Saturday 19 January 2019

Running the parallel Irelands

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Did you have a drink last Friday? In a pub? Was it amazing? Did you set the alarm to go to an early house? Just to savour the novelty of a pint on the most illicit of days? Did you feel set free? In a new Ireland? Did you feel we had finally thrown off the shackles of the Church?

Did the stags and hens we are told used to wander around bewildered on Good Friday, look happier to have somewhere to get blotto and fall around with their fake breasts and their themed T-Shirts and their L plates? Gay marriage and now this. We're all grown up.

Or did you miss the old Ireland of Irish solutions to Irish problems? Where we got around the ban on pub drinking by holding wild parties in our houses, that started at lunchtime and went on until every last drop of that Limoncello rotting in the press and maybe the drain cleaner had been hoovered up.

We've always been good at creating parallel Irelands, at bucking against the oppressor, even when we became our own oppressor.

The parallel Irelands were in full flow last week. On social media everyone decided they could say what they wanted, while a different, more careful and stymied narrative played out in the official media.

In the parallel Irelands, Fianna Fail reshuffled like a modern political party, and threw shapes about wanting to win the next election. Meanwhile they kept the party they want to defeat in power for the time being. And a huge number of the representatives of this modern democratic party didn't think people should be allowed to vote on repealing the Eighth.

In the parallel Irelands the man who runs the country can also be a commentator, talking about how frustrating he finds the homelessness crisis, as if it was nothing to do with him. And he can decide it's not normal after all, it's an emergency.

In a strange way, the only one who attempted to bring the two Irelands together was poor Simon Coveney.

He was pilloried for wrestling with his conscience in a country where many people, privately, are doing just that. He was pilloried for trying to suggest solutions that he thought would make our abortion regime more palatable to him, and others like him. He was pilloried for not being more pragmatic and polished in his hypocrisy, for suggesting all politicians might not be trusted.

Whether you agree with Coveney or not, was there not something uniquely Irish about a country that wished he would keep his personal tug of war to himself, put aside his concerns, and just toe the party line properly.

Why could he not be more Irish about it and have his private thoughts and his official persona, and keep the two running parallel, never to meet?

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