Friday 24 November 2017

Ireland has its own version of UKIP – if we can admit it

Prime Time (RTE1), Shamrock Rovers v Liverpool (BT Sport1), Dolores Keane : A Storm In The Heart (RTE1)

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

In a Prime Time debate on the growth of Eurosceptic sentiment across the continent, the pro-Europe side was represented by John Bruton and the anti-Europe side by some fellow from the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

Ah, the agony of choice.

If I was the fellow from UKIP, and I saw that John Bruton was my opponent on the night, I would feel one-nil up even before Claire Byrne blew the whistle. I would see Bruton as the fat cat supreme, a creature of VIP lounges, a man who may have started out with certain notions of comforting the afflicted, but who seems to devote far more of his energies these days to comforting the comfortable.

I would also keep quiet about the fact that, ultimately, we are on the same side. Bruton is an extremely passionate advocate for the rights of the disadvantaged in the financial services community, while UKIP leader Nigel Farage used to work in The City and still goes back there sometimes on a sentimental journey, whenever he wants to meet men with "common sense."

Sure enough there was no mention from either side about this common ground, and there was a strange lacuna too when Claire Byrne suggested that parties such as UKIP have gained popularity in other European countries, but not in Ireland.

As I patiently explained the other week, we most certainly do have a party such as UKIP – a nationalist party – gaining popularity in this country, one that is likely to do even better than UKIP in the European elections. That party is Sinn Fein.

I realise that most of this political stuff is as ephemeral as a traffic report, without the practical benefit, but are commentators not aware that Sinn Fein, like UKIP, is a nationalist party? I mean, has Sinn Fein in its various manifestations not made this abundantly clear over the years?

By suggesting that we don't have a bunch of bozos like UKIP in this country, there is almost the implication: aren't we great?

And as we know, we must guard against this aren't-we-great-ism, especially in this case when it turns out not only that we do indeed have a nationalist movement, but that we've got one with an army out there somewhere. A top republican was boasting about this fact only the other week.

* * * * *

THEY would have been challenged somewhat by the sight of over 40,000 people at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday, the majority of them supporting Liverpool against Shamrock Rovers. Ah, it was a marvellous sight, diminished only slightly by the failure of BT Sport to inform co-commentator Michael Owen that Shamrock Rovers are usually called "Rovers", not "Shamrock" – just that one instruction would have made the difference.

But who could not be moved on such a occasion? The truth is a wonderful thing, and here was a powerful display of a truth that all intelligent people in this country have known for about a hundred years – the strong and completely natural emotional attachment that football fans in this country have for the English game and its great clubs.

We know this intuitively as children, when we grow up supporting say, Athlone Town and Liverpool, until one day some clown informs us that we should drop the Liverpool thing if we have any respect for ourselves. Interestingly, the vast majority of us ignore this, because even when we are too young to analyse it, we know deep down that it is cant.

* * * * *

IT was marvellous too, to watch the truth dawning on the great singer Dolores Keane in her recovery from alcoholism and breast cancer. I can vouch for at least one part of Liam McGrath's A Storm In The Heart, when Dolores spoke highly of her ex-husband John Faulkner, himself a musician who met Dolores when he was a producer with the BBC, doing a documentary on her aunts Sarah and Rita Keane.

I was reminded that I met John Faulkner once, for about 30 minutes, and indeed found him to be an extraordinarily bright and hilarious man. As for the authenticity of Dolores' drift into alcoholism, the mystery to me now, looking back, is how anyone got out of the Irish music industry without drifting into alcoholism.

Did anyone?

If so, we would like to hear from you, because we don't know how you did it.

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