Sunday 24 February 2019

Declan Lynch: 'If everybody's a judge, then nobody's a judge'

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

I got a text from a friend: "Liam Neeson - he had a good run all the same." It could mean only one thing. I went to Twitter straight away, wondering what Neeson could have said or done, to have my friend thinking that it must be all over now for the big man.

Arriving a bit late on the scene, I could see that Neeson was indeed under tremendous attack for something so serious, there was already a clip of the former Liverpool great John Barnes on Sky News, speaking about it with barely suppressed rage.

Except it turned out that Barnesy, most unusually for an angry man in these circumstances, was actually defending Neeson. Moreover, not only had his anger not maddened him to the point of derangement, it was working as a fine energy which concentrated his mind so precisely, he was even able to conclude his liberation of Liam Neeson with a blistering attack on Winston Churchill - as if, with the result wrapped up, Barnesy was banging in another one for the goal difference.

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Neeson had had these disgraceful thoughts... he'd been conditioned by society to have them... but now unlike so many others, he was telling the truth about it, confessing that he was ashamed and horrified by the way he felt - and that he had learned from it.

Barnesy had nutshelled it so quickly, and exonerated Neeson with such obvious moral authority that you felt he had instantly emerged as a vital force in our virtual lives - a bringer of justice, a judge, if you like.

There is no system of justice on social media, because everybody is a judge - and if everybody is a judge, then nobody is a judge. And man, it can make you weary, all that judging.

Indeed, when my friend's text sent me off to investigate whatever atrocity had just taken place, I felt that weariness deep in my bones - I would now be required to weigh up the evidence and to judge Liam Neeson, and to judge others who are judging him, and frankly, I need a day off now and again, from all this judging.

Enter John Barnes, to do the job for me. Indeed, even as he was delivering his verdict with such panache, I felt a twinge of sadness that he couldn't be there every day, handing down decisions on whatever controversies may arise.

Because his expertise was clearly not confined to the narrow issue of Liam Neeson, this was Barnesy making a statement that was most righteous in its nature, about a whole world gone wrong, a world full of people who CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH.

And his magisterial powers are especially needed in these cases in which a good person may or may not have done a bad thing - Neeson indeed had been breathtakingly unwise, but he is not a bad actor, as it were. I was relieved that I did not have to judge him, and send him to the proverbial Van Diemen's Land.

So these are the big calls that I, and many others, at this stage, would prefer to leave to a man with an obvious gift for it - our Lord Chancellor John Barnes. But of course there are times when we can make our own minds up, because usually we are not looking at good people doing bad things, we are just looking at the likes of Daniel Kawczynski, the Tory MP who tweeted in the maudlin style of the Brexiteer that Britain had liberated half of Europe, yet there had been "no Marshall Plan for us, only for Germany".

Immediately he was informed by about half the internet, that this was deeply wrong, that Britain had actually received far more from the Marshall Plan than did Germany. Yet he did not take down the tweet - and in fact he hung up on a radio host who challenged him about it.

Which might be regarded as remarkable, until you realise that anyone putting out totally false information on Twitter can look to the daily output of the US president, and figure that if he's not taking back any of his garbage, then so be it. Leave it out there!

You can judge Kawczynski all day long, for his outright opposition to the truth, which is even worse than not being able to handle it - though the Brexiteers couldn't handle it either, when it was coming out of Donald Tusk.

His "special place in hell" speech cried out for a special sitting by John Barnes, warning the Brexiteers that if they even tried to pervert this into an attack on everyone in Britain who voted Leave, he would go after them like he went after the white supremacist mass murderer Churchill.

Instead, there was Leo Varadkar standing beside Tusk. Leo, who is usually no more than an amused observer when this truth thing is going down.

Not judging him, mind.

Executives' efforts command a premium

In the Diary, we are always standing in awe of the prowess of the Executive Class, the way that they have separated themselves from the rest of our species - there is an executive version of so many things, and of course it is always better than the other version. Because that is how God has arranged it.

So we were most impressed when we saw that Time itself had been cordoned off, with an Executive version of it available behind the ropes of the White House. They call it Executive Time, that 60pc of Donald Trump's day in which he bumps himself up to that better place, known only to the big players. The key decision-makers. In Trump's case, the key decisions he takes during Executive Time involve watching TV and tweeting.

But hey, we have no need to be taking our cue from the executive culture of America here, not when we realise that Boris Johnson received £51,250 (€58,550)for his speech at the Pendulum Summit in Dublin's Convention Centre - that's the Pendulum Business and Self-Empowerment Summit, where they declared that Boris is "one of the most captivating political speakers of his generation".

That's why they're getting the big bucks, and also why they're giving the big bucks to Boris - they could have added that he has "probably done more than any other individual in Britain to reduce a once-magnificent civilisation to a source of twisted black comedy unrivalled since the days of Albania during the 40-year rule of Enver Hoxha".

But Self-Empowerment means that you don't dwell on the downside. It also means that a man such as Johnson gets £51,250 rather than just the straight £50,000 - while the tabloid media focused on the big number, it was that extra £1,250 which, to the connoisseur, is truly fascinating.

I mean, you know how the world works - you say: "I'll do it for fifty grand." But only a special kind of man will charge fifty grand, plus £1,250, for his time.

It's Executive Time, baby!

How generous Gerry paid double tribute

In writing about the two Luke Kelly statues last week, it seems that I understated the contribution of the late Gerry Hunt, who not only funded the one in South King Street, he commissioned it from the sculptor John Coll.

As he explained to Joe Duffy on Liveline in 2017, he didn't know that the council was having a competition for the Luke Kelly memorial which was eventually won by Vera Klute, so it was on his own initiative that he had the statue made.

And it was his own money too - the best part of €40,000 - which, he explained to Joe, largely came from his devotion to his work as graphic-novel artist - he was a "slow" artist, which meant that he happily worked such long hours, he had stopped going on holidays. He preferred to spend money on this Luke project, the merit of which had been clear to him since he had played on the Dublin folk scene as a young man, and later when he became an architect with the IDA in Waterford.

When the John Coll statue was cast, Gerry went to the council - he had the support of Luke's brothers, Paddy, Jimmy, and John, and of the former trade union leader Des Geraghty. It was also noted by the council that the John Coll design was radically different to the Vera Klute, so all things considered, they went with both of them.

Gerry Hunt passed away last year without seeing the statue being officially unveiled, but he was happy that it had all worked out the way it did. It was a quite extraordinary degree of public-spiritness which he had displayed all round, the sort of thing which ought to be marked in some way.

Oh, I don't know… maybe a statue.

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