Eoghan Harris

Thursday 24 July 2014

Eoghan Harris: 'A federal Europe would be a step on the right path'

Eoghan Harris

Published 17/06/2012|05:00

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SUNDAY: The first John Ford festival finishes with Se Merry Doyle's documentary Dreaming the Quiet Man. In four days it laid down a firm foundation by taking the films of John Ford seriously. Naturally there has to be a nay-sayer.

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Predictably it was Ken Loach. I say predictably because when my wife Gwen looked up from The Ticket and asked me to guess whether Loach liked Ford films, I replied promptly: Loach no like.

In the course of a soft profile by Donald Clarke, Loach began with a confession of cinematic bigotry. "I never was interested in American cinema. The ideology does not appeal to me. It's all to do with the lone gunman who will sort things out." As against the collective sorting it out.

Clarke did not challenge Loach's cinematic myopia. Instead he left us with this pious piece of political correctness: "One hopes that even right- wing lunatics will recognise Loach's extraordinary integrity."

Clarke's conflation of right wing with lunatics, and integrity with an infantile view of politics, tells us as much about his politics as about Loach's. Let me make another prediction. Ford's films will still be fondly watched when Loach's film sermons are footnotes.

The big bonus of the festival was learning about the Abbey Theatre's influence on Ford. But not just on Ford. Barry Monahan's brilliant book Ireland's Theatre on Film shows the Abbey also left its mark on legendary directors such as Alfred Hitchock and Carol Reed.

MONDAY

The Sage of Seapoint once moved in London's financial fast lane. Now retired and returned home, he spends his time swimming and studying his native shore. Sometimes he shares his reflection.

The SOP has always rejected the conventional wisdom that Ireland was a special case. Contrary to Tolstoy's aphorism, he believes the unhappy Irish family was unhappy for the same reasons as Spain and Greece -- the lethal combination of bad banking practices with a property bubble.

The Sage says the only specially stupid Irish contribution was the bank guarantee. But he believes the problem began in the more distant past. Giving up the punt was a bad move, just to give a finger to the Brits.

But what's done is done. The Sage believes we have no choice now but to push on to full political and fiscal union in a federal Europe. Because the true cost will eventually run into trillions.

He believes the European Central Bank must act like the US Fed and become the lender of last resort. That inexorably implies a federal Europe. So let's get on with it.

The Sage has no time for Sinn Fein's snuffling about sovereignty. Me neither. Like many of my generation I believe in some form of federal world government, the kind that will be fast to use force against sadistic dictators like those in Syria.

A federal Europe would be a good first step towards that global goal. So I am happy to have the troika doing the tots. Better them that gombeen grabbers waving a green flag.

TUESDAY

The Taoiseach tells Micheal Martin the file on the bank guarantee was "either shredded or has been disposed of or dispatched". Fine Gael has found another kind of shredder very useful in covering its own tracks. The media shredder, which began with this Goverment's massive majority.

Today the media is tip-toeing around the top taboo subject. The troika's pursing of lips about the lavish pay and pensions at the top of the public service -- which, of course, includes politicians' pay and pensions. That subject is taboo in all parties.

There is no enthusiasm either in Dail Eireann or in Montrose to examine even the troika's delicate touching on the subject. Doubtless the delicacy comes from both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael telling the troika that whatever about the welfare class, the top of the public sector was off limits.

Hence the troika barely hints at a huge truth: that cutting public-service pay in the top bands would be better than cutting public services. What we pay teachers is closely connected to whether we can afford special-needs teachers.

But every party is terrified of the public-sector unions. So fat-cat pay reform goes into the shredder. Like the Moriarty report. Far easier to beat up on Mick Wallace and the welfare class.

THURSDAY

Denis O'Brien may divest himself of some or all of his radio stations to see off any challenge from the Competition Authority. Let's hope Newstalk is not a casualty. Chris Donoghue and Shane Coleman's brilliant Breakfast Show is a model of -- believe it or not -- public-service broadcasting.

Public-service broadcasting is not the same as public-sector broadcasting. Chris Donahue keeps the public interest to the fore during his civil but clam-like interview with Tom Geraghty of the Public Service Executive Union, who is also a bigwig on the Croke Park body.

Chris wants to know whether Tom thinks it moral that 3,000 civil servants earning over €70,000 annually should get automatic incremental increases. He makes no cheap attempt to tie Tom up in knots. He just hands him the rope and lets him get on with it.

Compare and contrast this tough interview with Claire Byrne's cosy chat with the same Tom Geraghty on RTE's Morning Ireland. At her best Byrne is the best, as sharp as Pat Kenny. But neither Byrne nor Kenny are sharp on the subject of the public sector, a protected species in Montrose's canteen culture.

Tom sounds far too comfortable talking to Byrne. Clearly he feels safe out in RTE. Nobody is going to ask him awkward questions like they do on Newstalk.

RTE's protective attitude to public-sector fat cats baffles me. Most RTE reporters are not particularly well paid. So why do they not protest about presenters' soft interviews with a group gorging on the public purse?

As the Sage of Seapoint says: some people are sailing through this recession. This fortunate class includes permanent and pensionable public servants earning over €70,000 a year. And with that bleak thought in my mind I go to watch the match.

Spain subjects Ireland to the death of a thousand passes. If it was a boxing match it would be stopped. But still, to adapt Dylan Thomas, the Irish fans sing in their chains like the sea.

FRIDAY

Since Saipan, I have had no time for Roy Keane. Coming from Cork city I know his type. If he reads a newspaper it is only to remark aggressively: "Wharra dey sayin' about me now?"

What I am saying about Keane is this. He suffers from what my mother would call a lacking. He can't feel what most Irish fans feel: that life is larger than football.

Life is full of losses. Learning to lose gracefully is both a necessity and a moral virtue. Cuchulainn, our greatest warrior, is also our greatest loser.

Go see his statue in the GPO. Dying by degrees. Losing a battle but leaving a legend. Like the Irish fans who sang in sombre salute to Ireland and Spain.

Sunday Independent

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