independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Fairytale ending so sad and predictable

SUNDAY Awake to Fiona Kelly -- my favourite radio voice -- doing What It Says in the Papers. After that I am alert enough to enjoy John Bowman's archival trawl. Erudite, eclectic, entertaining, Bowman always leaves me thinking.

This morning I am left wondering why James Hamilton Delargy, founder of the Irish Folklore Commission a Roman Catholic whose grandmother was a Presbyterian from the Glens of Antrim (hence Hamilton) did so little to preserve the rich rural folkore of small southern Irish protestant communities such as the Palatinates, Cooneyites and Plymouth Brethern.

Later I switch to Newstalk -- but switch off as soon as I suss that Ken Murphy of the Law Society and Dr Gavan Titley, a media lecturer from Maynooth, are both going to badmouth the Sunday Independent.

Murphy begins by borrowing -- but not crediting -- Jody Corcoran's insight that words like "passport" and "donations" are now politically loaded. Murphy then messily moves on to the insights of Vincent Browne.

Dr Titley, criticising Jim Cusack's piece (on Brian Lenihan's plans to deport delinquent immigrants), slips in a phrase which is carries its own freight. "The Sunday Independent," he says, "Sadly and predictably . . . " Etc.

The phrase "sadly and predictably", like "hysterical rant" is sadly and predictably used by PC types whenever they want to criticise certain Sunday Independent columnists. So I shall use it until you are sick of it.

Sadly and predictably the Maynooth website tells me that Dr Titley is conducting a "longitudinal analysis of Irish media coverage of Irish roles and interests during the invasion of Iraq with a particular focus on representations of protests". Bet that means us.

Before bed I catch Sean O'Rourke's The Week in Politics. Martin Cullen conducts a master class in defending the Taoiseach. Although physically slight, Cullen has consummate courage, a commodity in short supply in Ireland.

TUESDAY

Super Tuesday. Sadly and predictably, RTE has a raft of reporters running after liberal CNN commentators -- who have never called an election correctly -- instead of getting insightful conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn and Peggy Noonan who never kick for touch.

Cathal MacChoille of Morning Ireland has breakfast with CNN's Larry King. Waffles are on the menu. Larry waffles about the election being "up in the air", waffles that "it's going to be wild" and daringly waffles that McCain "could" win.

Listen up Cathal and Larry. In past years I correctly tipped Clinton and Bush for two terms each. Four weeks ago, while the pundits were still wondering if McCain could win Florida, and Celtic bookmakers had him at 33/1, I tipped McCain for President. So there.

* * *

At lunch-time I tune into Liveline for the second day of complaints about Cathal O Searcaigh, the subject of Fairytale of Kathmandu, a controversial documentary film by his former friend, Neasa Ni Chainain. The previous day the poet had been savaged by callers who made no distinction between paedophilia (sex with children below the age of puberty) and paederasty (sex with youths aged 16-18).

Now I do not necessarily approve of people going to Nepal for sex with young men. But as the critic Christopher Ricks, remarks, "tolerance is permitting while disapproving". And since Ireland's literary lions have been slow to speak up for O Searcaigh, and since I don't much like media mobs, let me make three brief points to put the controversy in some kind of historical and cultural context.

First, O Searcaigh shares the same sexual preferences as Socrates. In Ancient Greece the love of adolescents energised the erotic writings of the architects of Western Civilisation. Second, although Nepal is a notoriously homophobic society (and local accusers may have their own agendas) the age of consent is 16. So far O Searcaigh has not been accused of any criminal offence.

Finally, although I accept there might be an argument about an alleged abuse of power, as long as some people can hire and fire other people there will always be some element of sexual pressure in human relations -- as well as the double standard which allows Germaine Greer to extol the erotic joys of engaging with male youths in her book Boy without challenge from her feminist peers.

But I am not naive enough to believe that any of these arguments will protect O Searcaigh from a Liveline media mob. Furthermore I am also fairly sure that gay activists, anxious to avoid any association with paedophilia -- will abandon him on air -- as they do.

