Friday 28 October 2016

In 2016 only the Truth will set us free

With an election, the Rising and the Euros, we expect spectacular stuff from Official Ireland, writes Declan Lynch

Published 22/11/2015 | 02:30

‘The best time to cynically capitalise on qualification for a great tournament is always now’
‘The best time to cynically capitalise on qualification for a great tournament is always now’

It is now, as they say, all ahead of us.

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Indeed, as we cast our minds forward to the events of 2016, for those of a sensitive disposition there is perhaps too much ahead of us.

There's a general election. There are the celebrations of Easter 1916. There's the European Championships. And that's just the first half of the year.

For Ireland in general there will be much to savour, but for Official Ireland it will be a kind of a non-stop spectacular. Because you can be sure that in their minds these events are not just momentous in themselves, they are all linked.

As our good lads saw off the bad lads of Bosnia, we celebrated through the night. But there was perhaps one Irishman in the whole country who was not so happy.

Enda Kenny must find it hard to get through a day now, without wondering if he should have called an election for around now, rather than waiting until the new year. Since he is one of that breed of men for whom all human life is viewed through the prism of its electoral significance, he would have looked at Paddy last Monday, high on the improbability of it all, and he would have doubted himself just a little bit - or at least he would have doubted whoever told him to wait until 2016, thinking it would give the impression that the Taoiseach is unhurried, even mature.

Clearly he does not have the most astute advisers on matters of association football, who could have told him that in mid-November we might well have qualified for France and nobody would give a damn who is running the country, which means that they would be equally disinterested in changing anything in that regard.

Alternatively, Kenny's people may feel that Paddy will, if anything, be even more cock-a-hoop as the Euros draw nearer. And yet there is nothing quite like that first wave of joy when we don't even know yet who we will be playing in the group stage, when there is nothing specific to unsettle us - like the moment, for example, when we learn that we're in a Group with Spain and Ukraine and Poland. Which would give us something to worry about, and as we know, when you start worrying about one thing, you start worrying about another thing, and soon you're thinking that maybe the best solution to all your problems might be a new government.

No, the best time to cynically capitalise on qualification for a great football tournament is always now. And last week it may even have crossed the Taoiseach's mind, just for the most fleeting of moments, that things being the way they are in France, when he is finally obliged to call the election there might be no tournament at all.

His old friend Paddy may also be in changeable mood, struggling as he will be with the enormous quantities of unmitigated horse-shit which are coming his way during election season, and in all matters pertaining to 1916.

Though Paddy longs for Truth, he will not be hearing much of it. For example, among the things he will not be hearing is the observation that it is deeply appropriate, 100 years after the events of 1916, that Ireland - in the company of our friends in the North - will be taking its place on the great stage of Europe playing what is effectively our national sport.

That will not be in the script for Official Ireland. And it probably won't be in too many of the Unofficial Ireland scripts either, though it is demonstrably the Truth.

And it is what Pearse and Connolly would have wanted, because more than anything else they wanted freedom - and the Truth, as we know, will set us free.

But everyone on "the hustings", every late-night balladeer, will want a piece of the football action in some form, and at times the good people of Ireland will be suffering. Last Saturday, when Marian Finucane asked Richie Sadlier to explain to her "the significance of the 'away goal'", we had a vision of many more Saturday and Sunday mornings in which the studios of RTE will be filled with people who want to share their elation at how well we're doing at the "footy", without necessarily knowing things like, say, the scoring system.

There is no shame in Marian herself asking the expert to explain the "away goals" rule - there may be one or two listeners who don't know this and who may have a reasonable excuse - but she and other RTE presenters and producers must make it a matter of principle that no public person will be invited onto a panel to discuss any subject during this crucial period, unless they are able to explain the "away goals" rule - it may have no direct relevance to the actual tournament, but it's as good a way as any of weeding out those who are unfit not only to appear on the radio, but to hold public office.

It is only by such constant vigilance that we will prevent further atrocities, such as TDs suggesting that the football will come as a bit of "light relief" after what they regard as the more important issue of who will be first to reach the quota in Carlow/Kilkenny.

Constant vigilance, my friends, constant vigilance.

Sunday Independent

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