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  • Fintan O'Toole, Ship of Fools

Fintan O'Toole: Ship of Fools (Faber & Faber)

“Ship of Fools” is a polemic, and a good one. You could read it from cover to cover in one sitting, and you will emerge suffused with righteous anger, and disappointment.
The anger is on account of the persistent stupidity of the political class, and the persistent greed and perfidy of the bourgeois and banking class in Ireland.
The disappointment is that we have let unacceptable behaviour derail our economy once again, and once again a future generation will pay for the present generation's naivete and lack of simple decency.
O'Toole traces the stupidity and the perfidy right back to Charlie Haughey and Guinness & Mahon bank, and the DIRT scams of the banks back in the 1980's. He paints a picture of a governing party – Fianna Fail – which is so wrapped up in its own code of omerta that it doesn't know which way is right, and which way might be left, or even just wrong. Next time you wonder if Brian Lenihan is the man for the job, remember that this is the man who spoke at the funeral of Charles Haughey, the man who stole money donated to pay for his father's liver transplant operation.
O'Toole is not just angry, he is also funny, and superb at puncturing the inflated egos of politicos, bankers and builders.
But, whilst all this is fine and good, there is one major question that arises. It is clear from this book that Fintan O'Toole actually seems to know all about ... Coronation Street! Quite how Ireland's leading public intellectual has time to worry about Ken and Deirdre (if both those characters are dead or written out, forgive us: we are out of our depth here) we just don't know. But there is something fine and clever and appropriate about being able to discuss the strange case of Bertie Ahern in the context of two soap characters.