Accordingly, I do not expect much fair play for O Searcaigh when I switch on and hear Fiona Neary of the Rape Crisis Network in full flow supported by callers who want O Searcaigh's hapless head. But today Duffy and his researchers are determined to balance the books, and have found two courageous contributors to do so.

Eamon Delaney, editor of Magill, (who was equally brave in putting the case for Cardinal Connell on Q&A), accuses the Rape Crisis Network of an anti-male agenda. And when Neary rejects this, Delaney retorts that Jackie Hayden, one of the few men to work in the Network, has just published a book alleging he was frozen out of his job by feminist pressure.

Delaney's defence of O Searcaigh is followed by a forensic tour de force from the poet Maire Mhac an tSaoi. Belying her age, she subjects the motives of the documentary's director, Neasa Ni Chainin, to sharp scrutiny, asking questions about two morally murky areas -- the first being whether Ni Chianain should have warned O Searcaigh in Nepal that she was no longer a trusted friend but from then on a hostile witness.

Second, Maire Mhac an tSaoi wants to know whether Ni Chainin's delay of almost two years (the film was planned in 2005 and shot in 2006) before going public with her scruples, arose from a desire to publicise her film rather than protect the young men of Nepal.

Although Ni Chianain protests -- perhaps too much -- about this allegation, Maire Mhac an tSaoi's scepticism might be sharper had she seen what Senator David Norris rightly describes as a "lubricious" poster of a boy which is being used to promote Fairytale of Kathmandu.

As in all Irish controversies, the National Question lurks in the background. So when Maire Mhac an tSaoi interrupts an irate caller he suddenly forgets her maiden name and waspishly hisses "Now I did not interrupt you Mrs Cruise O'Brien."

Afterwards I could not help thinking that Roger Casement's reputation would have been ruined if a film crew had followed all his activities in the Congo and Brazilian jungles -- where he had sordid sex with a series of young men and at the same time showed dauntless bravery in standing up to the corrupt colonial powers.

Life is more complex than Liveline.

WEDNESDAY

While RTE reporters run over each other in the USA pursuing clueless CNN commentators who churn out cliches and kick to touch, Pat Kenny serves up a stunning analysis of Super Tuesday without ever leaving Montrose. Pat is helped by a superb two-man panel consisting of Noel Whelan and DCU political science professor Gary Murphy (who admittedly starts with the advantage of coming from Cork) and Niall O'Dowd on the line from the USA.

Although I am no admirer of O'Dowd on Irish politics, and would prefer to see McCain president, I thought O'Dowd brilliantly described how the traditional Democratic machine defied the media (and Teddy Kennedy) to come out for the Clintons. A shrewd texter to Pat Kenny pointed to comparisons with the Irish General Election 2007. And no, I am not that texter. Too sad, too predictive.

THURSDAY

Last week I paid tribute to Brian Lenihan, the Minister for Justice, for lifting his head from his prepared speech at the Mansion House, and speaking from the heart about the Holocaust. Pity he does not do the same today when speaking about the murder of Paul Quinn in the Dail. Lenihan hardly lifts his head from his prepared speech -- and no wonder when it asks us to believe that the Provisional IRA in south Armagh did not authorise that satanic attack on a defenceless young man.

The peace process only succeeds by using sticks as well as carrots. And there will be no move from Sinn Fein on the McCartney, Raftery and Quinn murders unless the minister mobilises public opinion against the Provos. Accordingly, Brian Lenihan should have spoken with passion on behalf of the parents of Paul Quinn -- and put the boot into Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA.

As Enda Kenny did, in his best performance in the Dail to date.

FRIDAY

All week I have been trying to remember something prompted by the film title Fairytale of Kathmandu. Finally I remember a fragment from Rudyard Kipling's poem, In the Neolithic Age, a moving appeal for what today would be called cultural and sexual pluralism.

Still the world is wondrous large, -- seven seas from marge to marge, -- And it holds a vast of various kinds of man; And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.

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