Across The Pondby Paddy Duffy
- Conor Cusack, John Murray and Ireland's continuing crusade for mental health awareness
- Seven things the Irish learned thanks to the Senate referendum
- Mayo have an All-Ireland ancient curse similar to the Red Sox jinx
- Remembering the radiant Mira and her buzzing modern Facebook shrine
- Remembering two giants, Seamus Heaney and David Frost
It’s possible that nobody better embodies the merciful development of Ireland as a modern, outward-looking and sympathetic country than the Cusack brothers of Cloyne.
For years, people have known that the Seanad needs the legislative equivalent of a boot up the arse, but nobody has ever sufficiently laced up. If Enda wants to regain some capital, he'll get everyone together who has something to say about Seanad reform, and synthesize some genuine proposals that makes the Seanad useful, representative and full of diverse voices. And abolishing a fair chunk of the Dail wouldn't go amiss either.
Sunday night at the notoriously lascivious nightclub Copperface Jacks is bereaved of Mayo fans, there is still hope. Because while they don't have Sam Maguire there is one thing Mayo fans always have: next year.
Facebook often throws up some strange societal phenomena that just were not situations a few years ago. Most of these revolve around a lot of people finding something out all at once. Things like announcing the end of a relationship can be incredibly awkward, and with birthdays your page becomes bombarded with well-wishes and tributes, which is of course a whole lot more pleasant. And so it was when I looked at the Facebook page of my friend Mira Dabit, whose birthday was Wednesday. It was absolutely festooned with messages.
That simple fact, people wishing Mira well on Facebook, shows another of its' peculiarities: Mira died last Christmas. She would have been 28 this year.
It's a testing time in the world. The west is finally getting itself sorted about Syria, although in a pretty cack-handed fashion. The liberal bona fides of Barack Obama's presidency are dissipating faster than you can say "Chelsea Manning". And Batman fans are losing their marbles over the casting of Ben Affleck as The Pointy-Eared Pippistrelle. That's Batman's nickname, isn't it?
Yeah, they're not happy, these Bat people. In the last week there have been myriad memes, articles, hashtags and even a god-damn petition petition either mocking, pontificating or generally shouting at the rain over Ben Affleck moving to Gotham City. I don't normally say things like this: but it's a only a film. Just a film. And like the 17th Batman movie in the last decade, for that matter. Well, give or take a few.
I can't remember at what age he told me, but I remember vividly my father telling me the story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He told me of Hitler's thoughts on his inherent inability, about his refusal to shake his hand, and how Owens thoroughly sickened him by destroying the competition.
I am a man. I think that goes without saying. But I have no problem in self-identifying as a feminist. In fact, I'm quite proud of it. On a purely logical level, women account for half the population so it's madness that their opinions wouldn't be represented to the same level. And on an instinctive level, it's my considered opinion that women are civilization. If women didn't exist, society would be a populace of PlayStation jockeys foregoing trousers. And if we had more women in cabinets, boards and top offices, maybe the world wouldn't be quite as financially, politically and culturally bare-arsed as we are.
Feminism isn't or shouldn't be a fringe movement any more. In a world where women are under-represented, underpaid and under-appreciated, feminism is a global imperative.
The sad fact is of course that the Seanad is a repository of future TDs, washed up TDs, party hacks who wouldn't get elected in anything resembling a normal circumstance and a handful of eminent voices that stick out like sore thumbs. The only sane option therefore isn't to blow it up, but amend the buffoon : eminence ratio. The Seanad could and should be a house where civically minded people who aren't all professional politicians could congregate, deliberate and make legislation better, or sometimes just cool the jets of an impetuous Dáil. They could and should be elected in a different way, so that a Senator running for office doesn't need to have "Ballypoltroon & District NEEDS a representative!" and can focus solely on national issues. But oh no.That would be too sensible for this government, for this country,
After 21 long years and 6 feckless governments, abortion is now a teensy weensy bit legal in Ireland. As one tweeter said, she became an adult in the time it took them to get their act together. But if that isn't a big enough development, the debate has certainly brought up a number of issues. For example:
The same day as Dublin's Pride march, across the water at Glastonbury another group concerned with liberation of another kind, Public Enemy, were playing. At one point during the set, Chuck D "I ain't here to sell shit, I am at your service". Assuming you could get that past the censors, it wouldn't be a bad new slogan for RTE.
At this stage, there seems to be only one option, one that isn't all that palatable to some, but it's not like Labour have a choice: alliance with Sinn Fein. It won't be easy for the ex-Stickie dominated Labour to countenance a move jokingly referred to as a "Guns & Roses" coalition, but ultimately what choice do they have? The long wished for unification of the left in Irish politics should and could have happened a few times over in the last two decades, but for Labour to maintain any relevance in the next decade and beyond, they need to become a senior partner in a cogent force advocating genuine social democratic principles. Once the old embarrassments of the Sinn Fein parliamentary party finally stand down, and it's only a matter of time before they do, the only obstacle remaining will be outright snobbery. But if Labour can't detach themselves from their death grasp with Fine Gael for the "politically naive" or "economically illiterate" Sinn Fein, then pride will surely come before a very large fall.
