Friday 22 March 2019

Thank God for Ed and the sun

Ed Sheeran pictured performing at Pairc ui Chaoimh during his Irish Tour 2018. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision.
Ed Sheeran pictured performing at Pairc ui Chaoimh during his Irish Tour 2018. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision.
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Kicking and screaming is the only word for it. And we thought we'd come so far. We were world leaders in tech and artisan hipster coffee shops. Being gay was not only not illegal any more, they could get married and be the Taoiseach and everything. Your granny didn't even know we had gay men of Indian extraction in the country and we put one in charge. A lot of people weren't even sure if he was any good. But we put him in charge anyway. Because that's how we roll these days. We don't bat an eyelid at change, at modernity. We had even sorted out the North at one point, letting go of a pointless divide we had clung to for years. We also seemed to have thrown off the yoke of the Church, even though we hadn't quite figured out what to replace it with.

We thought we had come of age.

There was one final matter to be decided, and most people weren't looking forward to it. Most people, for better or worse, don't enjoy the whole abortion conversation. But we were so grown up we thought we could do it, and do it without tearing ourselves apart. Everyone promised a civil debate. And it was going reasonably well. In a bizarre turning upside down of everything we thought we knew, Fianna Fail were promising that if they ever got into government again they would bring in abortion. The weirdest bit there wasn't the abortion bit, but the fact that the natural party of government were no longer the natural party of government.

And then it turned out that we weren't as great as we thought we were at all. Indeed it turned out that one of the big modern things we thought we had invented to bring us into the 21st Century, the HSE, was not so new and shiny and modern at all. It turned out it was typically Irish and old-fashioned and it made matron and the health boards look like rocks of common sense and efficiency and humanity.

And all it took in the end was one woman, one woman who wouldn't shut up, who wouldn't be beaten by cancer or men in suits or lawyers with gagging orders or doctors who know better. One woman who just had enough. And suddenly it turned out that nothing had changed really. And it all seemed too much to take, that on top of all the other lies we were having to face up to, we had to face up to this too, that the institution that was supposed to save lives was as rotten and as full of ass-covering as everything else in Ireland Inc.

In the face of all these uncomfortable truths, they must have been glad of the weather, the one thing that was guaranteed to unite the country in talking about something that doesn't involve some men being exposed and losing their jobs. Thank God, the men in charge must be saying, for the good weather and for that little ginger busker who looks like something from a John Hinde postcard. That'll distract us and take the pressure off for a day or two.

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