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Small world, great heartache


Ireland's cultural influence on the world goes beyond Americans in leprechaun hats patriotically binge drinking. Recently, my attention was drawn (by the Indo's Joe O'Shea) to a YouTube clip from a 1976 episode of Radharc about the "Black Irish of Montserrat", the descendants of African and Irish slaves, who still had something like Cork accents.

Last night, the first episode of Small World explored the connections between Gort, home of Ireland's largest Brazilian population, and Sao Paulo. In it Katrina Devereux visited Brazilians recently returned from Ireland, who will always have a patch of green on their hearts (not literally -- that's probably a medical condition).


Five years ago, programmes of this type were filled with "how-far-we-have-come" triumphalism. The heartache of Gort-based emigres long separated from their children has different resonances for Irish people now that the spectre of emigration has returned.

The Brazilian/Irish connection is partly because of a Brazil-based meat-industry man called Jerry O'Callaghan who first started matching skilled Brazilian friends with employee-hungry Irish companies several years ago. Now, whenever Jerry sees fine, newly built houses around San Paolo, he knows they were probably built with money from Ireland.

Deveraux is a warm and likeable presence who gives her subjects plenty of space to tell their stories and they, in turn, are generous with their time and memories. Marlene, newly-returned, misses her Irish friends; Lucy Mary sadly explains how after a two- year absence her children do not see her as their mother. But the most interesting interviews were with younger people back in Brazil after spending their formative years in Ireland. Leonardo Gomez, a teenage hurler who had been acclaimed in local papers as a young Sean Og O'Halpin, told of his difficulties settling back into a city where he didn't know the language. "I want to play for Galway," he said. "It's my dream and someday I will."

Another young Brazilian with a Galway accent approached Deveraux while she was interviewing someone else, to tell of his yearning for Athenry. There's a song about Athenry that most people are familiar with, which is about another young man undergoing forced migration years before. It's sad the way these things echo through the ages.

This week, dystopian horror romp The Walking Dead turned into a Jane Austenesque comedy of manners. What is the correct etiquette when during a zombie-apocalypse one finds one's host has a shed full of living corpses? The survivors were split on the issue. Should they politely ignore the slavering zombie menace? Should they compliment their host's zombie collection? Should they attempt to engage their host in a constructive chat on the issue ("What's your position on having a shed full of zombies?")? Or should they begin angrily shooting the zombies in the head?

The bulk of the episode resolved around a difference of opinion on the issue between rugged white alpha-males, Rick and Shane. Despite being in love with the same lady, they are as different as chalk and a different kind of chalk. Rick is a tortured soul who always wants to save people from being eaten; Shane is a shaven-headed bad-ass who believes in shooting things in the head.

One of them has to be the leader, because the others are old guys, women, a redneck, an Asian guy and a black guy. In the world of US drama, letting any of these individuals lead would be political correctness gone mad.

So there's about 30 minutes of these characters discussing issues of post-apocalyptic politeness with hushed voices and furrowed brows. Then Shane loses his temper (or possibly just gets bored) and starts shooting the shed-zombies in the head. Hurray! Despite probably being a breach of the dystopian etiquette books, this man-on-zombie violence was a welcome diversion. As The Walking Dead shows, the zombie-apocalypse can be surprisingly dull.

Small World HHHHI

The Walking Dead HHIII