EVERYONE seems to have an opinion on the death of Gerry Ryan, and everyone seems to be voicing theirs, so why not me? I didn't know him well, but what I knew of him, I liked.
Fame hadn't gone to his head, and his many, many opinions were coloured by neither hypocrisy nor the need to please the mob. Of all the famous people in RTE, he seemed to be one of the few worth getting to know a little better.
He was also a criminal fool, and an enemy of all that's decent and honourable and true in society. Anyone who takes cocaine, either as an experiment or as habit, is a colleague, friend and paymaster of FARC. He or she who takes a tiny snort of cocaine enters one of the most abominable conspiracies in the world, which takes thousands of lives every year -- in straightforward gang-related murders in Ireland, the US, Britain, Europe and South America, and in the squalor of overdoses and addiction. There is no "clean" cocaine, any more than there is a clean transfusion of AIDS blood. If you snort any cocaine, ever, you immediately become party to that murder in Finglas last January, that double murder in Ballymun the previous October, the killings in Paris, the massacre of federal agents in Mexico, the butchery in the Bronx, and the endless and catastrophic war in Colombia.
Taking cocaine is simply taking an oath of loyalty to the worst people in the world. By entering that confederacy, one is making oneself an active party to their deeds, their imperial ambitions, their greed, their murders and the vast human tragedy they create. And it is vast: even aside from the deaths, thousands of lives are ruined every year by addiction, by marriage break-up, by poverty, by mental illness, by economic incompetence, by personal dysfunctionalism.
Whoever snorts cocaine nowadays cannot fail to see this landscape of human suffering caused by the drug, and when he then inhales it, he is saying of that landscape: "Yes, please, I'll have some responsibility for that, please."
Yes, cocaine is cool, cocaine is chic, cocaine is soccer mega-millionaires, cocaine is St Tropez, cocaine is Gstaad, cocaine is a brace of limby naked models lying akimbo across your bed; cocaine is a 17-year-old working class boy dead in Drimnagh, cocaine is the huddled wino lying in her own shit in a shop doorway near Christchurch, cocaine is the AKM automatic rifle being unwrapped from its oiled paper in Armagh, cocaine is the cartel that runs a criminal state in Colombia. Take cocaine, and you become party to all that. And Gerry did.
There are no ifs, maybes or buts about this. It is infantile to deny the truth, especially about society's heroes, for if you can make an exception for his behaviour, why not for those infinitely less advantaged than he was? After all, he could afford to pay for his habit, though perhaps it also explains his stalwart resistance to RTE's pay cuts. But what happens to those who can't afford what he could? I'll tell you what. Walk around Fitzwilliam Square or along Benburb Street in Dublin any evening, and most of the working girls there probably began with a little snort. Go on. Take a snort yourself, and enter the conspiracy that will turn an ordinary housing estate girl into a junkie and a hooker, desperate to get whatever drug she can lay her hands on, every day and every night, until she is found dead in a canal. Suicide? Murder? Who knows? Who cares?
Adults are adults, and adults make choices, and I believe in giving people the right to those choices. In a perfect world, we should be free to take cocaine, regardless of the personal consequences. I believe that the western world's obsessive desire to criminalise drugs use to be insane and entirely counter-productive. If I were the US president, I would negotiate with the Colombian government to create a proper cocaine market, regulated by law and government agents.
But -- as you may have noticed -- I am not the US president. US law is US law, and in the real world that actually exists, all cocaine throughout the world is controlled by terrorist cartels. There is no innocent cocaine. All coca production is criminal. All cocaine refining is criminal. All cocaine sales are criminal, and all of them enrich the evil.
Think about it. This is what Gerry did. And being a man of influence, in death he could well influence others. What answer have you for the teenager who says: "If it was cool for Gerry Ryan to take coke, why isn't it for me? He just overdid it, but see me? I won't. I've got more sense than Gerry Ryan. I only want to take the occasional snort ..."
Gerry, like Katy French, was given what was in effect a state funeral. It is up to those who publicly mourned him now to publicly denounce his cocaine consumption. Silence in this is complicity of a kind; and complicity is what killed Gerry. He was an adult. He made his choices. And so must we all.