a bit drinky. But after presiding over the worst economic collapse in Europe since the Weimar Republic, I reckon you’d feel you could use a couple of stiffeners too.