Saturday 19 August 2017

Radio: The funny way our post-colonial mindset works

RTE presenter Myles Dungan. Picture: Tony Gavin
RTE presenter Myles Dungan. Picture: Tony Gavin
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Do you remember Rattlebag? It was an arts and entertainment show on Radio 1, presented by Myles Dungan; it ran for several years, until about a decade ago. Pretty good stuff, all told.

Anyway they're currently running a series of pieces from the archives, in the Drama on One slot (Sun 8pm). This week's - timing with his recent retirement announcement - was an interview with Daniel Day-Lewis from 2003.

Is he the greatest male actor of his generation? Duh and/or hello? Of course he is. Is he the greatest of all time? Brando might have a case, but other than that, I can't think of anyone as incredibly skilled, charismatic and versatile in the craft.

Daniel holds a record three Oscars for Best Actor. It could and should have been five (In the Name of the Father, Gangs of New York); he was also exceptional in My Beautiful Laundrette, A Room with a View, Last of the Mohicans, The Crucible… oh, everything really.

You've probably worked out that I'm a fan. So this was radio catnip to me. Daniel and Gemma Hill talked acting, art and perfectionism, and he was every bit as intelligent, interesting and charming as always. And that voice! A pleasure to listen to, in every sense.

Day-Lewis, of course, has mixed nationality. Raised in Britain, he's always felt a close connection to Ireland (father Cecil was born here) and now lives in Wicklow. His accent reveals this history: a mixture of English and Irish, the more clipped tones of the former softened by the latter.

This got me thinking about how nationality is an odd thing at times. It's often particularly odd in a post-colonial society like ours.

For instance several shows, including The Right Hook (Newstalk, Mon-Fri noon), discussed plans of Minister of State Brendan Griffin to give tax breaks to GAA players. George had brought on former Wexford boss and businessman Liam Griffin to chew it over.

Apart from whether this is practical, Griffin contended that "in fairness" the scheme should be extended to other sportspeople: "If it's given to one, it should be given to all". But see, I don't agree with that at all.

Gaelic games are a special case in this country… because, uh, they're Irish. And this is Ireland. You see how the dots are connecting? GAA is unique to this place. As such, it is - along with the Irish language, music, literature, mythology, et cetera - worth preserving: for cultural, social, historical, anthropological, philosophical, aesthetic and possibly metaphysical reasons. If this means you give Gaelic games preferential treatment over other sports, well and good.

This is a totally normal way to think, and you know how I know? Because it's how people think all over the world.

Japanese people don't anguish over promoting kanji ahead of Roman script. The French don't get bent out of shape about giving other languages equal billing. Basques have no problem considering jai alai as more important than competing sports.

Same thing here. Except, in that odd post-colonial mindset, it's somehow not. But if that's the case, we may as well abandon the whole concept of nationhood - might not be a bad thing, incidentally - and begin the transfer to a one-world government or something.

On that theme, quick pro-tip to everyone doing those "What's in the Papers" slots: there's no need to preface each title with "Irish", as in Independent, Examiner, Times, whatever. Sure we know it's the Irish Independent you're quoting, and not the London-based publication which nobody reads even over there, not to mind here.

Junking these superfluous words will save valuable time and effort. You're welcome.

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