Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A green fool

My response to the question of whether or not I like Patrick Kavanagh would have required absolutely no thought whatsoever until Monday night past. Now it looks as if any such future query will require a clarification as to which Patrick Kavanagh we would be discussing. While I am quite a fan of Monaghan's finest, on Monday night an absolutely hideous individual bearing the Inniskeen man's name graced the screen of my television. Patrick Kavanagh, a Fine Gael councillor on Wexford County Council, was part of the studio audience for Pat Kenny's RTE One show The Frontline. That night's edition focused entirely on the travelling community in Ireland and the issues around the ability of them to integrate into society and their acceptance by settled people. Mr Kavanagh certainly had a few things to say for himself.

On the whole I found the programme quite a depressing affair. It wasn't that it was particularly bad (for appalling television one need only have tuned into BBC Northern Ireland's documentary on the President of Sinn Fein, the imaginatively titled Adams). Far from it. I actually think, unfashionable as it may be to say so, that Pat Kenny is a fine journalist who has an excellent Radio One show and now presents one of the best current affairs TV programmes in Ireland after years of been used completely out of place on the Late Late Show interviewing whatever fool was signing books in Eason on O'Connell Street the following morning.

What made Monday night's show such a cringeworthy spectacle was the obvious divide that still exists in Irish life between the travellers and everyone else. Attitudes to the travellers seem to have been left untouched by the Celtic Tiger years. It would appear that after more than a decade of overpriced luxury apartments, trips to Brown Thomas to purchase overpriced clothes and sipping overpriced frothy cappuccinos, frappucinos and mochaccinos in swanky new cafes that, long after words like 'nigger' and 'coon' and 'paki' were considered unacceptable by society, terms like 'tinker', 'nacker' and 'gyppo' are still fair game. Councillor Kavanagh never uttered any of these terms. For me, he went much further.

Goodness knows how this man ever became a councillor in the first place. Fine Gael in Wexford are evidently in a bad way if this inarticulate gobshite has managed to get himself high enough up the ladder to be an elected representative for the party. He sounded, to put it mildly, like something you would encounter propping up the bar in your local. One particular idiotic remark was a reference made to travellers driving around in 2010 reg jeeps (oh, how dare they) while at the same time complaining about being on waiting lists for council housing. Still, drivel like that I can put up with. What he went on to say was worse, much worse.

When talking about the situation where travellers would move into houses near to other settled travelling families, councillor Kavanagh pointed out that in some areas the travellers/settled ratio was almost 50-50 - a statistic he claimed was evidence of the "ethnic cleansing" of settled communities. Now, there are a few words and phrases that I would always refrain from using outside of the proper conditions. One is 'fascism'. For instance, there are some who like to describe the use of CCTV in shopping centres or the smoking ban in pubs as an example of fascism yet, as much as I dislike both of these things, I still feel anyone with even a smidgen of knowledge of what happened in Europe during the thirties and forties would have the decency to pull back from equating having a camera fixed on you in Tesco with the crimes of National Socialism.

The same goes for 'genocide'. Up here in the north this is one that has been bandied around out of context for some time now. Unionists like to use it to describe the murders of Protestants by the Provisional IRA in places like Fermanagh and south Armagh. Nationalists will employ it when talking about the slaughter of Catholics by the UVF and UDA during the conflict in areas of north and east Belfast and parts of county Antrim. As horrific as these killings were though they pale in comparison to those events in history which the term was made to describe (the massacre of 800,000 in Rwanda during a few weeks in 1994 being the standout one in my own lifetime).

Ethnic cleansing then is just another phrase which needs to be used carefully. Sadly, it is often the case that it is not always employed in its proper context. Normally though it is the most repulsive elements in politics that will borrow it. Take a brief trip to the website of the British National Party and one can find numerous uses of the term 'ethnic cleansing' to describe the situation facing white British people in areas of England with large Asian ethnic minority populations. In France the Front National do the exact same. But then these are the modern European fascist (I think I use the word properly on this occasion) movements whose aim is to whip up hate against minority communities in their own lands by using the most incendiary terms and phrases and thereby blowing a situation completely out of all proportion. You expect a little bit more integrity from a representative of an EPP-aligned Christian democratic party that supposedly ditched their flirtation with far right politics in the forties. Clearly not.

I was in my teens when I first heard of ethnic cleansing, its use then being applied to the forced removal of entire populations in the Balkans during the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Quite how councillor Kavanagh rationalised that the best way to convey the manner in which Irish travellers were moving into housing estates was to use a phrase most people associate with the sort of thing that took place in Srebrenica and Krajina beats me. Then again, the politics of hate carries with it very little in the way of rationality.

