Our Dermot needs a few lessons from the First Lady of Comedy

WE didn’t realise it, but there are two comedians in the White House. The other is Laura Bush.

The world supposed it would help to have a sense of humour to be married to Dubya, and she confirmed it.

At a White House correspondents' dinner in Washington, Laura decided she had had enough of her husband's droning. Quicker than Dubya could say "Iraq," the former librarian grabbed the microphone, and centre stage, to launch into husband and mother-in-law jokes.

Whether her interruption was scripted or not, she painted a vivid picture of their White House domesticity as she beat about the Bush without rubber gloves. The most powerful man in the world is in bed by 9pm, earlier than Rodge and Podge, with the result that Laura confessed she's a "desperate housewife."

So desperate enough, it seems, that she slipped away one night with Dick Cheney's wife and Condoleeza Rice to a Chippendales show. How that went down in the Bible Belt doesn't really matter since Dubya was re-elected. "George," she admonished him , "if you really want to end tyranny in this world, you're going to have to stay up later."

She also had a go at George's mother, her mother-in-law, who she compared to Don Corleone, of Mafia notoriety.

Then the First Lady of Comedy, as she is now dubbed, gave an unintended insight as to how he comes up with his foreign policy, and probably every other policy. "George's answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chainsaw. Which, I think, is why he and Cheney (vice-president) and Donald Rumsfeld get along so well." I presume all three will chuckle in agreement with the decision of a US military judge who threw out army reservist Lynndie England's guilty plea to abusing a prisoner in Abu Ghraib jail because he was not convinced she knew her actions were wrong. I wonder what part of holding a naked prisoner on a leash while he's being photographed Colonel James Pohl reckons she didn't know was wrong. Probably the same kind of reckoning that deemed a US marine who shot a wounded man in a Fallujah mosque will not face court-martial because it was "consistent with the established rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict." Maybe our Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern, is going to bed around the same time as George Dubya allowing for the time difference. That might explain why this week in the United Nations he was worried about under-the-counter sales of nuclear materials. Even allowing for the fact that his own constituency is verging on the border with the North, I don't think he need worry too much about being nuked.

Nobody in this country should lose too much sleep about it either because if Osama bin Laden decides to drop something unannounced on us, there isn't too much we would be able to do about it, except duck. Let's face it, nobody can remember where they put Joe Jacob's tablets.

So, it was rather intriguing to realise that our foreign minister was in New York during the week giving a tutorial on black market nuclear weapons weapons of mass destruction to those who are more familiar with them.

Dermot Ahern was as much at ease when he addressed take a breath the Seventh Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as he was talking to his local Fianna Fáil cumann.

He assured the conference that Ireland was committed to upholding, implementing and strengthening agreements to actively pursue an end to the need for nuclear arms, which is very easy to waffle on about when you don't have any.

Now, if he had assured the conference that Ireland was committed to upholding, implementing and strengthening agreements to actively pursue an end to the need for trolleys in hospitals, then that is something we'd have understood. BUT even the United Nations knows it would be easier to rid the world of black market nukes, or even the ones you get a receipt for, than to rid Irish hospitals of trolleys. In any case, that's Mary Harney's job and she's going to the annual conference of the Irish Nurses Organisation in Killarney today to give them a progress report, which shouldn't take too long. She can confidently tell the 340 delegates that with the aid of her 10-point plan there are still more than 300 people or patients, to be technical enjoying trolley service courtesy of an 11 billion health service. You probably wouldn't get it on the latest model from Airbus and it's certainly as expensive! Probably one of the delegates will mention to our Tánaiste and Minister for Health the little matter of blackmail that the country's nurses are being threatened with at the moment. They were told they won't get a 3.5% pay rise due to them next month under Sustaining Progress that's a national wage agreement for those unfamiliar with the term unless they agree to the introduction of a new healthcare assistant grade in hospitals.

The IMO maintain this is a form of blackmail because the nurses have adopted public protest as tactic to highlight the problems in A&E departments.

They're right, even though the newly-invented Health Service Authority denies it. Holding nurses to ransom is not a good idea. There's no question of holding anyone to ransom, except the taxpayers, for a pay increase if you happen to be a member of any of the nine privileged groups from government ministers to hospital consultants and the judiciary to senior civil servants.

The Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector sounds like a UN committee yesterday published an advertisement advising us that they are going to give everyone in those groups, who are existing on the caviar line, a pay increase in 2007. But because they are in dire straits by having to exist on E150,000 to almost E200,000, the Government has instructed the review body to examine whether their remuneration has fallen out of line with comparable jobs in the private sector.

Given that the private sector is somewhat devoid of ministers, judges, civil servants, army chiefs of staff and Garda commissioners, it would be rather difficult to find a comparison. In case the general public can think of any comparisons, and it shouldn't task the imagination too much, the review body invites submissions to its office at Lansdowne House, Lansdowne Road, Dublin.

Just in case you don't know how to make such a submission, they have guidelines prepared to help you do so and submissions must be "structured in accordance with those guidelines."

In other words, just fill in the figure.

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