Thousands of nurses abandoned the wards last week and joined picket lines in a national strike over pay and conditions. Hospitals left with just emergency cover immediately cancelled many of their planned admissions and clinics, while some patients were sent home as pressure built up.

Meanwhile, as ministers met nurses' leaders, trade unions launched a fighting fund to raise up to£60 a week in strike pay for each nurse and doctors moved to distance themselves from cancelled appointments, the country's biggest health authority was meeting to decide whether to call on the government to find a settlement.

You may not have read much about this in the papers - unless you live in Ireland, where the drama played out across every front page and by day three had even knocked the death of a former Taoiseach into the inside pages.

The crisis has been building for some time, and the Irish Nurses' Organisation - one of four unions involved in the dispute - carries regular updates on developments.

Its members voted by a majority of 95 per cent to reject a labour court recommendation on pay and by 96 per cent in favour of strike action, the first in Ireland's hospitals.

A taste of the government line can be found at the Department of Health and Children, where minister Brian Cowan expresses himself 'deeply disappointed' by the nurses' action.

Unfortunately, in common with governments everywhere, his department is nowhere near as nippy at getting the news out as its opponents.

At the time of writing, shortly after the start of the strike, few are predicting a rapid settlement. Of course, by publication it may all be over bar a little lasting bitterness and rancour.

But the strike is big news in Ireland, and both the Irish Times and Irish Independent have extensive coverage.

These and other sites of interest can be reached via HSJ 's website at