The problem with reviews of the year is that the opposite end of the year feels like much longer ago than 12 months which makes those events much harder to recall. It’s a bit like meeting a friend you haven’t seen in ages: even if you became the new Chairman of BP, played in the longest game ever recorded at Wimbledon or admitted dabbling in witchcraft in the last year, you’d still likely start the conversation with “ah, it’s been quiet enough”.
Of course, it’s been anything but quiet this year, although those in power really could have done with shutting up more. I’m looking at you, government. This was the year where the wheels finally came off the stainless steel, gull-winged jalopy we used to call an economy, where instead hovering into the future we were dumped unceremoniously back to the fifties, with tracks of fire everywhere. At least we have a grey-haired man with glasses and a distinct speaking voice to help us through: Oli Rehn.
That the EU and the IMF have landed the mothership over the puny earthling repository we call Dáil Eireann is a bit embarrassing considering a few years ago we thought we owned the universe (yes, I’ve moved on from time travel and I’m on to space metaphors now). On the plus side, it’s nice to have someone competent in charge. Brian Cowen and the Keystone Cops he calls a government have done their level best to look as publically and emphatically stupid as possible, and in that at least they’ve done an incredible job. Among the nominees for best performance in a crowded field are Brian Lenihan doing his best Ralph Bellamy in Trading Places, Ivor Callely doing a particularly obnoxious Leo Di Caprio from Catch Me If You Can, Mattie McGrath’s unhinged Crocodile Dundee and Paul Gogarty, who in simply being himself seems to play more roles than Eddie Murphy in Norbit. But, the award this year goes to Oliver Reed himself, Brian Cowen, who made a holy show of himself on Morning Ireland after a Rat Pack night with the press pack.
Alas, for poor old George Lee, his nine months out of the limelight as a Fine Gael backbencher prompted him to give the business the heave ho, like the guy Gladys Knight sang about in Midnight Train To Georgia. The whole thing showed up Enda Kenny to the point he nearly lost his leadership of the party soon after. Luckily for him Fine Gael’s enduring weakness – toothless disorganisation – came to his rescue, and he still hangs on, like an actor in a 1950’s thriller dangling off a cliff.
But when it comes to tenuous clinging to power, you really can’t beat the Catholic Church. This year has been one big demonstration of how wide the chasm is between what they think of themselves and what they actually are. From The Vatican refusing to accept the resignations of two bishops for their connection to The Murphy Report, to Cardinal Brady refusing any responsibility for, anything really, all the while offering their two cents on the decline of morality at every given opportunity, the Church has engaged in behaviour that would make Jesus even more enraged than the time those guys sold counterfeit Playstation games in the Temple. Their piece de resistance this year though was making the ordination of women priests “a grave sin”, suggesting The Pope would be more comfortable up a tree house than in a marble palace. Someone pass me a hatchet.
In spite of the cataclysmic year for the Catholic Church, they still had enough devout members to create a ruckus on a number of issues. The year started off well for them, with the introduction of a Blasphemy Law that made no Christing sense at all, but it went downhill for them from there. They were audibly displeased at the passing of a Civil Partnership Bill, with Senator Ronan Mullen (think John Lithgow at the beginning of Footloose) leading the charge against. They were audibly displeased that Limerick pubs sold booze on Good Friday for a rugby match going on in the city that day, as it showed flagrant disrespect for the time-honoured tradition of people stocking up on drink on Holy Thursday. Or possibly some other reason. They were also audibly displeased at the emergence of Head Shops, or rather the sudden realisation they exist, as people prayed outside the premises in the hope these evil-doers who run Head Shops might stop selling whatever it was they were selling. The agitators won out, but it turned out to be a minor battle in a much bigger war full of double standards and moral outrage.
I was in London when I heard that Gerry Ryan had died, and while I tried to keep up with the story I couldn’t really connect from such a distance away with the palpable shock and grief people were feeling. Small wonder given he was only 53 years of age, holding a vice-like grip on 2FM’s schedules for 22 of them. Colleague after colleague came out to sing the praises of the magnificent slabberhead they knew and clearly loved, but within months that shock was trumped by an even bigger one.
The news that cocaine use was a precipitating factor in Gerry Ryan’s death certainly came as a shock, but perhaps not exactly a surprise. Except it seemed to be for the majority of those same colleagues who paid tribute to him only months earlier, as not only did nobody appear to know but nobody wanted to even take the issue on. Joe Duffy has described himself as hysterically anti-drugs, yet when it came to Gerry’s using it was only himself he was damaging, apparently.
That’s been Ireland’s year in essence, really: a reel of powerful people doing one thing and saying another with a galling lack of self-awareness. Radio presenters stoking broadcast bonfires about the dangers of head shops, but apparently thinking their friend’s supply of cocaine was somehow produced outside the canon of violence and exploitation we know the drug trade simultaneously creates and feeds off. Church leaders condemning the ordination of women priests or legislating for civil partnership and potentially abortion, while their cover up and de facto facilitation of child abuse doesn’t seem to bother many of them at all. Political leaders insisting the worst of the economic hardship will soon be over and that they have the national interest at heart, all the while implementing harder and harder measures on everyone but those who truly deserve it, and lying about what they intend to do continuously up until the point they introduce them.
That’s the problem with reviews of the year, they often made up of things that are hard to recall.