Ireland


If it wasn’t enough that the Irish Times printed what amounted to a Tom Humphries eulogy yesterday, today they included a colour piece on what life behind bars is like for a̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶s̶q̶u̶i̶r̶e̶ ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶f̶u̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶a̶c̶c̶u̶, oh, hang on, that’s a man who groomed and sexually abused an underage child. Sure, they also printed an editorial about his betrayal of trust (they even titled it “A betrayal of trust”) but away from the editorial page, they’ve printed somewhat sympathetic articles two days in a row now.

Then there’s the length of his sentence. On this one, the judge’s hands are a little tied, as she has to pay attention both to the maximum sentence under the charge (5 years, as it happens) and similar sentences passed by other judges. I personally think the 2.5 year sentence for stealing a child’s innocence is rather short, especially as a woman was sentenced to four years today for stealing a million euros from her employer.

The judge stated that she gave some weight to the two character references she received (which personally I find rather odd when the subject of those references had been convicted of defiling a minor) and to the difficulty faced by a man who falls from a height of being a respected coach and journalist to being known as a child abuser. I have serious issues with that and here’s why:

If you are in a position of trust and you abuse that trust, you don’t get special treatment for losing the honour and respect you had because of attaining that trust. If anything, your betrayal of that trust, especially when it involves a child, is all the more monstrous because you took that trust and turned it into something that made it easier for you to abuse. Abuse, in this case, which was of a child. Child abuse. The man took the trust he had as a respected national sports journalist and then as a coach and used that as a tool for child abuse. In what universe does anyone turn around and say “well, you’ve suffered yourself because now those positions that you’ve had (which you used to further your child abuse) are closed to you”?

Oh, yeah, and on that… half the country is pretty damn sure that Tom Humphries has been ghost-writing Donal Óg Cusack’s newspaper column for the past few years (you’ll be aware, no doubt, that one of the two character references at the Humphries trial came from Cusack). It’s the sentences. The short sentences. Ever so short. Those sentences that say something, and then something else. It’s a style. That Tom Humphries style. The style that got him into coaching. Coaching children. Before he abused one of them. For which he got a short sentence.

We don’t eulogise child abusers. At least we certainly shouldn’t. I’m assuming – or at least hoping – that the paper that still claims to be our national paper of record will stop printing these soft feature pieces about its former sports colour writer who we all now know to be a groomer and child abuser. At least it fucking should.

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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?

Today’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s birthday. One of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, she was regarded as a contender for the post of poet laureate when Wordsworth died. She wasn’t appointed for two reasons: firstly, the other contender was Tennyson, and secondly, she was a woman.
 
It’s also Mother’s Day in the UK, Ireland and Nigeria. As most of you probably know, Mother’s Day was originally a religious holiday called Mothering Sunday. Its name has nothing to do with mothers and all to do with this day (the fourth Sunday in Lent) being a day when servants would be given the day off to travel to their home area – their mother church – for the feast of Laetare Sunday. It was usually the only day when whole families could be together, as their duties typically prevented them from travelling for other holidays. As a family day, it gained association with mothers and when the festival was revived in the 1920s, mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day became one holiday.
 
Even as separate concepts, both Mother’s Day and mothering Sunday have at their heart thoughts of being mindful of your origins and what you owe to your existence. Mothering can be one of the most difficult tasks ever undertaken by a person and joyous as it apparently is according to people I know, it’s perhaps a lifelong, frequently thankless endeavour that never ends. So it’s rather deserved that the holiday calendar is littered with different countries having their own special day to celebrate the efforts made by billions of women in raising children.
 
My relationship with my mother is currently non-existent, given that she’s dead. That’s a far too simple view though, as the ripples of past actions will always echo on, for good or for ill. It’s akin to the lord in Monty Python and the Holy Grail waving at the window (and the curtains) and exclaiming “Some day, lad, all this will be yours!” My mother almost certainly suffered from some form of undiagnosed bipolar depression but somewhat fortuitously, it appears that some day that will not be mine. Small mercies. I would like to think that my mother did her best with the tools that she was given.
 
There are mothers who are mothers by virtue of giving birth. There are mothers who are mothers by caring for children to whom they did not give birth. There are fathers acting as fathers and mothers. There are mothers acting as mothers and fathers. There are grandmothers who care for grandchildren as though they’re their own. There are daughters and sons caring for aged parents as though they’re mothers to their own parents. At its heart, Mother’s Day is a celebration of love, of respect and of caring. And that’s the best that anyone can ever offer anyone else, up to the limit of their ability.
 
With that in mind, I selected this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to close. While she’s these days better known for her Sonnet 43 (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”), that poem’s gentle tenderness was hilariously stolen from me in a re-enactment of Roger Rabbit’s letter reading in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’. So I’ve selected her Sonnet 14, which embodies love for love’s sake and nothing more. Happy Mother’s Day, in whatever capacity you find yourself.
 
