AS a professional sage and opinion-former, I am often stopped in the street and asked for my thoughts on the great issues of our time.

Only the other day, a fellow came up to me to enquire if I felt that binary structural models are more useful than totalising models of over-determination in analysing power relationships in the post-Foucault realm of social theory. "Of course," I answered, and sent him happily on his way.

Then there was the chap who asked about the origins of the M-sigma relation between supermassive black hole mass and galaxy velocity dispersion. I duly explained the empirical correlation between the stellar velocity dispersion of a galaxy bulge and the mass of the black hole, but added that much work remained to be done.

After which, a rugby fan strolled over, his brow lined like a newly-ploughed field. "Here," he said, "why are there so many Irish referees?" I thought long and hard. Then I thought longer and harder. "Buggered if I know," I replied.

Yes, this truly is the deepest, darkest mystery of the age. The great unanswerable. Time was when young Irishmen sought their path in life by joining the priesthood. Nowadays they just buy a whistle.

And in ever-increasing numbers. It is a common joke amongst statisticians (a famously fun-loving bunch of people) that current growth trends mean that Elvis Presley impersonators will make up a third of the world population by the end of this decade, but I am far more worried by the rising tide of Irish refs. The way things are going, pretty soon there won't be a single person left on the Emerald Isle who hasn't taken charge of a major international.

Evidence? Everywhere. In the current Six Nations, Irish referees have been appointed to handle three matches, Irish touch judges are running the line at four matches, and an Irish television match official is in the booth at five games. Ireland has had two referees at each of the past three World Cups. Irishman Alain Rolland took charge of the 2007 final.

Ireland has seven referees on the Guinness PRO12 panel. Scotland, by contrast, has three. Staggeringly, two of the 'Scottish' representatives - Lloyd Linton and Neil Paterson - are actually Irish. It might not be a coincidence that both the PRO12 and World Rugby (formerly the IRB) are headquartered in Dublin.

I actually put this point to the IRB a few years ago. Didn't it seem a little odd, I suggested, that so many Irishmen were rising to the top and so few others (and absolutely no Scots) were doing likewise? Dear me no, they replied, insisting that the appointments were made purely on merit. Moreover, they added, the referees manager was a New Zealander. The fact the fellow was called Paddy O'Brien was just one of those unfortunate little things.

Now I am not going to decry individual Irish referees. Or rather, I am going to resist the temptation to do so. But only a fool would believe that Ireland's massively disproportionate representation at the elite level comes down purely to the towering abilities of the officials concerned. And only a raging idiot would believe that Scotland's contrasting fortune - no Scot has handled a major international since 2002 - is a measure of the utter hopelessness of our lot.

Clearly, something has gone wrong. And the proof is provided not just by the fact that there are more Irishmen at the top level of refereeing than you would find in the Riverdance chorus line, but also by lamentable performances of others who have made the grade.

Like many others at BT Murrayfield on Sunday, I was bewildered and dismayed by the display of Glen Jackson, the New Zealand referee who was in charge of Scotland's clash with Wales. But such anger as I felt was not directed at Jackson, rather at the discredited system that promoted him to a tier where his shortcomings were all too obvious.

I don't doubt that Jackson could become a decent whistler in due time. However, I have a cynicism that borders on contempt for the fast-tracking process that rocketed him up the rankings. Jackson retired from playing in May 2010, yet within a year he was taking charge of major provincial games and was named tv match official for a Bledisloe Cup game. Not since Sir Edmund Hillary wafted up Everest has a New Zealander made such a spectacular ascent.

There is no suggestion of bias here, as it could just as easily have been Wales who suffered the consequences of Jackson's weak stewardship. Nor was I particularly bothered by the Clockgate affair, as Jackson took advice from his (ahem, Irish) touch judge on that one. But his failure to consult the TV official after Rhys Webb's try-saving high tackle on Sam Hidalgo-Clyne - a review that could have brought a yellow card, a penalty try or confirmation that the ball had not been spilled forward - was lamentable. So, too, was his timid refusal to sin bin a Welsh player as the penalty count mounted towards the end.

Scotland's authorities have been too weak on such matters in the past. Their follow-up report should convey thunderous indignation, not the customary platitudes. And if you ask me where the game's rulers can stick their referees appointments system, that's another question where I've got my answer ready.