Kudos to the producers of the Late Late Show who took an interesting theme and presented an interesting set of guests to the nation on Friday night. Top honours go to Brendan Gleeson for his impassioned expression of the rage many - though not nearly enough - people in this country feel about the state of the health service. The panel discussion with Joe Duffy, David McWilliams, Eamon Dunphy and Gerard Mannix Flynn, however, was poorly overseen by Pat Partridge and as a result was not nearly as useful as it might have been. Still, the impression overall was that perhaps things are starting to change in the Celtic Tygger and people are ready to begin to question what one might call the management of our prosperity. Alas, that most baleful Irish political disorder, populism, was on display at every turn during the discussion. Dunphy was particularly disgraceful and when Pat detected the mood of the audience as encouraging of Eamo's hectoring drivel, he too decided to pretend he was there to stick it to the Man. As a result, instead of observing a timely, necessary and sober debate on where our society needs to go from here, we were treated to an unedifying scramble by the middle-class, establishment gentlemen - Pat and Eamo being remunerated at a rate perhaps ten times the industrial average - on the panel to position themselves as ordinary, daycent Dubs. Interestingly and tellingly, there was not one woman or non-Dubliner on this segment of the show. Only David McWilliams had the decency to characterise this as populist posturing, but he wasn't permitted to get a word in edgeways. While in no way endorsing his citizen charter thing - I'm certainly not signing it - at least McWilliams was prepared to understand that as a privileged and educated citizen, he has a responsibility to help shape his society and to contribute to the debate in a mature fashion. The others were interested only in gratifying their egos by banging on about how wonderful they were for standing shoulder to shoulder with the man on the Clapham Omnibus. It tells you a lot about how in love with themselves these gentlemen are that they think people want to sit through their smug, self-promoting rants instead of to have the barometer of our society assessed by important media professionals. It's worth noting in passing that Mannix Flynn who said he was "on the streets" trying to make a living is in receipt of Arts funding of at least two different types despite telling the Late Late audience that he doesn't get any grants. Check out Bob Byrne's free comic for details. Dunphy and Partridge, establishment media figures with significant audiences, played the usual Irish game of pretending that the establishment is someone else. Fianna Fáil has been at this since time immemorial despite being in Government for the last 20 years, excepting the two years of the Rainbow Coalition. The Taoiseach's recent remarks to the effect that "life should be life" are a case in point. I always think of Joe Walsh who headed up the Department of Agriculture for almost 20 years, which is incredible in a parliamentary democracy. A civil servant could have started his career under Joe as an eager young graduate and now be the Secretary General of the Department or at least SG in waiting. It would be an unimaginable state of affairs in business and it hasn't exactly been a wonderful period for Irish agricultural, diversity etc. Gleeson's anger about the state of the health service was timely and it is good that someone public has finally seen fit not to be polite about it. It should be remembered that at the start of its 20 year run at Government, Fianna Fáil burdened the Irish people with a nightmarish level of debt and, in order to help pay it off, set its eye on the hospital service budget. They have had 20 years to sort it out, but instead have consistently suggested that it has nothing to do with them. In the meantime, our small, open, EU economy has benefited substantially from the progressive improvement of global trade conditions, but the unprecedented prosperity this has brought has been very poorly managed. If the bad times come again - and price of shares is sufficiently divorced from the turnover, profitablility and asset holdings of the companies in which they are held for that to be a distinct possibility - we will have done nothing to position ourselves to ride them out. Our hospital service is a disgrace and our infrastructure remains poor due to the initial failures in constituting the NRA, the piecemeal development of roads and the failure to redress underfunding of the railways. Tertiary education is disgracefully underfunded (I have never been able to understand why society shouldn't pay to create - as opposed to perpetuate - its middle-class who pay more taxes and are in a position to add value to and administer the economy and State) as is education in disadvantaged areas, and Government remains too centralised. Without proper broadband roll out and a Western Corridor (Cork-Limerick-Galway) ballast to the bloated Greater Dublin nightmare, an economic downturn will have much more severe consequences than it should especially as property prices will end up falling in a time of rising interest rates. Alas, the Late Late could have started this debate, but it didn't and apart from Brendan Gleeson calling Michael Martin a moron, the Government got off very lightly.