Sunday 23 October 2016

In 13bn ways, nothing to do with us, mate

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Cartoon by Jim Cogan

During that recent unpleasantness in Rio, we heard some of our more responsible citizens trying to explain to the peasantry of Ireland and indeed of Brazil, that "we don't do that sort of thing here".

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Which is perfectly correct of course. We don't do that sort of thing here, because we don't do any sort of thing here, at least not to anyone or anything above a certain pay-grade.

I suppose it's also a matter of tone - when the responsible people are murmuring their misgivings about "that sort of thing", they are seeing none of the irony or the black humour or the straightforward satire that the peasantry are seeing.

Or if they do, they're pretending that they don't.

Ticket-touting, they explained in that long-suffering yet admirably restrained way of theirs, is not a crime in Ireland - "then again what is?", came the cry from the cheap seats.

Yet it was fascinating to watch all that fine machinery moving into place, driven by the endless energy of the responsible people for doing nothing if they can possibly help it, nothing at least that would disturb the tranquility of the great powers.

They have become so adept at the avoidance of all meaningful activity in this domain, even when they were instructed by "Europe" to accept about €13bn from Apple, their instinct was to do nothing - or to embark on an enormously complicated and expensive process which would ensure at some time in the distant future that nothing would be done.

Though the great powers of Europe were urging them to take the money and perhaps even to distribute it among the peasantry, it can be perceived that an even greater power, that of the global corporations, was in the room.

At which point, what might have seemed like an agonising decision, became no decision at all.

Thank you very much, Mr Europe, but we would prefer to take nothing rather that to risk doing something that might bring us €13bn in these most unusual circumstances.

It is an instinct which was perhaps forged in the years when we prostrated ourselves before the altars of Rome, when it became the official policy of this State to do absolutely nothing that might in any way be troubling to that great power.

Leaving aside the terrible damage that this did to our collective self-esteem, and to everything else, its effects are still to be seen in our fantastically dishonest approach to the issue of abortion.

There is hardly a country on the face of the earth which has put such enormous energies into the maintenance of a crude fiction, as Ireland has done in relation to abortion.

For generations now, the responsible people have been indefatiguable in their pursuit of the untruth, in their desire to do nothing that would correct the lie, in their fierce determination to pretend that there is no abortion in Ireland, just because it tends to take place in England - a mere geographical fact, one that has no moral or intellectual substance.

Even now, there are tremendous efforts being made to achieve a kind of inertia, to reflect the situation as it isn't.

To imagine that this abortion thing is nothing to do with us, mate.

Indeed if there are any classical scholars out there, they might provide us with a Latin translation of "Nothing To Do With Us, Mate", so we can stitch it into the blazers of our representatives, and have it embossed on the official notepaper of the State.

Though it seems to belong in another realm, when we hear Michael Noonan trying to explain why we won't be taking the free money, we are reminded of the extraordinary lengths to which old Ireland would go, in its support of "Catholic teaching".

They did not learn this stuff last week - they have been concocting these strange narratives for a long time now, mainly because they have to.

If, for example, you are trying to pretend that there is no abortion in Ireland, you'll have to go "round the houses" a fair bit, and even more so if you insist on putting it into the Constitution.

Nobody ever said that doing nothing would be easy.

Likewise, as we all sat there looking at Michael Noonan explaining to Bryan Dobson why we wouldn't be going down that dangerous road of accepting thousands of millions of euro to which Europe felt we were entitled, we were brought back to scenes of the statesmen of yore trying to tell us that things like divorce were a terribly bad idea, that we were better off the way we were.

You would almost admire the labyrinthine nature of the reasoning, if you could follow it.

You could sense the great effort that was being made, to persuade the peasantry that even though they think this money will make them happy, if only they understood these things the way that the responsible people do, they'd know it will not make them happy, it will make then very sad indeed.

It is one of the oldest stories of all in Ireland: if there's anything that seems to promise a better way, even for a little while, along will come a wily old man with a deep voice to disabuse us of that misapprehension.

Because we don't do that sort of thing here.

Sunday Independent

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