Wednesday 22 November 2017

Kevin Myers: Self-defeating working class tolerates lack of punctuality, fecklessness and low achievement

Kevin Myers

The points race fills our media. Leaving Cert results are matched against available colleges and courses in the complex choreography that will decide how this year's entire crop of school leavers might pass the rest of their lives -- or so you'd think from the media coverage.

In fact, we all know that an entire section of Irish society will not be paying the blindest bit of attention to the Leaving Cert results, or college places, or how many points one needs to become a nuclear physicist on the Space Shuttle. We may call it the Barrytown Breed, after the fictional housing estate in which Roddy Doyle set his twee and sentimental evocation of working-class life. And though Roddy Doyle did later take a starker view of the reality of the Barrytown Breed, notably in the 'The Woman Who Walked into Doors', the cliche has been fixed: working-class people as colourful, charming, intuitively inventive and engagingly feckless.

This was the late 20th-Century version of Somerville and Ross. Though west Cork a century ago is of no interest to us now, the condition of our working-class housing estates is emphatically of every interest. Many seem to be almost beyond the control of the State, as ganglords reinforce an autonomous culture that recognises no authority or ethos other than their own -- the ruinous road to an unending cycle of underachievement, crime and jail.

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