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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Rising parade: compliments, complaints and sheer boredom

Published 23/04/2006 | 00:11

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WONDER why I'm coming towards you wearing a white mask, whirring skull-saw clutched in my rubber gloves? Be afraid, or at least be a bit afraid. Brace yourself for a bloody post-mortem on the 1916 celebrations.

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Hold on Harris, says the post-nationalist professor of history, don't you think people want to move on? Not a bit of it. Like Burke and Hare, the Irish people have an insatiable appetite for dead bodies, as long as you regularly re-cycle the Rising.

Besides it's a slow week for news.

* * *

Look here Harris, says the lecturer in media studies, why don't write about topical items like teachers or the current oil crisis? Well, for one thing, I would have tough competition.

Sean Flynn of the Irish Times keeps an eagle eye on education. And Prime Time's Mark Little is now so well informed on Middle East politics that we no longer have to depend on doomy dirges from Lara Marlowe.

But I would also be breaking Harris's Second Law of Media (for the First Law see last week's column on the Unison, Slugger O'Toole or Newshound sites) which says that stories about education or energy cause ennui - especially among those involved in education and energy, such as teachers and motorists.

* * *

Actually, no matter what they say publicly, Irish people are only interested in two subjects: senior Provo superannuation schemes and the property market. So the ideal story is a synthesis of the two: senior Provos acquiring property and the CAB taking it away from them.

That is why we coaxed Jim Cusack from the Irish Times - he knows more about Provo property than anyone except Slab Murphy. It's also why we are Ireland's best-selling Sunday broadsheet. And it has nothing to do with knowing a mythical market.

It's about responding to what really interests the Irish people rather than what interests the Irish media.

* * *

But keeping the finger on the pulse also means catering for Irish people's happy hypocrisies. One of them is abhorring begrudgery in public, while passing the bad word in private.

So, in order to cover my ass, and cater for both sides of the national character, let me (a) compliment the defence forces on their fine parade (b) complain that military ceremony is not likely to sustain an annual interest in 1916.

Certainly not in a society that suffers from a boredom-related, attention deficit disorder which causes it to drift unless Provos or property are under discussion.

* * *

The bottom line is that Bertie has got the best out of the 1916 business. Irish people have the lowest boredom threshold in the world. They want to move on from 1916. But not to the "normal" issues so beloved of left-wing lecturers who would like to believe we are living in post-nationalist Ireland.

No, the Irish people want to move on from 1916 to the War of Independence, and after that the Civil War. By Easter next year the only people celebrating 1916 will be the Poles - who, come to think of it, made up much of the crowd in O'Connell Street last Sunday.

Mark my words, next year most of the nationalist journos won't have the juice to repeat their recent Psycho performance, which saw every second commentator dragging Cumann na mBan grand-aunts down from the attic and parading their mummified bodies around Montrose to give themselves a bit of GPO cred.

* * *

No need to emote about how we enjoyed the parade. Like children with a big cone of green ice cream. We loved the first lick but felt a bit sick by the last. Next year we'll let the Poles go to the GPO while we watch it on telly.

Actually, as with field sports, those who watched at home saw the most. RTE television was decent and dignified but Sky had a sharper edge when it came to comment.

Michael Laffan of UCD, was respectful without being reverential, making us think as well as feel. But Sky should have made more use of its man on the ground, former Irish army officer, Declan Power, and author of The Siege at Jadotville.

Power's two pieces to camera were packed with fresh insights. In the first he remarked that the affectionate regard for the Irish army was due to its members living largely within the community rather than on large bases. As a result those watching knew the marchers as family or friends.

In his second piece Power focused precisely on the veterans: ranging from men who had soldiered in bull's

'Like Burke and Hare, the Irish people have an insatiable appetite for dead bodies as long, as you regularly re-cycle the Rising'

wool in the Congo back in the Sixties, to those who served in lighter uniforms, but equally lethal postings, from Lebanon to the Irish border.

In his concise commentaries on the parade Power also nudged our narrow sense of "neutrality", reminding us of the Irish army's links with armies abroad. He cited Lt Ciara McDonough (on secondment to St Cyr, the French Military Academy) as well as former Lt Mark Johnson from Wicklow (the first Irish army officer-cadet to win the sword of honour at Sandhurst) who was later headhunted by Tim Collins to serve with the Royal Irish Rangers in Iraq.

Power also put perspective on some of the peaceniky pap about the alleged dangers of the parade looking aggressive. This needed saying. We seem afraid to admit that the Irish army is an army.

As the Dutch troops discovered in Bosnia and the French in Rwanda, evil elements will always call the bluff of weak peacekeepers who are not prepared to use their weapons. A proper use of force is critical to keeping the peace - as in the Irish army's current role in Liberia.

As a former member of the FCA I feel the Irish army should not be afraid to admit its sharp side. A few hours after Veronica Guerin was gunned down I told the Taoiseach, John Bruton, the public would welcome him sending a token force of rangers in symbolic support of a Garda raid on John Gilligan's stud farm.

The tyre marks on the lawn might fade, but they would indelibly imprint the memory of state steel on the mafia mind.

* * *

By now I am bored by the idea of a bloody post-mortem. In truth the 1916 show could have been a lot more tribal. The media can claim credit for this control.

In broadcasting, RTE television kept a tight rein on tribalism - the Mint programme on General Maxwell was a model of balance. But RTE radio, predictably, regressed to near

necrophilia.

But the print media behaved best. Among the highlights were Fintan O'Toole's supplement for the Irish Times; the powerful analytical articles in the Irish Examiner; and Justine McCarthy's polemic in the Irish Independent asking why we don't commemorate the Treaty of 1921.

* * *

Actually we almost got through it without any nationalist name-calling. Almost. Last week, on

Newstalk 106, in casually charming tones, Tim Pat Coogan, called 1916 critics "crypto-Unionists" and "West Brits". And with

equal charm the pres-enter, Sarah Carey, firmly challenged his choice of words.

Good show Sarah.

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