Thursday 21 September 2017

Television review: Coveney lights the class fuse

* Agenda (TV3)
* Brexit (All channels)

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has some radical ideas about social housing
Housing Minister Simon Coveney has some radical ideas about social housing
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

There was a man from Cork on TV3s Agenda programme with David McWilliams last Sunday who had clearly formulated a view of society based on the issue of class. His political vision as he outlined it to McWilliams was saturated in this belief that we could transform our society in all sorts of good ways, if we could release ourselves from this ancient class system to which we adhere - a class system which is all the more inhibiting, because it is hardly even acknowledged.

Indeed it is often claimed that this denial of the importance of class is very Irish, but we are seeing it in America too, with Meryl Streep inadvertently mocking the lower orders in her Golden Globes speech which placed "the arts" on a higher plane altogether to vulgar amusements of the lumpenproletariat such as football and MMA.

But on Agenda, not only was this matter of class being acknowledged, it was being thoroughly diagnosed by this particular guest, who had identified where it is coming from, and who is determined to change it.

Which is perhaps the most ambitious statement made by any public person for a long time, certainly on a Sunday morning. But clearly he was determined to do this, and he had even decided how it must be done - it's essentially about housing policy, he maintained. It's about this system which we have accepted for decades, that certain people live in "social housing", and other people live in less "social" kinds of housing, and they are rigidly kept apart, so that to a large extent they can go through life without ever connecting with each other on any life-enhancing level.

In this analysis, housing has been an instrument of social division, which is wrong, and which is detrimental to the common good. As McWilliams himself suggested, what was being proposed here was nothing less than a change of culture.

At the moment, according to this radical Cork visionary, we are "knowingly allowing for disadvantage", which is a terribly foolish way to proceed, because it is holding us back in all sorts of ways.

Now if I was to tell you that McWilliams was getting this critique of our society from some old Cork Communist who had the luxury of knowing that his ideas would never be tested in real life, you'd pass no remarks, you'd just take it as an interesting if somewhat eccentric item on the day.

But when I tell you that his name is Simon Coveney, the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government... now you're starting to lose your bearings. Now you're getting that feeling which is becoming quite familiar these days, whenever you try to watch a bit of politics on TV.

A feeling that you have entered some strange landscape, an unnatural place in which the most ludicrous things are starting to look routine.

Last week, for example, we were able to observe the members of parliament of Great Britain, methodically arranging this elaborate ceremony of self-destruction for the country that they represent.

Not even Trump could out-weird them on this occasion as they voted for a "Brexit" which most of them are against, with the invaluable assistance of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, who has chosen not to oppose this obvious insanity, acting against the interests of his party and of the people and of the world.

There really is nothing on TV these days, be it one of these famous HBO dramas or some series about face-lifts that went wrong, that is providing us with characters such as Corbyn, whose uselessness is only now becoming terrifyingly clear in Britain, though we in Ireland have always known it - it is an unbreakable law of nature that anyone who happily allies himself with IRA/Sinn Fein is almost certainly a wrong 'un.

There was a Private Eye story, later denied by Corbyn's people, that Corbs enjoys a bit of TOIL, or Time Off In Lieu, which means that if he appears on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, he feels entitled to rest awhile on the Monday.

A ridiculous story, of course, completely absurd. As ridiculous as, say, Simon Coveney, destroyer of the old order.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

The Works Presents: Adam Clayton

RTE Player, until March 2, Season 4, episode 1

John Kelly continues his run of dynamic guests, after the late, great poet John Montague, photographer John Minihan, Tracy Emin, et al, with this in-depth chat with Adam Clayton. Clayton, it turns out, is also contributing arts editor for GQ Magazine, as well as U2 bass player for 40 years now. That is, as he says "a long time in a band, it's a long time in a business arrangement, it's a long time in a marriage." Part rock star interview, part arts interview, this is a good stab at showing something of Clayton the artist manque as well as Clayton the musician and the man, of exploring his interest in visual arts and the road he might have taken, which seems to give him an interesting handle on the day job: "Pop music is the sound of youth, the sound of trying, of bravado," he says. "When you get to the age of a band like U2, you can't really do that. It's got to be about ideas. And it's a different kind of commitment."

Celebrity Masterchef

TV3 Player, until February 16, episodes 1-4

Because this is scheduled to air late - 10pm on Monday night is pretty much bedtime for most of us - it may not be getting the audience it deserves, but makes a perfect bit of catch-up TV. Expect all the usual drama - curdled sauces, poor reductions, tough meat, unappetising presentation, and peculiar pairings - dished up by a good mix of celebs who can actually cook, and some who seem to barely know which end of a chopping board is up. Samantha Mumba, Colm O'Gorman, Nadia Forde (far left), Holly Carpenter and Evelyn Cusack are some of those prepared to offer up their creations to judges Daniel Clifford, who has two Michelin stars and owns Midsummer House, one of the top restaurants in Europe, and Dublin-born Robin Gill of The Dairy and The Manor. As usual, the real fun is in the failures rather than the successes. Who wants to watch a perfectly-formed souffle?

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