Saturday 14 December 2019

Brendan O’Connor: Horse bolted, but we're burgered

Brendan O’Connor

THE Irish have amazing and complex inbuilt survival mechanisms. Witness Stablegate, shut after the horse had bolted last week. It was a classic example of a people faced with numerous enormous crises over which they feel no control whatsoever. So we latched onto a minor crisis of our own, one that we felt we could control.

We got overly alarmed about something that wasn't really that alarming and then, when we got on top of it and told ourselves it wasn't really that alarming, we clapped ourselves on the back for the incredible job we had done and the speed at which we had acted.

And we made horse jokes. Lots and lots of horse jokes. If an alien had come down and measured what the internet and social networking were being used for in Ireland last week he would have said about a third self-abuse, a third abusing each other and a third horse jokes.

None of us really knew what a big deal Stablegate was until we turned on the TV news on Tuesday and everything else had been shoved off the agenda in favour of very alarming-looking reporting about burgers. Alarming with just one quiet mention at the end that there was no danger whatsoever to human health.

Then Simon Coveney, who has come so well out of Stablegate that he is suspected by some of orchestrating the whole thing, popped up onscreen to say he was acting quickly and decisively.

"I have sent my vets in," he said manfully. Who even knew he had vets? But he does. And we pictured a crack team of vets going down ropes from helicopters into factories armed with, well, microscopes or something.

By the end of the week, Simon and everyone else involved was being congratulated for stemming the crisis. It turned out that the whole thing wasn't as bad as they had told us. Then again, we could have told them all that right at the beginning.

So there you have it: crisis blown up, crisis more or less solved and everyone gets to make bad horse jokes for a week.

And of course the food snobs took the opportunity to tell us all that we really should eat more horse, as they do on the continent, don't you know, and it's a ridiculous cultural nonsense that we don't. And they blamed the old enemy – cheap food.

Basically the subtext from Irish Timesy food snobs was that poor people deserve a bit of horse if they insist on buying cheap burgers, when they should really be buying organic traceable burgers where you know the cow's name and parentage and diet.

So everyone's happy in their own way. Another week of distraction, another demonstration of how great we all are and another week of deluding ourselves that the Government is in charge and that we control our own destiny.

Sunday Independent

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