This is not part of the political vocabulary in modern Ireland and it should not be tolerated as such. I find it difficult to imagine a politician from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Labour in Dublin being allowed to get away with saying that a certain area of the city was being ethnic cleansed of the indigenous Irish by Nigerians or Poles or Latvians or whatever other nationality you care to use for the analogy. Similarly, even here in the north where sectarianism is sickeningly accepted as a part of everyday life, I would imagine a nationalist or unionist MLA would find their position untenable if they were to compare a sharp rise in the Catholic or Protestant minority population as evidence of ethnic cleansing in their community. Patrick Kavanagh's remarks though seem to have passed unnoticed, bar a few tuts and sighs from the studio audience. But sure why would we bother complaining? Sure he was only talking about the gyppos.

I have no doubt that this issue is sensitive and one of the most complex in Ireland, however the contribution made by councillor Kavanagh to the debate does not in my view rank as a particularly helpful or constructive one. What should be done with him? That is clearly a question for Fine Gael, if they give a damn. Councillor Kavanagh is not a member of 'my club'. Had he been a Labour councillor of course I would have viewed the situation a bit differently. Anyhow, I have never been a heads-must-roll sort of person who calls for the resignation of anyone who expresses a view, no matter how much I may loathe what they have said. For instance, a couple of years back I decided not to join the chorus of left and liberal calls for Iris Robinson to resign. For me, a member of the DUP and Whitewell Metropolitian Tabernacle making a homophobic remark was about as shocking as Ian Paisley making known that he had a few theological differences with the Vatican (far more worrying was the fact that we learnt from that whole affair that there are practicing psychiatrists in Northern Ireland convinced that they can 'cure' homosexuals). I shall trust the judgement of the good people of Enniscorthy and hope that at the next local election they shall have the good sense to sack this vermin.

If you didn't catch Monday's show then the programme is (at the time of writing) still available to watch on the RTE Player service and is well worth a look. Overall I thought that the representatives of the travellers spoke well and came across a lot more rational than the assembled bunch of goons in attendance speaking against them. What they at least brought with them were proposals and suggestions to better the position of travellers in Irish society; councillor Kavanagh and his brigade just seemed to treat that community as an irritant and irreformable band of thugs. Tragically, they are not alone in holding this view. In the year 2010 it seems that the odious residue of O'Duffy and his followers is still detectable in the ranks of Fine Gael. Well, in Enniscorthy at least.

Bizarre Facebook friend suggestion

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vote Liberal, Get Tory: example 4,349

On the subject of a cap on non-EU immigration proposed by the Conservatives before the election:

It might work in his focus groups but it is not actually going to produce the cohesive Britain that I want to see... What has gone wrong in the immigration debate is that we have now had decades of tough talk and administrative incompetence from both Conservative and Labour governments.

Nick Clegg
Andrew Marr Show
January 17th 2010

On the subject of a cap on non-EU immigration proposed by the Conservatives... yesterday:

The new regime has to accommodate those concerns. It has to be implemented in a flexible way.

Vince Cable
New Statesman
June 28th 2010

Cannibal cafe opens in Belfast

Hat Tip: William Crawley

Monday, June 28, 2010

Down with this sort of thing

I don't particularly get, either as an attempt at humour or in the point trying to be made by the Republic's Minister for the Environment, the latest comments made by John Gormley about the Labour Party during an interview in Carlow. Gormley remarked that Labour had become the "Father Ted of Irish politics" - whatever that means - and had no policies. Does John boy really believe this? Maybe he does, in which case he perhaps should take a glance at the 147 motions which were discussed at the 2010 Labour conference in Galway (not bad for a party supposedly bereft of ideas).

Interestingly, the article on the RTE website also adds that while "criticising the Labour Party, Mr Gormley did not rule out going into Government with them after the next election." Odd. So, John Gormley is essentially saying that he is prepared to go into government with a party he believes stands for nothing. Very strange. Then again, I suppose many would say that the Minister already is in government with a party that stands for, as Ted Crilly would have put it, feck all.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Injustice for some

First things first, England wouldn't have won today's match with Germany even if the shot by Frank Lampard that bounced off the underside of the crossbar and landed well behind the goal line had been given. Over the ninety minutes as a whole the English were played off the pitch by a faster, technically superior and more ruthless German outfit that simply ripped them apart. Nevertheless, an injustice took place this afternoon. So, where do we go from here?

The truth is, I am afraid to say, we probably won't be going all that far. FIFA appear to be as stubborn as ever when it comes to discussing the possibility of introducing technology into games that could clear up potential controversies. There are those who argue that these controversies are in fact an integral part of the game. While I don't go along with this argument I do understand the basis for it. Football should of course be a fast flowing game with as few stoppages as possible, although one of the ideas floated by some observers at the time of the Thierry Henry handball affair in Paris back in November and that I found fairly acceptable was a system whereby both teams would have one or two opportunities in the course of a game to issue a call for video evidence to be used.

This is clearly something that there will be much more debate about in the coming months among fans and the addition of any such technology to the game would obviously need to be drawn up carefully before being incorporated into the rule book of a game that has become the world's most popular sport largely because of its simplicity. However, of all the things that are part of this game, injustice is not one of them.