Ireland adds insult to injury
Published 05/03/2011 | 05:00
Last November, a man who once fulfilled boyish dreams on the local Gaelic football fields around Cobh sunk into a depression from whose icy depths even this formidably constructed 6ft-plus being could not emerge.
And so John Butler, an unemployed construction worker, asphyxiated his two little daughters -- Zoe (6) and Ella (2) -- before purchasing a five-gallon drum of petrol. Then, he propelled his Toyota Yaris down the narrow gap that marks the road into Ballycotton from Cork, plunging the vehicle into a wooden ditch in which he met his end, expiring swiftly amidst a lethal cocktail of burns and smoke inhalation.
Although it later emerged that his depression may have been extant for some time, there was nevertheless a not entirely unambiguous link between the termination of his service with Irish Steel and his struggles to re-engage with the dignity afforded a man of his status by gainful employment.
It was difficult not to recall that traumatic week in November when alerted to the latest vitriolic outpourings from someone whose nominal title as a "sports" man attaches an ugliness to the magnificent triviality of sport.
Sport is meant to seem trivial when placed alongside life. It was never supposed to happen the other way around.
This week, a footballer who has been lucky enough to fulfil the same boyish dream, and employment providing unimaginable riches, poured with acid toxicity a slur of unfathomable proportions upon the self-same town of Cobh.
And now any living soul in this country, but particularly in his home town, who had even the merest shivering bone of empathy for the egregious existence espoused by Stephen Ireland, will have seen it cast off this week as effortlessly as dust in the wind.
His return from the obscurity into which it had been hoped he had secured long-term lodgings could not have been more dishearteningly inappropriate and appallingly ill-judged. From someone who had the temerity to claim a £2m redundancy package before leaving the premises of one of a series of recently disgruntled employers -- the latest deviation from sporting incontinence into verbal diarrhoea is utterly repulsive.
And any attempts from him to rein in his comments via the contemporary convenience whereby one demands innocence because one's words were "taken out of context", as transmitted via the frigidity of a solicitor's statement, should be repelled with the contempt they deserve. For this will come as cold comfort to the large number of his less fortunate citizens of Cobh, and beyond, who are jousting daily with the mere exigencies of survival, as opposed to the tortuous choices of how to decorate the wheels of one's Humvee.
By announcing so monstrously that he would have rather shot himself than return to live in the town that for now must sadly for all time declare itself as his birthplace, Ireland has sundered the remaining sympathetic links between himself and the one remaining constituency in which he may have sought some sympathetic refuge.
Perhaps we should not be so surprised by this latest descent into the grotesque, unbelievable and bizarre. His spiteful bitterness seems to have increased proportionately to the unravelling of a once promising career. His comments on the issues of Giovanni Trapattoni, Gerard Houllier et al, or the inconvenience of being forced to move from his Manchester mansion to the purported slums of Birmingham should be peremptorily dismissed.
After all, it is more of the same self-serving nonsense from a player whose status as a cause célèbre within Premier League circles has diminished with the rapidity of his isolation from the enthusiastic support he once enjoyed among supporters of the Irish national team.
To reflect his opinions on footballing matters would seem to afford him a prominence he no longer deserves, such has been his precipitate decline since falling out of favour with Man City.
Why indeed grant him the lifeline of oxygen his self-serving tirades against others do not deserve in any form?
But it is impossible to let an otherwise predictable rant against phantom sporting enemies wriggle away from public consciousness when the remainder of his pitiful drivel drives such a damaging wound into the very soul of his fellow, suffering Irish beings.
Quite possibly the only redeeming feature of Ireland's rambling treatise on economic matter were their ghoulish similarity to those of ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Bundoran four years ago.
At least Ahern had the good grace to apologise instead of seeking refuge amongst the familiar legalistic canard that protests one has been quoted out of context. The irony is that it is Ireland himself who is so utterly out of context.
Yet again this weekend, his stuttering career has been stalled as a debut for Newcastle is surrendered to injury. His new manager Alan Pardew has exhorted Stephen Ireland needs to be "loved." But how can it be possible to love someone who appears to have nothing but indifference oozing from every pore?
Given he seems to be existing within a parallel universe where reality is suspended, perhaps he would indeed be better off spending the remainder of his days cocooned within the similarly contrived habitat that is Los Angeles.
But, one wonders, would even someone of such unworthy thought be granted refuge in a city of angels? It may be too soon to be so bold and declare his career as a footballer seems doomed to failure.
Rehabilitation is always possible in English football, where forms of social excesses are tolerated. But forging a success in the more fundamental precepts that inform a creature's elemental humanity would seem to be far beyond his grasp.
He doesn't care about Ireland? The feeling is mutual.