Sunday 23 October 2016

Ian O'Doherty: Official Ireland... don't you just love it?

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

Phone records: Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan (left) has expressed her full support for the State’s policy
Phone records: Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan (left) has expressed her full support for the State’s policy
Check in: Keep an eye out for elderly neighbours.

Has this been the most tedious and irritating week in recent Irish history?

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I know there's plenty of competition for that honour but around Wednesday, I really began to despair for the nation.

Not for the first time in the history of this country, we have the sinister prospect of the State apparatus snooping on journalists' phone records.

The increasingly hapless Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has, of course, expressed her full support for the policy, although she ended up speaking so much drivel that it became utterly unclear just what the hell she was actually talking about.

We'll hear the usual Official Ireland excuses that this is 'best practise' and no doubt we'll also be spoon fed the usual cop out (as it were) that they 'don't comment on individual cases' but let's be clear about one thing - if this had happened in a functioning democracy, heads would be rolling by now.

But there are times when we're reminded that this isn't a functioning democracy, not really.

The simple fact of the matter is that when you give certain arms of the State snooping powers, they will always use them to their full extent. Always.

Any intrusion into an individual's privacy should only ever be granted following a proper application to an external, independent judge and, seeing as that is not the case here, trust in GSOC has been shattered.

But in the midst of this unfolding scandal - and it is a scandal - how did we react as a people?

Well, some of the usual types came up with the usual 'if you have nothing to hide...' canard, but most people seemed happy to continue the new national hobby - pretending to know what went through the minds of the 1916 insurgents.

I neither know nor care what went through their minds, but there has been something morbidly amusing about looking at people who were born decades after those events trying to lecture everybody else about 'betraying' the Republic - as if they somehow had a direct line to the motivation of those involved. First aboard that particular bandwagon was, of course, that pompous old gas bag, Robert Ballagh, busily spinning his own weird version of a Celtic paradise - it seems to involve lots of poets and artists. In other words, people like him! Who knew?

Then there are the descendants of the original troublemakers demanding a say in events, as if having a great grandfather who destroyed a post office somehow grants you a say in matters of national importance.

As I said, I've no real interest in psychoanalysing the minds of the 1916 leadership, but I doubt they were fighting for the right of dynastic succession and inherited influence, as some of the more vocal current campaigners seem to think.

But the tipping point surely came in the middle of the week, when the annual row over Good Friday closing came much earlier than normal. I blame global warming. Apparently, there is a growing movement to drop this ludicrous law but it is instructive to note that for all the blather about the glories of our post-independence Republic, closing pubs only to came into play in 1927 - proof we simply replaced a colonial overlord with a religious one.

I've been a hack for longer than I care to remember and every year I've found myself writing the same bloody piece about Good Friday so I long for its abolition, if only to give me something else to write about.

So, reporters are being spied on by the State and Europe is burning but we prefer to give out about pubs and events of 100 years ago. Go back to sleep, Ireland, there's nothing to see here.

Quotas - the rallying cry of the sore loser

It's always rather quaint to see how people look to entertainers and Hollywood for real life answers to real life problems.

For starters - and I say this as someone who has interviewed more famous people than I care to remember - most of them are completely and utterly mad. They're not all bad, although many of them are, but even the decent ones display a form of entitled insanity that would see the rest of us sectioned.

So let's be honest, the row about the lily-white Oscars is more entertaining than many of the movies on offer.

Now, as pressure grows from groups like Black Lives Matter - an increasingly dangerous bunch of racists and Black Power headcases - for a boycott, it seems that everyone involved is missing the point.

While the obvious rejoinder to accusations of bias is to point out that the BET (Black Entertainment Television) or MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards are hardly racially inclusive, that's not entirely the whole story.

After all, the Oscars aren't called the Movies of White Origin awards.

So it was inevitable that there would be calls for quotas for minority representation because that's what losers do.

It is surely much easier to blame whitey for everything rather than contemplating the fact that maybe there just weren't enough decent movies with black stars this year.

Interestingly, one American actress has slammed the idea of quotas and also called for the abolition of the BET awards.

The actress involved, Stacey Dash, happens to be black. But she also contributes to Fox News, so nobody will listen to her...


Neighbours are a bit like referees - you don't notice the good ones, but the bad ones can make your life a living hell.

A new survey has come out in England which explores the nature of neighbourliness and it contains some obvious nuggets of wisdom.

For starters, if you have an elderly neighbour, it doesn't hurt to knock in every now and then to check they're OK.

This is genuinely important because older people come from a more proud era and often don't want to ask for assistance.

But I draw the line at the suggestion that you should offer to help out with bits of DIY and little odd jobs that might need doing.

My elderly next door neighbour once asked me to have a look at her downstairs toilet which seemed to be leaking a bit.

After poking around and pretending to have a clue what I was doing, the loo started to flush and then wouldn't stop noisily draining.

In fact, it was made clear in no uncertain terms that I had made everything immeasurably worse by my intervention and, as you can imagine, I spent the rest of the evening in a state of mortified panic looking for an emergency plumber.

No, you wanna be a good neighbour?

Stick to checking they have milk in the fridge and leave the DIY to the experts.

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