Saturday 25 January 2020

Donegal postman always rings true

Michael Gallagher's out to prove he is no fairweather friend, says Declan LynchEar to the Ground RTE1

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch


Michael Gallagher's out to prove he is no fairweather friend, says Declan LynchEar to the Ground RTE1

MICHAEL GALLAGHER, or "the Donegal postman", as everyone knows him, was featured on Ear to The Ground last week. He also had TG4's Cogar devoted to him. But then the old people have always known that when you see one camera crew coming over the hills, you'll see another one very soon.

Yet unlike other unusual species, which arrive in these wild parts, they won't tell you anything about the weather -- in fact they'll be asking you about the weather. "I was up in the Cruacha yesterday," Gallagher told them. "And while I was up there, I spotted a fox. He came quite close to me so I was able to put my hand on him. And he was very hungry, which isn't a good thing."

He is a very wise man, and his media exposure tells us much about our deep desire to embrace the old ways, because the new ways don't work any more. It's also much cheaper to be finding out the weather from foxes and deer, rather than employing meteorologists who insist on using expensive equipment, just because it does the job properly. And while Jean Byrne and Evelyn Cusack are providing an outstanding service in many ways, unlike Michael Gallagher, they won't be driving up the lane to your cottage to deliver the post and to have a chat with you.

In both programmes, Gallagher could be seen spending quality time in the homes of Poor Ould Fellas, no doubt teasing out the implications of the Durban Conference on Climate Change. Or perhaps echoing a recent note sent to me by a Poor Ould Fella, who worked every day of his life as a small farmer. When PRSI for the self-employed started in 1988, he says he tried to pay it, but was told he wasn't allowed to pay it, as his income was too small. But he would be entitled to a non-contributory pension when he was 66. So he looked for it when he was 66, and he was told his income was too big -- he says he will now have to pay USC on all his income.

There's a highly technical reason for this sort of thing, which is perhaps a bit too esoteric for the layman, but it goes something like this: he's a Poor Ould Fella. He doesn't matter.

NO doubt there are highly complex budgetary reasons too, for the imminent departure of Michael Ryan from Nationwide, but of course it is all wrong. Ryan has made himself an intrinsic part of our culture with that thing he does -- he'll be standing beside a river in, say, Tipperary, and he'll introduce an item about, say, a cheese-maker in Galway, and when the item is finished he'll be looking away from the camera, pretending he was watching the cheese-maker in Galway. No one will ever do that again, in Ireland.

Nor are the bean-counters suggesting that there was anything wrong with that thing he does, or with anything else that Ryan was doing on Nationwide.

Yet this blameless man is being quietly retired to the golf course, while the entire ruling class came together in the epic struggle to get another big job for Kevin Cardiff.

PERHAPS our amateur boxers have also suffered for their many accomplishments -- they would surely have received far more care and attention if they were useless and vastly overpaid. But they were recognised by Setanta Ireland at least, with Tales From A Neutral Corner, an extraordinarily fine history, narrated by Liam Neeson.

Of course like all our international successes, there was a foreign element -- the Brits brought boxing to Ireland. But our lads, the Poor Young Fellas, have not just been bringing home the Olympic medals at a great rate, they have been done down by many home-town decisions which, had they gone the other way, would have turned their bronze medals into silver, and silver into gold.

Regardless, this absorbing tribute also gave the lie to the careless words of one of our current affairs presenters, who recently moved from coverage of the Budget to the sports news for "a bit of light relief".

It is not light relief. It is transcendance.

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