Sunday 21 October 2018

We are indeed a forgiving people

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Michael Jackson Trial (Sky News) Haughey (RTE1) Royal Ascot (BBC1) WHERE were you when you heard that Jacko had dodged the bullet? I was checking out the latest transfer speculation on Sky Sports News, known in our house simply as The News.

Jacko wouldn't normally feature on their agenda, but they were big enough to run a caption across the bottom of the screen, saying that a verdict was imminent - if you could drag yourself

away from the latest

on Andy O'Brien's move

to Portsmouth.

RTE, meanwhile, was showing Haughey, the epic story of another man who got away with it, more or less. But you probably wouldn't have learned about Jacko until Questions & Answers which followed, and which dealt with the verdict early doors, before an audience member spoke for everyone when he said he was glad the whole thing was over, and there were more important things to talk about.

Are we forever doomed to have to listen to this lofty disdain of events such as the Jacko verdict, just because they don't involve someone really important, a genuinely serious person like, say, the Junior Minister for the Marine?

Clearly people feel that by looking down on these supposedly frivolous matters, they are displaying their own gravitas, when in fact they are merely giving us a glimpse of the shrunken universe which they inhabit.

RTE's US correspondent, Robert Shortt, insisted on covering the trial with all the chutzpah of a man reporting a road traffic case in the District Court.

On Morning Ireland there was a post-trial reference to Jacko's "moondance" which went uncorrected.

Van Morrison, of course, is the moondance man, while Jacko invented the moonwalk, not that such trivia is of much concern to your hard-nosed reporter - if he got a bit confused about the distribution of the portfolios in the Fine Gael shadow cabinet, then there'd be trouble.

Most stupidly, you will hear people suggesting that there are a lot of child molestation cases, but this one is getting all the coverage just because the accused is a celebrity.

Which is a bit like complaining about Haughey getting a four-part documentary, when there are plenty of other vicious old brutes out there with rags-to-riches stories which never get told, just because they shunned the limelight.

CERTAINLY it was not a pretty sight when the Jacko jury gave a press conference which was covered live on Sky. It was actually a very ugly scene. But at the very least it was interesting. Because, as a student of reality TV recently explained, people are interesting.

Sometimes they can even be as interesting as the announcement of a long-

anticipated Cabinet

reshuffle.

This jury probably looked a bit too interesting for its own good. I recall a production of the musical Chicago, around the time of the OJ trial, in which the jury was represented by just one character, who was portrayed as possibly the most disturbed of all the participants in a drama full of deeply depraved individuals, and their lawyer.

But of course our own justice system stood up admirably, in the case of Charles Haughey. The first episode of this much-hyped series finished with the Arms Trial, from which Haughey, like Jacko, somehow walked free. And in another weird echo, Jacko emerged from the court to see a bunch of crazed supporters, and a tricolour emblazoned with the words, "Ireland Says Michael Is Innocent."

We are a forgiving people.

And now we realise that the story of both men is not just a story of genius gone wrong, and money, and lust, but also a story of drink. The revelation of Jacko's fondness for the gargle was

startling even to those of us who maintain that almost every story in every newspaper every day, is in some

way a story of drink.

Haughey has so far stayed away from the crucial matter of alcohol, probably because this was the younger Haughey, as bright-eyed as he would ever be.

Haughey is a whale of a story, told with a fine energy in this production. And because we know so much of it already, we can reflect on its deeper meaning - it started to occur to me, for example, that Haughey's love of money was perhaps a great gift to Ireland at a pivotal stage of her development. If he had really given a monkey's about anything else, any of that old republican malarkey, we'd probably all be dead now.

Perhaps Haughey steered us away from a bad place, by following the money. Subconsciously, the grandeur of his surroundings reassured us - as long as he was in there admiring paintings of himself, he'd hardly be tempted by the pursuit of a United Ireland, or something equally idealistic but tragically insane.

BOB GELDOF proved he is no dozer either, when he was confronted by Sky News with the notion that Jacko might want to play Live 8. Bob felt it would be bad idea - for Jacko, of course. At this difficult time Jacko needs to take stock of his life and restore his spirits without rushing into major new challenges, and so forth.

Yeah right, Bob. Nice one.

No doubt old Haughey would have cracked a wintry smile at this, and an even wintrier one as a horse called Eden Rock marched around the parade ring at Royal Ascot with what Charlie's old FF chums might describe as a massive great horn.

It fell to the BBC's excellent Clare Balding to say that the horse was "coltish", that "there is no demure way to describe this", as the big swinging appendage threatened to do a serious injury to several members of the British and Arab aristocracies.

"Quite frightening really," was the assessment, and

this before the 9 o'clock

watershed.

Soon the excited horse was scattering the crowd. "You wouldn't want to see this if you had money on it," a BBC tipster added darkly.

Sure enough Eden Rock finished down the field, and for the record, the race was won by a horse trained by one Clive Cox.

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