NURSES were reported to be angry about James Reilly's comments that if they don't want the poorly paid jobs available as part of his graduate nursing scheme, the alternative is to emigrate or to work in a fast food outlet.
Perhaps he is unaware that when many of us think of McDonald's, the ultimate in fast food outlets, the words that come to mind are efficiency, hygiene, good value, and a pleasant attitude to the public. And when we think of the health service, the words which come to mind are . . . well . . . James Reilly.
Perhaps he is also unaware of the recent horse burgers scandal, which had something in common with all other scandals pertaining to the Irish food industry; at some point in the proceedings, it is always mentioned that a certain organisation uses a huge amount of our finest Irish beef, and that it insists on the highest possible standards at every stage of the operation – that organisation is McDonald's.
And we absorb this piece of information for a moment, marvelling at how little we appreciate these excellent fast food outlets in the normal run of events. And when the scandal goes away, we just carry on like James Reilly, regarding the entire concept which has been perfected by McDonald's, and indeed by Burger King, and the very name of these establishments, as a term of abuse.
Now, at this point I must add a personal note. A few years ago I wrote a piece defending McDonald's. As I recall, it was against the background of the Morgan Spurlock film Super Size Me, which was lavishly praised by film critics and by commentators, apparently unable to see that the entire premise of the project was ridiculous. Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald's for a month, with predictably disastrous effects on all aspects of his life. Yet if you were to eat nothing but the finest steak for a month, the results would be roughly similar. And if you washed it down with nothing but the freshest fruit juice, you'd be in even more trouble.
In challenging the essential dishonesty of the film, I didn't realise that soon I would start to receive all sorts of very boring information from McDonald's about the latest developments in the Happy Meal sector and various initiatives in the Curly Fries department. Clearly, I had been singled out for this lavish attention by a PR department which had probably never seen a good word written about McDonald's in its entire history – in the mind's eye, on its map of the world at corporate HQ, there was a light shining on the place where I live. And now they wanted me to know all about the inexorable rise of the Egg McMuffin.
So I would hereby like to tick the box, as it were, stating that on this occasion I do not wish to engage in any correspondence or to receive any corporate bullshit of any kind from McDonald's, in any shape or form, as a result of what I write next – that James Reilly was doubly wrong in disparaging McDonald's as an employer, when in fact its manager training programme is quite highly prized. McDonald's "graduates" tend to do very well, perhaps better than graduates of whatever yellow-pack scheme Mr Reilly and his department have cooked up this time.
Always we must question the received wisdom, which is usually grounded in little more than lazy-mindedness and prejudice. While McDonald's can look after itself, it seems that the poor oul' fellas have only Danny Healy-Rae to speak up for them and for their way of life. Danny Healy-Rae and me. Because when I heard about the Kerry county councillor's inspired motion to allow "rural drivers" – or, if you like, poor ould fellas – to have two or three drinks in the local pub and then to drive home very slowly on third-class roads that have hardly any other cars on them, my first reaction was that it was eminently sensible.
The general reaction was that it was outrageous, embarrassing and barking mad in the way that only the peasantry with their deeply superstitious ways can be. But I would stick with "eminently sensible".
By framing the issue in terms of problems such as depression, Healy-Rae makes the point that there are aspects of depression that are unquantifiable. In these matters of the human heart, statistics tell us nothing. Regulations have no meaning. And the story of the poor ould fellas of Ireland, and their relationship with the pub, if it is about anything, is a story of the human heart.
There is much that is unknown. You can't say for certain that a few pints of stout and a slow ride home will greatly improve the overall mood of the poor ould fellas and of isolated individuals in general.
But you can say that the way things are at present, with the poor ould fellas denied their one form of recreation, is probably no good for anyone. And that came about through a combination of the smoking ban, and an overly bureaucratic approach in general to the nuances of rural drinking. Not to mention the prejudice that informed it, the sense that such people do not matter.
Be it against Ronald McDonald or Danny Healy-Rae, there is no room in a sophisticated society for such prejudice.