August 2017

There aren’t that many simple rules when it comes to interacting with other people in a civilised society but in the aftermath of Nazis openly marching on the streets of Charlottesville, here’s another one to toss on to the list:

If you want to live in a tolerant society, it is your personal duty to be intolerant of intolerance.

That doesn’t affect your duty to treat people justly or fairly or with honour. But it is not your job to tolerate the actions of a group of sodding Nazis marching around with burning torches while chanting “blood and soil”. We know where that goes, we know how it ends and we know what it costs. We have zero duty as a society to appease racial supremacists who preach fascist philosophies. The most recent time we had to battle these pricks it cost millions of lives. It is not a world we want to revisit.

Sure, it isn’t always easy to stand up to racist morons and we don’t always have the energy to do it. That’s unfortunate but it’s fine. And I can presumably guarantee that all of you know at least one person who is a different colour to you whom you don’t like, not because their skin is a different colour but because they’re an asshole. That’s fine too.

But if you’re the sort of person who treats or regards people in a different way automatically because they’re a different colour to you or they have a different religion or because they fuck in a different way to you, odds are very high that they’re not the problem – you are. And when people complain that you’re not acting like a reasonable human being for doing that – when they’re being intolerant of your intolerance – they’re right and you’re wrong.

Don’t worry. You still get to tell jokes about people who live one town over from you. They’re telling jokes about you too and none of you take it seriously. Just don’t be a sodding douchebag.


Kevin Myers was on RTE Radio 1’s Today With Sean O’Rourke this morning to talk about his article in the Sunday Times last Sunday. The one that caused people outside Ireland to finally notice that Kevin Myers is a racist anti-Semitic misogynist. Myers insisted that he’s not anti-Semitic or misogynistic (despite having a long and documented history of both), adding that he is “very, very sorry”.

Apologies are funny things and I’ve been taken to task by people in the past for objecting to some of these apologies on the basis that saying “I apologise for any offence caused” is a mealy-mouthed statement which puts some of the blame on the people to whom offence was caused. Perhaps I’m being too particular. I don’t think I am but you can make that case. So don’t be too surprised when I get even more particular here.

Anyhoo, here’s Kevin Myers – who’s long been the most dislikeable Myers since that bloke out of Halloween – apologising (“very, very sorry”, etc). Then he includes: “I am the author of that article, I am the author of my own misfortunes, I am the master of my soul”.

Woah. “I am the master of my soul”? Myers quoted Invictus in his apology? The poem written by William Ernest Henley when recovering from having one of his legs chopped off? The poem recited regularly by Nelson Mandela to fellow prisoners during his incarceration on Robben Island? A poem whose title literally translates as “Unconquered”?

Kevin Myers likes to read. He likes to let you know that he likes to read. He knows full-well where that quote comes from and what it means. It’s one of the world’s best-known poems and, through its association with Nelson Mandela, has become one of the world’s best-known poems about defiance. It has been quoted again and again by people who believe that they are victims of undue persecution, to demonstrate that they are unbowed, unafraid and possess an unconquerable soul.

The actual closing lines of the poem are “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”, but “I am the master of my soul” is one of the world’s better-known misquotes of poetry. He knows what he’s quoting.

You may, if you must, regard Kevin Myers’ appearance on the radio as an actual apology. But nobody on the face of the planet has ever quoted Invictus while making a genuine apology. He’s serving up a big apology cake with a piece of shit in the middle and asking you to eat it. Enjoy your shit cake, Ireland.

The folks of Contact Studios in Limerick are being kicked out of the studio space that they’ve occupied at the HSE Ireland St Joseph’s campus in Limerick for the past twenty years. They’ve been notified that they have to be out by this Friday.

I could write something about the importance of providing a community of artists in Limerick city with collaborative space that they can use to create work which can be enjoyed by the people of Limerick. I could write something about the vibrancy added to the city just by virtue of having artists working in an urban location. I could write about the worth to Limerick and its citizens of being able to see art conceived and made by artists who have chosen to live in Limerick and produce that art here.

All of that is true. But I’m not going to prattle on about that, because it should be self-evident to anyone with a working brain. I’m going to go on about something else.

Since 1997 the artists of Contact Studios have been working with mental health organisations in Limerick city, particularly Le Cheile on Sexton Street, and have provided thousands of hours of classes, workshops and social gatherings for people who use the services of those organisations. This is what they’ve done in exchange for being allowed to retain the studio space in St Joseph’s. They get to use part of a building which is not being used for anything else – and which the HSE has no plans to use for anything else – and they provide classes which are hugely beneficial to people. Essentially, they’ve been doing a chunk of the HSE’s work for them. It’s an arrangement that has perfect symbiosis and directly helps with the mental health of this city.

It’s a model that should be replicated in every city of Ireland. Instead, the HSE has decided that they want their building back, even though they have no plans to do anything else with it. So the artists lose out, Limerick city loses out, the mental health services in Limerick lose out, mental health service users in Limerick lose out… and the HSE gets a building back that they will then ignore completely.

For twenty years, Limerick has had an admirable and beneficial arrangement between the national body responsible for health in Ireland and a group of artists. The biggest winners over those twenty years have been the people of Limerick. Now that this arrangement has come to an abrupt end at the behest of the HSE, the biggest losers will be the people of Limerick – and among those, mental health service users, who are some of the most vulnerable people of Limerick.

Keeping the studio and retaining the arrangement should be an easy call to make, shouldn’t it? Don’t you think?