Wednesday 23 January 2019

Surprised to find yourself taking De Valera's side

Eamon De Valera
Eamon De Valera
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

I never thought I'd be mentally defending Éamon de Valera - but listening to a Lunchtime Live (Newstalk, Mon-Fri noon) discussion on the Constitution, I found myself reluctantly taking old Dev's side.

Ciara Kelly is normally sound and level-headed, but here, I felt, was ideological, reflexive and intemperate. She was speaking to Laura Cahillane, lecturer in constitutional law at UL (tangentially, Ciara pronounced that surname American-style, i.e. the last syllable rhyming with rain, which I find annoying).

Anyway, she asked, "is it a good idea that we have a Constitution at all? (It was) an attempt by the founding fathers of the State to impose on future generations a set of laws that are enshrined in stone. Am I too negative?"

Possibly, but in any case what you're describing is pretty much every legal and political system, everywhere in the world. All take their cues from the past and precedent, no?

Ciara went on: "Is there any appetite for tearing up the Constitution and throwing it in the bin?" Which is where I bailed out.

I'm one of those mild-mannered centrist types who dislike, who actually fear, an extreme approach to anything. That sort of Robespierre, Year Zero, scorched-earth way of thinking makes me - and crucially, I would imagine, most radio listeners - very uneasy.

Thankfully, Cahillane was on hand to provide balance, a broad view and proper understanding. "I think the Constitution has stood the test of time very well," she said.

"It's written in such a way that it's quite flexible. When courts interpret it, they refer to it as a 'living document' - something that has to change with society. If at all possible, they will interpret in such a way as to give it an updated meaning."

On forthcoming referendums (blasphemy and "women in the home"), Laura made the eminently sensible point that "in one way, both these provisions are problematic - but in another, they're completely harmless".

And - major plot-twist - she defended the latter (after Ciara had referenced the marriage bar which undermined women's rights… but ended 45 years ago. That's almost half a century, folks).

"We have to consider the context of the time," Laura said. "Most women did remain in the home and look after children. This provision was intended to be a nod to them, that we do appreciate what you do, and also prevent any woman from being forced to leave the home if they didn't want to."

An engrossing and thought-provoking piece of radio on the minutiae of our Constitution. (I also never thought I'd be saying that.)

Staying with politics and the written word, Ryan Tubridy (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 9am) had something of a coup: former US President Bill Clinton. For once he wasn't talking Peace Process or Brexit or anything else - he's co-written a thriller with James Patterson.

While Bill said he'd "always wanted to write a thriller", the idea of an iconic world leader churning out a shlocky crime novel is simultaneously bizarre and rather intriguing. And the title is hilarious: The President is Missing, which of course brings to mind the Troy McClure B-movie, The President's Neck is Missing, from The Simpsons' glory days.

During a freewheeling and engaging interview, one line from Clinton stood out: "We're living in a crazy world, and sometimes you can tell people more about the way things work through fiction than in a policy document." Good point, although that said, no author or novel could out-fiction the ongoing comedy/horror (delete according to taste) that is the life and times of Donald Trump.

Indo Review

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top