Saturday 17 March 2018

Television Review - The juveniles are left in charge

Jim Cogan's illustration
Jim Cogan's illustration
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

British Labour Conference (Sky News). Oireachtas TV (Channel 574). Up for The Match (RTE1). All-Ireland Final (RTE2).

David Cameron didn't start it, but he gave it a certain energy when he declared, "I was in Plymouth recently and a 40-year-old black man said..."

Turned out the "black man" was 51, and that he had served in the Royal Navy for six years, not the 30 years claimed by Cameron, but it's not the mere factual accuracy of political speeches that interests us here. It's this deeply foolish thing they do whereby they pretend that they know something about actual people, that they move in a normal adult environment.

Ed Miliband tried it last week in his conference speech, with the 40-year-old black man in Plymouth turning into Gareth, a software engineer he had met on Hampstead Heath, and Josephine, a cleaner, and Rosie, a doctor from Devon, and Xiomara, "who works in a pub near where I live".

Nothing exposes the deeply juvenile culture of the political class quite as clearly as these little stories about the real people they allegedly encounter, and the things they allegedly say to them. The more they try to sound familiar with various members of the human race, the more it sounds as if they're moving through some foreign country, which in truth they are. In attempting to bracket themselves with responsible grown-ups out there trying to make a living, they tend to sound more like adolescents patiently explaining something to their parents who don't really understand these things.

So when Oireachtas TV arrived on my Channel 574 last week, I was not surprised to find that the most engaging topic - apart from "the VAT rate applicable to Irish dancing classes" - was this infantile stunt pulled by Fine Gael in relation to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Since modern art is a vaguely serious pursuit, engaged in by people of some ability, it would be largely incomprehensible to Fine Gael, who saw it as just another opportunity to look after the lads.

Again, this is not surprising, the surprising thing is that commentators then get excited about this supposed departure from Fine Gael's commitment that they would not indulge in such stroke politics. Which implies that these same commentators, when they heard Fine Gael saying that they would not be pulling strokes, actually reported this as if it was remotely believable.

I can tell you that Gareth the software engineer would never believe such a thing, nor would Josephine the cleaner nor Rosie the doctor, nor Xiomara who works in a pub. And the 40-year-old black man in Plymouth is unavailable for comment.


There's a hint of infantilism too in that old Irish design classic, Up For The Match. It seems deliberately to embrace the style of an ancient Ireland, in which top RTE personalities like Grainne Seoige and Des Cahill would try to keep it simple for the country people.

Knowing how dazzled and disorientated the country people would be, sitting there all dressed up in a big RTE studio, they would try to calm them down by talking to this man from Dublin, say, who's married to a woman from Cork, and the slagging that must go on - on this show, truly there is nothing in the whole world that is funnier than a marriage between people who come from different counties.

Younger viewers who do not know this Ireland seem to find it baffling, tweeting lines like, "what the fock is this focking thing!?" But it will go on for ever, apparently, like the ancient tradition of GAA teams playing one another wearing roughly the same colours.

We can all relate to this stubborness, this terrible pride in the county jersey regardless of any confusion it may cause. But increasingly I was feeling like a lone voice, pointing out the possible downsides of this, until last Sunday when arguably the all-Ireland final itself was decided by this phenomenon.

Ger Canning couldn't tell what was going on in the mind of the Donegal keeper when he kicked it out to Kieran Donaghy who scored the crucial goal for Kerry, but here's a suggestion - maybe he thought he was kicking it to one of his own players. When everyone is wearing some combination of green and yellow, it takes just a millisecond to make that mistake.

I've have been saying this to the GAA for a long time - perhaps they'll listen now.


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