Thursday 29 September 2016

Love actually, and the madness of Eamon Ryan

It seems hate is all around us. But who dares speak about love, asks Brendan O'Connor. Step forward the Green TD for Dublin Bay South

Published 19/06/2016 | 02:30

Remembering Orlando: After attending a vigil for the Pulse nightclub victims, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan talked about love during the order of business in the Dail last week. Photo: Tom Burke
Remembering Orlando: After attending a vigil for the Pulse nightclub victims, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan talked about love during the order of business in the Dail last week. Photo: Tom Burke

At times you wonder if we have become inured to horror. The bodies were barely pulled out of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando when it all kicked off as to what got the credit for motivating Omar Mateen to go into this place in the early hours of Sunday morning and methodically gun down 50 or so of his fellow human beings.

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Conservatives seemed to be determined that it not be homophobia, while liberals were determined that it not be Islamic radicalism. Conservatives were determined it not be homophobia, the liberals said, because the conservatives have form in this area themselves and so are implicated in creating the climate of homophobia that caused Mateen to do it. The liberals were determined it not be radical Islam, the conservatives said, because that offended their multicultural sensibilities. And the possibility of it being Islamic radicalism does, in reality, in many people's minds, probably feed into Donald Trump's narrative. Trump certainly seems to have felt it did, as his ill-advised triumphalist tweeting showed.

This was all confused further by reports that Mateen was actually a self-hating gay man, disgusted by and homophobic about his own urges. And by the fact that in recent months, Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a British doctor and Muslim scholar gave a speech entitled 'How to deal with the phenomenon of homosexuality' at the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford, just outside Orlando, a speech in which he urged people to "get rid" of homosexuals, death being the sentence. And, of course, it is complicated by the fact that some Muslims believe that the penalty for homosexuality is death by stoning or by throwing people from a height.

So two groups of people who pretty much hate each other got involved in a verbal war over the origin of the hate that caused one man to kill 49 fellow souls. And one side refuses to even utter the phrase radical Islam, while the other side seeks to deny the gay community ownership of one of the greatest one-off tragedies ever to inflict that community.

The rest of us wonder if it might not have been both, a combination of the homophobia that is endemic in radical Islam, and the idea of the lone wolf jihadi answering the call of radical Islam. And the rest of us might have paused to wonder too why the answer to this awful hate was more hate. Trump uses it to bolster his arguments for the banning of Muslim immigration, while liberals use it to bolster their slightly hysterical argument that Trump is a Nazi. But Trump, in fairness, is not the one killing homosexuals and the disabled. That would be Isil and radical Islamists.

It can seem simplistic, in all of this, to talk about love. But then, we very much believe in hate, and we talk about it a lot. Why then should someone who tries to talk about love be a simpleton? If hate exists, then love does, too. And for every potent act of hate, like the killings in Orlando, there are so many more powerful acts of love every day. Love, you could argue, comes more easily to us, is more our natural condition, than hate. Hate is the aberration, yet it gets all the attention. Love, the state to which we all aspire, gets no attention whatsoever.

And already, you are thinking I am daft to be talking about love.

It used be that priests and holy men were the ones to talk about love. But then religion became somewhat discredited on that front. And then, no one in public life talked about love really, except for poets and singers and writers and other oddballs like that. Proper people, the real people who do the serious, responsible work of running things, do not talk about love much. You barely ever hear them utter the word. Perhaps because they know they would be thought daft, unserious, unfit for the important business of being in charge.

Eamon Ryan is like a man set free from such petty concerns. Eamon Ryan, in this Dail term more so than ever, seems to hover slightly above some of his colleagues. Not for him the petty concerns of doing grubby deals to be in a mish-mash government. Maybe because he has been there, done that, lost the T-shirt off his back.

Ryan seems to have positioned himself now as a one-man upper house, the reflective conscience of the Dail, a benevolent, almost priesty kind of figure in the parliament, the monk who sold his Ferrari, if you will. And hovering benevolently above the rest of them, he muses sometimes. He signalled his MO for this Dail term when he mused a bit on the formation of the government back in those heady days when the Dail used to come and sit every now and then and fail to vote for a Taoiseach. That day he invoked his ancestors from Sliabh Luachra as he intoned like some kind of non-partisan old sage, liberated by his decision not to get involved.

You always know when Eamon Ryan is going to muse. He gets that faraway, slightly glassy look in his eyes, and a faint, knowing, almost beatific smile plays around his lips, as if he is in the throes of a vision, and then he expounds. And there seems to be no malice in it, ever. It's usually not about having a cut at anyone, or opposing for opposition's sake, or doing down his political enemies. He just seems to relish the idea of having the platform, to create a bit of mischief, or to surprise everyone.

So of course it was Eamon Ryan who talked about love during the order of business in the Dail last Tuesday. There was the usual, stilted, slightly officious stuff going on, combined with some officious expressions of condolences for Orlando. And then Eamon Ryan got up and said this, which I think it worth quoting in full. The vigil he refers to at the start is a vigil for Orlando.

"I attended the vigil last night and there was a sign displayed which made me think. It said, 'It is all about love'. I thought of those lines that every Irish married couple know from the letter to the Corinthians that 'Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always [trusts, always protects,] always hopes, always perseveres'. That was the mood at the vigil last night. But love might need a bit of a helping hand because it seems our world at the moment is full of people who are evil and who are willing, all too easily, to dishonour others, people who are self-seeking, easily angered and keep a record of wrongs. I was thinking of the words the Ceann Comhairle uses at the start of every day here, namely, 'that every word and work of ours' may start with and end with love, in how we deal with migration, the economy, international affairs, and how we stand up for our gay friends and colleagues in everything we do. It is about equality. We stand for love in this House against the evil we saw at the weekend."

Miriam Lord, who was the only person I noticed who felt this momentous speech was worth reporting, points out that Ryan was referring to the prayer said at the start of each Dail sitting: "Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and by Thee be happily ended; through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Instead of being guided by a God that many of them possibly don't believe in, or aren't guided by even if they do believe, Ryan was suggesting that our politicians and our politics be guided by love.

I know. Daft isn't it? Where would that leave us all? How could politics do the things it needs to do to people if it thought of them all as human beings worthy of love? What kind of insane guiding principal would that be in a functioning Dail? Love, and all such fluffy notions, must be left at the door when important men and women go to legislate. Love must be set aside when we think about migration, the economy and international affairs. Love is for lunatics and flakes like Eamon Ryan. The world would go to hell if we based everything on love. What kind of a sick society would we have?

Sunday Independent

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