Monday, March 20, 2006

Sua Culpa

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.


Anonymous candyfloss said...

Erm, should 'enumerated' be 'renumerated'?
Unless there are more Pats and Eamos than previously believed.

3/20/2006 05:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark Waters said...

'Remunerated' even (not to worry it's a mistake even RTE News could make... and have done on numerous occasions).

Good post though, well observed. It was a bit galling listening to the béal bocht from Dunphy, Duffy, McWilliams and Flynn. As you rightly point out these people are the establishment. They're comfortable, well paid and they all have easy access to the media.

And while I was carried away a little by Brendan Gleeson's powerful polemic, looking at in the cold light of day there wasn't a whole lot to it that we hasn't been said already. The style and clarity of his delivery were impressive but they didn't really go anywhere we hadn't been before.

It's not as if Mary Harney and Mícháel Martin are deliberately trying to kill our grannies. Granted, the weak intellectual calibre of some cabinet members may be a factor (Pat Rabitte had a classic quip last week when he said he wouldn't call for Harney's resignation after looking down the bench at the possible replacements) but the health issue is very complex and won't be solved by calling Mícháel Martin a moron.

I was disappointed that the discussion never got beyond abstractions, generalisations and finger-pointing, and onto concrete issues.

The audience were probably a pretty good representation of the current state of the electorate. Any old half-thoughtout rant was given rapturous applause as long as it was expressed passionately and violently enough. Contradictory viewpoints received equal applause most likely from the same happy clappers. Style triumphed over substance. We get the politicians we deserve (or rather I get the politicians you deserve :) ).

3/20/2006 06:05:00 AM  
Anonymous copernicus said...

Sorry about the typo, I guess that undermines my entire thesis. Anyway, fixed now.

Mark, I agree about the polemic thing, but while everyone knows the problems we face, being polite about them tends to obscure the very real suffering the elderly especially have been dealing with. Geriatric medicine is very underfunded and undermanned I believe and it's slightly scary to think that the property market might be at the back of people's minds when addressing the needs of the older generation. So maybe somewhere we haven't been is the raw and emotional.

I agree about the electorate, which is why I thought Gleeson's remarks about people considering re-electing the "current shower" were so timely. Bizarrely, the Opposition have not been able to articulate the point at all.

3/20/2006 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger fústar said...

I didn't see it, alas, but it's nice to see someone (Gleeson) get the gloves off , even partially, in a non-reactionary ("bring back hanging!") manner.

A common problem with satire (etc) in this country is it's guided by the "Ah now come on! That's not on at all" factor. Fuck that! We need to be brutal, surreal, totally uncosy (etc) at times to jam satire bombs up the fat arses of those self-satisfied establishment fuckbags.


3/20/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Diana said...

"A common problem with satire (etc) in this country is it's guided by the "Ah now come on! That's not on at all" factor. Fuck that! We need to be brutal, surreal, totally uncosy (etc) at times to jam satire bombs up the fat arses of those self-satisfied establishment fuckbags."

Couldn't agree more! And to think that this is the country that saw Swift produce 'A Modest Proposal'. In this day and age he would probably be dismissed as "playing the man and not the ball".

Unless we produce more wild satire ourselves it will be all left in the hands of 'outsider satirists'.

3/22/2006 04:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Diana said...

Btw 'Cruiskeen Eile' is a fine start.

Keep up the good work!

3/22/2006 04:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Turley said...

Fine article.

It seems the Late Late gang are trying to resurrect the glory days when Gaybo et al. reshaped the country by indulging a bit of passionate waffle. Makes a change from their quotidian output, i suppose.

Dunphy is apparently going to stick it to the man in an interview with the Justice Minister sometime this week. Should be interesting to see if he can maintain his "street" outrage while in the august presence of Irelands most famous nazi hunter.

3/22/2006 07:49:00 AM  
Anonymous copernicus said...

Stop being so reasonable, Michael. It makes it hard to stick it to FF.

3/22/2006 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous EWI said...

"playing the man and not the ball".

Or, in that other old Slugger standby, "MOPEry".

3/22/2006 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous EWI said...

Stop being so reasonable, Michael. It makes it hard to stick it to FF.

You think that FFers automatically like McDowell? ;-)

3/22/2006 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous copernicus said...

You think that FFers automatically like McDowell? ;-)

I'd say they were in two minds about him.

I'd love to see him in Opposition barking his current output at his erstwhile colleagues. Sadly, that would necessitate FF remaining in office. The horror, the horror.

3/22/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous fústar said...


Thanks, but I think we're finding it tough going keeping Cruiskeen going (I'm sure copernicus will agree)! It's pretty draining paying that much attention to Myers day in day out...I'd rather be out picking flowers...or doing the crossword in a nice pub etc.

Still I suppose we started it so we have to see it through...

3/22/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous copernicus said...

And to think that this is the country that saw Swift produce 'A Modest Proposal'.

Funny that you should mention it Diana. I recently related to fustar by coincidence that sources reveal Colonel Myers is hard at work on a Modest Proposal for Bastard Babies. Fans can also look forward to an exciting tale of Austin Myers, international man of mystery. Yeah Baby, it's shagadelic!

Not to mention a very special episode of University Challenging Times in which mein host exhibits no bias whatsoever against Sligo RTC.

3/22/2006 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

You can still see clips from this show on the RTE website, including the full Brendan Gleeson interview. Pretty good stuff.

3/30/2006 06:17:00 AM  
Anonymous copernicus said...

Thanks for that Tony.

3/30/2006 06:46:00 AM  
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