In times past, such altercations and conflagrations such as this would carry with it a certain degree of community justification, as ammunition in an eternal rally of "Whatabouttery". But in today's Northern Ireland at least the daft actions of the 1% are ridiculed by the rest of us. All progress, so it's said, depends on the unreasonable man.Northern Ireland has made great progress in this last year, sportingly,civically, commemoratively, things we can be proud of and build on for 2013. It's important we don't let the unreasonable flag-beaters undo it all.
But try telling that to those who proclaim to be pro-life but never say a word about a child’s welfare post-womb, picket services for vulnerable women and throw words like “murder” around while they’re doing it. It never fails to amaze that for people who seem to care so deeply about the life of the unborn, they can be so callous in their treatment of actual human beings.
You never know where it might lead.
But 2016 is miles away, and plenty of time for someone else to surge through. Or, more likely, for one of the aforementioned front runners to slip up.
Now more than ever, Ireland needs people of skill, talent and imagination to speak up and share the ideas that will shape and influence the way we think, act and work well into the future. We owe it to ourselves and to generations ahead to build an education system that helps encourage that, and all the incredible things borne of such a system. Ours is a generation that faces disappointment regularly, but we have to use that disappointment to strive to do better for ourselves and the young people that come after us. Ireland needs to learn from it’s mistakes, and then become a better teacher.
Sometimes, it seems that imagination is a slave of modernity. You can look around you and see the swirl of technological gadgets that assist your living and generally consider the relative ease with which you live and think to yourself: how can we possibly top this? Are there any quantum leaps left? What possible thing could our kids complain in a “back in our day” manner to our grandkids?
Maybe it’s because summer is closing in, but this week we may have already got the silliest story of the season.
On Tuesday, Starbucks, the most famous thing to take its name from a Herman Melville book now that Moby doesn’t seem to be making records anymore, launched a UK marketing campaign to dovetail nicely with all that Jubilee business. Except, they made a now infamous geography malfunction. Now, social network marketing campaigns can be a difficult needle to thread at the best of times, but whenever you send out a tweet asking what makes proud to be British from your Irish account, you’re just asking for a hiding.
This week in County Offaly they celebrated the one year anniversary of President Obama coming to town by opening his ancestral home in Moneygall. There in attendance were the US Embassy’s director of communications, Barack’s long-lost cousin Henry Healy and Canon Stephen Neill (Trading – quite successfully - as “Paddy Anglican” on Twitter) to mark the event.
It might be seen by some as a tenuous attempt at notoriety on the back of the most powerful person in the world, but Moneygall is right to take its place among the surprisingly plentiful locations all round the island to which The 44 can trace their ancestors.
That way, by the time they come to vote at 16 they'll not only be ready, they'll be able and willing too.
Every so often you see a story and think “How the hell is this still a thing?” The furore around Galway’s proposed Che Guevara statue is one such story.
If you decide not to go down the drink yourself into a Daily Mail-outraging stupor on St Patrick’s Day, you can always go home, perhaps with a takeaway, and watch a good oul Bank Holiday film, often with an Oirish twist (Sean Connery as an Irishman in Darby O’Gill anyone?) but sometimes without (Tropic Thunder, as RTE showed last year, crosses all ethnic barriers. Except maybe Vietnamese ones). Sure what else would you be doing?
Recently I started a new job in Belfast, namely as a question writer for a TV quiz show. As you might expect it’s a conversation-starting occupation, as proved to be the case when talking to a taxi man a few days ago. When I jokingly asked him if he’d ever take part in a quiz on telly and maybe win a bit of money, he said back without much consideration: “Ah sure I’d be no good on things like that, I don’t have any qualifications or that."
As I write this, Ian Paisley remains in the intensive care unit of the Ulster Hospital, and like everyone else in the media I’ve been reflecting on the career of an incontrovertible political giant of these islands.
But it’s incredibly difficult.
The documentary on Colm Murray, RTE's sports anchor, promised to be must-see viewing, and yet extraordinary difficult.
Apart from having a long-term interest in US politics I also have the sleeping patterns of a musician, so that means watching coverage of the Republican Primaries isn’t such a taxing thing for me to do. From a sleep point of view that is, in pretty much every other way it’s tough going.
While walking round Dublin of a crisp, pre-Christmas morning, you couldn’t help but be taken aback by some of the posters adorning the city buses. As if the sharp Arctic air wouldn’t take the breath out of you easily enough, seeing Meryl Streep made up uncannily like Margaret Thatcher for her latest film would wind a man for sure.
The film in which Streep plays "The Iron Lady" is being released this very week, which is as intriguing as Meryl Streep’s makeover is terrifying.