Tuesday 17 September 2019

Declan Lynch: ''Our' head boys? Not as smart as they like to think they are'

Cartoonist: Jim Cogan
Cartoonist: Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

A senior civil servant was quoted in the Irish Independent last week about the current state of the relationship between Ireland and Britain. "If you look at what's happening with Brexit, if you're looking at who's leading the country next door, look at them falling apart at the seams, and we're leading by example," he said.

Warming to his theme, he pointed out that "…we are a country in great shape at the moment but we need to protect ourselves and we need to promote ourselves… I'm kind of fed up at the kind of kowtowing to the British message. You [the British] are the past in terms of things like empire and bossing people around…"

The senior civil servant went on to talk about the new season of The Late Late Show and… oh wait, it was actually Ryan Tubridy.

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Sorry about the mix-up there - it's just that I was picking up a certain tone from Tubs, a tone that has become familiar, whenever these matters are addressed by our distinguished representatives.

They all do it, this eyes-up-to-heaven response to the latest delinquencies of the irredeemably degenerate ruling class across the water - compared to the brisk, open-for-business attitudes which are to be found in such profusion in the New Ireland.

They all do it - but Simon Coveney does it best.

Simon seems to be always in this mood of injured righteousness, wondering what is the next monstrosity he will have to deal with from the clowns over yonder. His days are spent steeling himself against the next wave of British foolishness, trying to stay above it with diplomatic language, but leaving us in no doubt that they are pushing his patience to the limit.

Little wonder that he can be prickly - even with Miriam O'Callaghan. During their recent interview, he sounded like a man who had already heard 40 ridiculous things that morning from Dominic Raab, which had driven him to a place almost beyond endurance.

Except Miriam is not Dominic Raab, she was making excellent points, saying intelligent things, challenging him, to which the minister came back with lines like: "With respect, I don't think it's your job to do the selling for Boris Johnson…"

To which one might add: "With respect minister, I don't think it's your job - you being a tremendously privileged fellow who has never had to worry greatly about where any job of yours is coming from - to be telling Miriam what her job is."

And like Led Zeppelin, it makes me wonder...

Coveney is right of course - indeed Tubridy is right too. We are better than the Brits at the moment - in the sense that our ruling class is not as terrible as theirs. But hey, that's a low bar.

And in another sense, there's this odd similarity in the fact that both of our destinies are being controlled by what you could broadly call a bunch of public schoolboys. Which, as regular readers will know, is something that has troubled me for some time.

It's the likes of Clongowes and King's Hospital and St Michael's up against Eton and Harrow and Charterhouse - and I suspect "our" side has a need to show that our ruling class is just as good as theirs. Better indeed. That they are, in the words of Tubs himself, "kind of fed up at the kind of kowtowing to the British message".

It's a hard thing to quantify - but intuitively you know there is something wrong with the chemistry of these encounters between our public schoolboys and their public schoolboys.

It's not just the fact that the Etonians at this time may be particularly decadent and depraved, but they are very similar to "our" side - in this sense: they are not half as smart as they think they are.

Not that this has prevented them from ruling the world, though it has prevented them from doing it very well.

At which point an image floats into my mind, that can only described as that of Bertie Ahern - think of Bertie for a moment and then think of Simon Coveney, and being honest, which of these would you send to deal with Boris Johnson?

There was something about Bertie in such situations that worked - something hard to quantify, but I think it was due to his deep understanding of the darkness of men's souls.

Coveney, and indeed Varadkar, for all their abundant self-esteem, are simpler creatures. Unsophisticated even. A bit like the Irish diplomats quoted by Bloomberg last year, in a piece about ''How Ireland Outwitted Britain on Brexit''.

In the course of this victory dance on the part of our top people, it was mentioned in passing that "it will either turn out to be an incredible diplomatic triumph for Ireland... or a strategic mistake".

Ah, so maybe they didn't outwit anyone after all.

But still... they thought they were great.

Rory, where did it all go wrong?

