News Ian O'Doherty

Friday 22 August 2014

Honestly, Leo. Is that how you were raised?

Ian O'Doherty

Published 19/03/2014 | 02:30

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Rude guest: Leo Varadkar gave out to his hosts, the Hibernian Society, in  Savannah, Georgia
Rude guest: Leo Varadkar gave out to his hosts, the Hibernian Society, in Savannah, Georgia

So, as is normal for this time of the year, the Cabinet has made its way back from those onerous duties of having a few nice dinners in foreign climes. And, as is normal for this time of the year, we've got at least one politician who, on balance, would have been better served to keep his comments to himself.

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On this occasion, it is the good burghers of Savannah, Georgia, who have reason to be somewhat less than gruntled.

Leo Varadkar was a guest of the Savannah chapter of the Hibernian Society, a 200-year-old organisation that can boast some of the finest 19th-Century minds alive today. That can be one conclusion drawn from the fact that it still hosts something as antediluvian as a 'men only' dinner, but Leo wasn't going to allow such an injustice to go unnoticed.

No, he stated that such a male-only ethos was incompatible with the spirit of St Patrick, who was there for: "Catholic, Protestant, believer and non-believer, gay, straight, male and female."

Now, applying his logic, I can't imagine that the Hibernian Society would provide a great welcome for, say an Irish-American lesbian atheist who came from the Protestant culture. But their answer, I'm sure, would be a simple one – why would they want to join in the first place?

I'm sure Savannah is absolutely overflowing with societies that cater for lesbian Irish-American atheists who come from a Protestant culture, so who needs these crusty, superannuated Plastic Paddies?

There are two issues at stake here, and Varadkar's greatest mistake was trying to play local politics when talking abroad. Gender diversity is a hot-button issue here, but not there.

Groups like the Hibernian Society are perfectly entitled to have a male-only policy and that works on a number of levels – not least in the fact that their policy saves plenty of people, male or female, from wanting to join. But while many of us would demur at signing up for such an organisation, to accuse them of being exclusionary is as nonsensical as saying that a group dedicated to, say, promoting more women in business, only exists to keep men in their place.

Some of Varadkar's supporters have said he was brave to raise the matter with his hosts, but he wasn't being brave. He was simply being rude. Of course, the very concept of accusing someone of being 'rude' is becoming less fashionable by the day, but how would you respond if you invited a guest for dinner and they spent the evening telling you the ways you needed to change and improve?

That doesn't sound like dinner, that sounds like an intervention.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the Hibernian Society's stupid decision to ban women from their events... wait, actually I am defending their right to be like that. And you should too.

Because if we are to apply the logic of enforced gender equality, then any of the groups that cater for women and their interests – somewhere like a Curves gym – could be equally, and equally lazily, accused of engaging in the kind of gender apartheid that we are all supposed to abhor.

Of course, Labour apparatchiks (sorry, is that sexist?) have been gleefully pointing out that their Dear Leader Comrade Eamon, refused to attend last year's testosterone-only night in Savannah because of this policy. And that is his right.

In fact, you could say that Gilmore's stance was the more honourable one, because to politely decline is surely better than to rudely accept. But Gilmore's stance is rather crippled by the fact that nothing was said when his junior colleague Jan O'Sullivan visited Saudi Arabia on a trade mission last year.

In fact, why didn't Labour, or any of other parties who have sent delegations to Saudi, or indeed, Mary McAleese when she was President, display the same hostile attitudes towards genuinely murderous misogyny as we have seen from them in Georgia?

Well, the official mantra any time is that such 'concerns' may be raised privately, but, ultimately, they don't want to be rude to their hosts.

Or, if Leo's behaviour is any indication, they don't want to be rude to the wrong hosts.

ACTUALLY COURTNEY – YOU MIGHT BE ON TO SOMETHING

As the utterly demented speculation about the missing flight 370 continues to grow – my money is on the Dharma Initiative, but feel free to blame something else, you ignorant fools – we are undoubtedly witnessing the birth of what will be one of the greatest conspiracy theories of our lifetime.

But amidst this febrile guesstimating, we need the sensible, sober advice of aviation experts. People like Courtney Love.

Love has become obsessed with the plane's disappearance and has joined a website that scans ocean footage looking for clues. And she thought she had cracked the case.

Modestly admitting: "I'm no expert," she Tweeted a picture of a splodge on the water with the comment: "I figured a plane would still be leaking fuel so I searched for an oil slick... I don't know if it's the plane or not but I figured I'd do my part and bring some awareness to this site, for the sake of all the families involved."

So, to paraphrase Pulp Fiction: "Relax, people. Because Courtney Love is on the motherf***in' case."

In other news, it wasn't the plane...

DAMN THOSE OIRISH AMERICANS

I don't know what salon.com would think of the Hibernian Society, but I'm guessing they'd be agin it. But then they're kinda down on Irish Americans anyway, with a current piece decrying that subculture as 'disgusting' and 'angry, red faced dudes on Fox News.'

The piece, by an American of Irish extraction, Andrew O'Hehir, names the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade as prime examples.

That's fair enough – though it's wrong – but salon seems to have forgotten uber liberals such as Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin, Rosie O'Donnell and, of course, a certain George Clooney. They could hardly be described as right-wing, racist or, in the case of the perfectly sculpted Clooney, red faced.

But, at the behest of the female members of staff, here's a pic of him so you can make up your own mind.

Irish Independent

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