“If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say,
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.”

For a country that gets so annoyed when foreigners (mainly Americans, let’s start by pointing fingers) claim to be from here when they’re from the place where they’re from, Irish people tend to love claiming anyone with a barely tangential historical relationship with Ireland.

I experienced Barack Obama Plaza for the first time yesterday evening. For foreigners who are not from here, Barack Obama Plaza is a motorway service area in the middle of nowhere, mainly consisting of a petrol station, a fast food joint and a convenience shop. It’s named after your current president for no better reason than it gives a concrete craphole an aura of worth. Oh, there’s an exhibition upstairs, which I didn’t get to see as it closes when it gets dark. I assume it contains utterly useless crap like the pint glass Barack Obama drank out of when he visited here, a toenail clippng, a few pictures and a copy of someone’s birth cert. Even though I’ve just listed the most boring rubbish you could possibly have in an exhibition, I bet it has everything I mentioned except the toenail clipping.

They advertise the place on buses so I assumed it would have a funfair or a circus or at the very least some sort of statue in an actual plaza. It has none of these. I am comparatively confident that it is the most overstated spot on the planet and I’ve been to most of the locations mentioned in the unofficial guide to Britain’s worst theme parks.

Barack Obama Plaza on Ireland’s M7 motorway. It’s not Camelot. Picture via Killeen Civil Engineering.

It’s the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy, where Dante finds himself falling into a deep place with a silent sun, unable to see the path to salvation. It’s the story within a story in Poe’s ‘A Descent into the Maelström’, a vortex which swallows soul and sanity until nothing of consequence survives. It’s the mythological Lethe, the river that upon entry wipes away your past, leaving you as a blank slate to be rewritten or discarded.

In the awful TV version of this non-tale, part of my soul never gets to leave that non-place and remains there, staring out the window for all of eternity.

There’s a moral here. Oh yes: stop advertising petrol stations on buses. I thought Barack Obama Plaza would be some sort of modern-day Camelot, a place of justice, chivalry and affordable health care. It is not. Don’t be fooled. Oh and the service in the Supermacs is really fecking slow too as staff get confused by more than one order. That’s because all reason and rationality have been sucked into the hellmouth of pitiless storm, rounded by houseless head and and unfed sides, bereft of all but ragged madness.

The point, which we’ve taken some time to reach, is that I suggest that you will get to your destination sooner if you just zip past. Especially tourists. Just keep going.

Eventually during all tasks that last longer than a few days, I tend to flop into taking the piss mode. It’s safe and ultimately my default. I feel like going full-on Poe’s Law testing mode for the next moth. I should definitely be allowed to knock on doors now.

You can look up Poe’s Law on your own time.

Anyway, to business…

As we all know, Ireland’s marriage equality referendum on May 22, if passed, will lead to more people turning gay. People will definitely see it as a lifestyle choice. And not just a lifestyle choice: a trendy one. And people like to be trendy. People will walk out of their marriages and enter new ones. Trendy gay ones.In the past, gay people who really wanted to be married and have a Big Day had to rely on straight marriage and having kids so that they could wear a white dress or whatever it is that men wear at these things. But now that gay people can get married to other gay people, straight marriage (if we can even call it that) will fall apart. It won’t be enough to be married. You’ll have to be gay married.

These completely new gay people, having chosen to be gay, will leave their children and romp happily to the gay plantations established mainly to convince other people that the gay lifestyle is for them. You know what this’ll do to immigration. It’ll mean more of it. People from other cultures where gayness isn’t accepted will keep having children and emigrate here. Before long there’ll be more immigrants than people whose ancestors migrated here thousands of years ago or hundreds of years ago or last week. Some of these new immigrants might be black or less pasty than the natives who’ve lived here since they were born. So all straight people will be black. And they’ll be breeding, because that’s what straight people do.

This child could already be gay.

That child in that photo? She’ll be gay. Gay marriage will make her gay. Is that what you want? Because that’s what’ll happen. Pink unicorns on the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin and dancing bears wherever they can fit. There’ll be dancing at every wedding and fornication after in the upstairs bedroom.

You should listen to Breda O’Brien and her Iona peeps. She’s not crazy. Or homophobic. She’d rather gay people married her children than married each other.

Those people aren’t even married. And that’s not their child.

Look at the man and woman kissing that child in the other poster. That child isn’t even their child. They’ve been assembled together just because they look nice. And they’re touching the child. That seems wrong. Remember: a distant, abusive parent is better than a gay one. Because gay.

Vote. You might as well. Because when we all become gay atheist communists, there won’t be any more voting.