Monday 23 September 2019

Gerard O'Regan: 'Meet Bernie and Ber: liberal, well-educated but blind to their snootiness'

'Both contributors arrive in studio with the assured confidence of the upwardly mobile Irish middle class.' Stock Image
'Both contributors arrive in studio with the assured confidence of the upwardly mobile Irish middle class.' Stock Image

Gerard O'Regan

When Bernie is appearing on Sunday morning radio chat shows - which is fairly often - she tends to tie back her long hair in a pony tail.

She is what would be classed as a high-achieving woman. She has her self-confessed demanding job in the pulsating heart of the business world; there are also the lives of her three children to orchestrate, between expensive crèches and even more costly private schools.

"When I'm on radio it's such a relief," she says. "It's not like when you're on the telly or at work. You can let your hair down. Or in my case tie it back''

"Not having to stay stylish adds to that relaxed Sunday morning feeling."

Ber is also on the swingometer which has him regularly sounding off on the airwaves. He can be relied on for an informed opinion, on matters close to home, or on happenings in the wider world.

Donning a carefully chosen designer shirt and jeans, he too sees Sunday morning radio as an opportunity to dress down.

Both contributors arrive in studio with the assured confidence of the upwardly mobile Irish middle class.

They are well read and articulate. The cut and thrust of climbing the career ladder has inevitably given a certain edge in their professional lives.

The phrase "not likely to suffer fools gladly" is a badge they both wear with pride.

But they also indulge themselves on being classed as "liberals". It may be a somewhat ill-defined term, but they insist it provides their moral compass.

And so nothing gets them going like a discussion on Donald Trump. They sneer at what they see as his lack of intellectual cultivation. They bemoan his narrow mindedness, and ridicule his foreign policy.

They've got plenty of well-hewn verbal put downs for the man in the White House. And, of course, there is the added bonus that dissing Trump actually makes them personally feel better.

The undertone to their arguments is, compared to him, they are simply on a higher plane.

And so when the Peter Casey-inspired comments on the Travelling community came up for discussion during and after the presidential election, the response from Bernie and Ber was swift and without compromise.

This was a challenge to their moral fault line from much nearer home. Their disdain was total.

Inevitably, they made comparisons with Trump. Most of all they took Casey to task for attempting to "exclude" one community from the rest.

A mantra would be repeated - inclusiveness is what Irish society should all be about.

Maybe the relaxed ambience of a Sunday morning increased the temptation to sound just a little over virtuous. But as they warmed to their topic, self-righteousness became ever more strident.

We were all warned we should ponder what kind of Ireland we want in the future.

Bernie and Ber - not their real names - come Sunday evening prepared for their return to the world of work.

On Monday they would leave their homes in exclusive Dublin neighbourhoods - and their children would attend their private schools, deemed equally exclusive.

Membership of their golf and tennis clubs does not come cheap. But it's all part of a pattern.

Even those ballet lessons and playing cricket for the children reflect an instinct to further consolidate the place of their offspring within our class structure.

But starting their week back in the jungle of the workplace - Bernie with her hair down and Ber clad in his tailored pin-stripe - felt they had done the State some service.

Had they not verbalised for the nation the dangers of Peter Casey trying to separate one community from the rest?

However, it would never occur to Bernie and Ber how much time, money and effort they spend excluding from their own lives those who are not judged to be their social equals.

Is there something, somewhere, along the way, that just doesn't gel?

Irish Independent

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