There seems to be some confusion as to whether Rory McIlroy has had a great season or a terrible season. The confusion arises in part, due to the fact that he received about US$15m last Sunday, for winning the FedEx Cup.

He had also won the prestigious Players Championship and the Canadian Open and had 14 top-10 finishes, leading to headlines about his "relentless consistency".

Yet when I heard the news about his latest win on Morning Ireland last Monday, and the talk about his "great season", I was confused. It's like they were talking about Happy Gilmore when they should have been talking about Unhappy Gilmore.

I hadn't been watching him the previous night, because I rarely watch the PGA Tour any more, since I consider the PGA to be one of the armies of the Right in American culture, along with the NRA and the GOP.

And sure enough, they endorse the trickle-up theory of economics by expecting us to get excited about handing another $15m to men who already have countless millions. Which means it is not exciting at all.

No I wasn't watching it, but I was watching Rory in the four majors he played in 2019, and that was not great. It would make you speculate once more on the strangeness of the genius of the Northerner, how Rory - like Best and Higgins - may somehow achieve less than his talent had promised, because it had promised everything.

Still, I am in awe of McIlroy's gifts, and as a result I can't be sitting here like the lads on Morning Ireland trying to tell you that Rory's had a "great season" after performing in the majors to a standard that made you think that this time he really is "gone", and will never win another one. After all, the majors are the events which Rory himself would acknowledge are the ones that really matter to him.

Winning $15m is nice, but if you're Rory McIlroy it's not unlike the fiver that a 24-handicapper might win off his mate in their weekly hacking session - except Rory would actually get the money.

As for that "relentless consistency", there has indeed been a relentless consistency to the way that he has played himself out of most of the majors since 2014. And if anything, this talk of a "great season" will stop him from feeling as bad as he should feel about that long stretch of disappointments.

Indeed, in the run-up to the majors he is usually full of this buoyancy - and evidently it's not doing him much good. If ever a man needed to connect with the power of negative thinking, it is Rory.

And so, in the style of the bellboy to George Best, I say to Rory with his millions of dollars and his fantastic life and his beautiful game: where did it all go wrong?

The perfect Irish story of sex and drugs and rock and roll...

I ran into my old Hot Press mate Karl Tsigdinos last week, lucky to catch him a for a few minutes - Uncle Karl can do just about everything, though he is perhaps best known for his extraordinarily fine radio shows, and these days he spins the discs on two stations, RTE Gold at 9am on Sunday mornings, and Dublin City FM on Saturday evenings at 7pm.

Anyway, he reminded me of one of the most perfect of all Irish rock'n'roll stories of that time, which we might call the Stiff story.

Hot Press had sent Karl to London on the boat to do loads of interviews with various punk and new wave personalities, a trip which included a visit to the offices of Stiff Records, famed for their audacious promo campaigns - at the time they were pushing Ian Dury's Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, so they had done a range of badges around that theme. The individual badges said sex, drugs, rock and roll.

Uncle Karl, who had come to Ireland from Ann Arbor in Michigan having already assembled a prodigious collection of rock'n'roll records and memorabilia, was happy to receive the Stiff stuff - eventually his suitcase would be packed with albums and singles from various record companies, but he elected not to wear the Stiff badges on the journey back to Ireland, in case they attracted the attention of the customs officers at Dun Laoghaire.

Still they stopped him on his arrival after a long, long journey by train and boat.

And as they chatted to him about what he was doing in London and about the reprobates he'd been meeting ("Siouxsie and the Banshees" made little impression, nor indeed did Hot Press) they asked him to open his case.

Pulling the zipper back an inch, a badge popped out on to the metal table. It spun in a circle and it stopped. It did not say sex. It did not say rock. It did not say roll. It said drugs.

The customs officer called over a colleague to have a look at this wondrous thing. He called a third officer. And finally it was felt that the supervisor would have to see this. Four customs officers and one rock journalist stared at a badge that said drugs.

They thought about it for a while.Then they just waved him through.

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