Thursday 24 October 2019

I don't remember signing up for an unwanted mammy... did you?

Sales: Under Simon Harris, the Department of Health wants to outlaw cigarette machines in pubs and hotels
Sales: Under Simon Harris, the Department of Health wants to outlaw cigarette machines in pubs and hotels
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Will we never be free?

Will we always be shackled by the killjoys, the bullies and the eternal-life fantasists of the health lobby?

In the last few years, they have managed to effectively criminalise smoking in all but the most narrowly defined places.

The damage done to pubs was immense - and whether our overlords want to admit it or not, pubs still provide the life blood of Irish society. We've also seen increased onslaughts on drinkers in a drive which seems to be partly motivated by smug, messianic zeal and partly just because they can.

Let's put it this way, while he might be gone from the arena of public relevance, former Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern will always be remembered for introducing a 10pm closing time for off licences.

When people made the perfectly reasonable point that this was madness, he openly wondered about the type of person who would need a drink after that - to Ahern, anyway - late hour.

Ahern is gone, thankfully, and while we might like to erase him from our memory, history may well go on to judge him as one of the worst politicians of a pretty rotten era - he was also the genius behind the Blasphemy Bill, you may recall.

This week's latest attempt to make life just that little bit more irritating is the plan to ban cigarette machines in pubs, clubs and hotels.

Under Simon Harris, the Department of Health wants to introduce legislation outlawing the vending machines because, its says: "Machines by their very presence help to advertise and promote tobacco products."

Wow. What laser-guided insight. Rather than having the balls to try to completely criminalise smoking and, by extension, smokers, the collection of goons which passes for the establishment in this country want to remove smoking by stealth.

It's usually called the salami effect, where people gradually chip away at your rights until, without you even noticing, you have no rights left at all.

Let me state that this is not about smoking. It was never about smoking. Since the smoking ban all those years ago, both sides of the debate have made the mistake of assuming it was only about cigarettes.

In fact, it has always been about so much more than that.

Smoking was just the Trojan horse the bullies could use to get inside the citadel and start dictating the terms of everything else to everyone else.

If we had managed to stop them at the gates, and had successfully fought the ban then, we'd be living in a more hassle-free environment now.

That wouldn't be because people were allowed to have a fag with their pint. No, we would live in a less stressful environment because the professional health lobby, which has to come up with new moral panics to justify its tax funding, wouldn't have been so emboldened.

Let's put it this way, when was the last time you allowed yourself to be lectured by someone about your moral failings?

Yet every time I hear some numbskull parping on about Ireland becoming 'tobacco-free' by 2025, I just think - really?

I didn't sign up for an unwanted mammy to tell me where I was going wrong and what I needed to do to buck myself up.

I bet you didn't, either. But that's the world we now live in; one which has become increasingly censorious and priggish.

We now seem to live in a climate where simply disapproving of something is enough to want to ban it. Cigarettes, alcohol, the 'wrong' food. The proposed sugar tax.

Even rugby is under the microscope of the ninnies and nannies who simply will not rest until they have managed to insert their grubby, interfering tentacles into every aspect of both our public and private lives.

I've met and discussed this issue with numerous anti-smoking campaigners and one or two of them are perfectly reasonable people, motivated by what I see as a misguided effort to do good.

Some of the others, however, are a different matter entirely.

Even though the names and faces may change when it comes to issues such as drinking, smoking or eating - or even watching - the wrong thing, the personality types are the same. The common thread running through all of them is this astonishing arrogance which leads them to believe that they know more about your life than you do and are more qualified to make your choices than you are.

It's an astounding degree of hubris, but when you think you're better than everyone else, it's not such a giant leap.

The most recent statement by freshman TD Jack Chambers, who wants to ban McDonald's from sponsoring a movie slot on RTÉ, is a perfect example.

Whether he realises it or not, what Chambers is calling for is a reduction in the right of parents to raise and feed their kids as they see fit.

We are surrounded and assailed on all sides by people who think they know more than you do.

We're surrounded by busybodies who used to be known as cranks, but who are now called health experts.

As I said, the salami effect.

Although somebody, somewhere probably objects to the promotion of such a fatty sausage.

Think about the kiddies!

Kissing your enemies works better than you think

Due to be  sentenced next month, he's no loss. But he's also not the problem. Not really

I can honestly say that of all the ridiculous people I have ever met, I have never met anyone quite as ridiculous as Anjem Choudary.

The Muslim preacher was jailed in the UK this week for inciting terror. Due to be sentenced next month, he's no loss. But he's also not the problem. Not really.

The reason this absurd buffoon could become as serious a player as he did is down to Western, liberal cowardice and the fear of being labelled Islamophobic.

I first encountered this geezer over a decade ago at a debate in Trinity and the die was cast before a word was said.

At the pre-match meal (as I always think of them), there was only halal food - so as not to offend Anjem, and we were the only table in the dining hall with no wine - so as not to offend Anjem.

In fact, he was obsequiously referred to as 'our guest' throughout that farcical evening as if he was the only person participating.

Now, as it happens, I don't drink wine. But that wasn't the point. Similarly, I refuse to eat halal meat. That was a larger sticking point for me so I refused to eat with him - a decision I'm glad I made, even if it prompted one of the Irish eunuchs involved in the evening to hiss at me as I left that I was "being disrespectful".

Indeed I was.

As his shabby little band of bodyguards tried to look all tough and intimidating, I lost patience with the flaccid nature of the debate and blew Anjem a kiss - let's just say that when a few of his boys made a lunge at me afterwards, I was glad of the support from some members of the crowd. But it wasn't the gesture itself which incensed them - it was the contempt, the open sneering, the absence of fear.

These people cannot handle mockery.

Which is why we need more of it.

They feed off our tolerance. Let them feast on our scorn.

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