~ Take from "Men see Spectre at World Cup feast" - 25 Jun'06
A friend of mine last Monday suddenly realised that having watched three live World Cup matches a day he'd now be able to see just two. And soon there would be days with no matches. And then, incredibly, there would be no matches at all for about four years. Readers of the French existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre will be familiar with this strange sort of ennui, this sadness at the passing of time and the inability of men to live in the moment, to truly savour an experience. When applied to the World Cup, perhaps this kind of ennui could be called Thierry Ennui.

~ Taken from "Sir Bobby and Steve ready to kick the ball of confusion" - 15 Jan'06
Steve Staunton has known great days with the Republic, not least that match against Spain which Ireland won 1-0, proving that they could beat good teams on the big occasion, that beating England in Stuttgart and Euro '88 in general wasn't just a freak. And lest we forget, while we're having these flashbacks, the manager of England in Stuttgart was a certain Bobby Robson.  We did a terrible thing to that man. What happened to him in Stuttgart might well have induced a permanent darkening of the mind, if the hounds of Wapping hadn't got there first. Some commentators trace the creation of modern Ireland to that day, and if so, it was created at Bobby Robson's expense. They say that the Irish never forget and the English never remember, and in this case, that seems like the best way to proceed. Sir Bobby must not dwell on the past, when he managed players such as Ronaldo and Gazza, as he contemplates a squad featuring Matt Holland and David Connolly. Nor can he wallow in nostalgia for his time at Barcelona, when a certain Jose Mourinho was his assistant. Or was it the other way round? No, apparently Mr Robson was in charge, and his assistant Mr Mourinho was little more than an interpreter. But that was another country. They did things differently there.

~ From an article following the sacking of Steve Staunton - Nov'07
There is perhaps just one factor which could stop Mr Terry Venables becoming the next manager of the Republic of Ireland. He is so obviously the right man for the job, that this rightness in itself may be a drawback -- there is some weird law of nature which comes into play here, working against the best candidate, simply because he is the best.
Maybe the committee-men who usually adjudicate on these matters, think that if they pick the guy who is obviously right, it will look too easy. It will look like they haven't really thought about it, and so they think about it a little bit more, because after all, they have to justify all those big dinners somehow. They couldn't just sit down and pick the right guy before their soup arrives, and then enjoy their big dinner. No, they couldn't do anything so simple, because then it would look as if anyone could do it, and you couldn't have that, could you? So a "process" must commence, involving a lot of men going into and coming out of top hotels, thrashing it all out until the big moment eventually arrives, and they announce that after this exhaustive process, involving the finest minds and maintaining a fierce commitment to the most professional standards, the job will be going to.... the wrong guy. That's the only thing which could stop Mr Terry Venables becoming the next manager of the Republic of Ireland.

~ From an article "Love Them or Loathe Them" - 4 Jun 2006 (before World Cup starts)
I recently decided that my enjoyment of football, and of life itself, should not be entirely dependant on the misfortunes of the England football team. Like any of life's pleasures, if it's indulged for too long, with such intensity, it starts to make men sick. It makes men sick in the heart, and sick in the head. For it reveals that at some stage, men have slipped into a state of abject dependency. In this case, it means that the English still have a terrible power over the Irish, or at least over those Irishmen who are still relying on a few bad England results to make them happy. Some of us, mercifully, have moved beyond all that. We prefer to be celebrating the good things that happen to us, rather than the bad things that happen to some other bugger. We surely have enough money now, to stop carrying on like medieval peasants, cackling drunkenly in our hovels as our lord and master meets with some embarrassment.
Allowing for certain regional idiosyncrasies, English football provides our staple sporting diet for the months of September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and May. And given that fact, and the scale of our support for the game at all levels, it is simply ridiculous suddenly to turn on these guys we are supporting every week, just because Oliver Cromwell happened to come from England - him and Pádraig Pearse, each in his own way bringing death and devastation to our land. So in 2006, in purely selfish terms, if any credit is going here, we should be getting some of it for our unstinting loyalty to these England lads, week in, week out. But on a higher plane, freedom beckons. Freedom for ourselves and freedom for Ireland itself.
No longer must we be a race of men enslaved by our basest passions, but the superior kind, who can at last decide to weigh in with our friendly neighbours against sides representing various lunatic Latin American juntas and African kleptocracies. The higher ground awaits us, a place where we can take pleasure in England faring well in the country whose nazis they defeated, with the Irish actually on board this time.

~ Taken from "Repeat after me: 'They can and the will'" - 13 Jun 2004 (as Euro 2004 kicks off)
England are representing the Premiership, our league, the only one in either soccer or Gaelic games with genuine 32-county cross-community support. So we salute them in spirit, but not at the betting office. Perhaps in the past we Irish have been a tad churlish in conceding that our proximity to England was virtually the only thing which made our existence bearable. Without the English telly and the English football, without the land of England itself to escape to, many Irish people would have seen no point in living at all. But because of certain perceived injustices in the distant past, we Irish have found it hard to let go of our anti-English prejudices. Especially as they have given us such perverse pleasure over the years, when we had nothing else.

~ Taken from "There Is More To Life" - 16 June 2002 (as World Cup 2002 kicks off)
Something has changed for ever in the relationship between Ireland and England. Something that we have cherished is no more. The fact of the matter is, that when England were playing Argentina at this World Cup, I felt different about it. I felt like I wanted England to ... how can I put this? ... to not lose, and maybe even to ... I think the technical term is "to win". Yes, that's it. I wanted England to win.
Not by much, necessarily, and not without a struggle. But as long as they won in some wretched shape or form, I decided I could live with it. And no, not in the usual twisted sense of keeping them alive for a more spectacular beating in the next round in order to make our pleasure more intense.
I just wanted them to win the football match, because basically, I know these people better than the Argies. So it stands to reason, dunnit? I mean, there's Michael Owen who has probably given me more pleasure over the years than any man alive, and suddenly he's my hated enemy?
I don't think so. I don't think I can live like that any more. Many of you will be angry by now. You will call me a traitor to Ireland. But I sense that your numbers are diminishing. I sense that this apparently inexhaustible source of joy is somehow drying up. I fear that we may have to find some other form of entertainment in order to give meaning to our lives. maybe there is more to life than sitting there for 90 minutes waiting for Sol Campbell to trip over himself, thus making our day.

~ Taken from "The Pope must destroy the Evil Empire that is Chelsea FC" - 1 May 2005
In the time of Pope John Paul II, the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire, in the time of Benedict XVI, another Evil Empire has emerged from Russia, except now it comes smiling, laden with riches. And it has already attracted hordes of slavish followers throughout the Western world, including many in Ireland. It is called Chelsea Football Club.
At some point in recent history, the old communist dream of wealth redistribution finally came true, but not exactly as advertised in the Manifesto. The way it happened in real life was that the resources of the Motherland somehow wound up in fashionable West London, in the form of a football team... all those billions being devoted to such life-enhancing projects as buying Steven Gerrard.

~ Taken from "There is a God - and he's a Liverpool fan" - 8 May 2005
With nearly six minutes of injury time gone, six brutal minutes which gave us a real understanding of the meaning of an eternity spent in Hell, the ball fell to Gudjohnsen of Chelsea, perhaps six yards from the Liverpool goal, to the right. With flailing red-shirted defenders and blue-shirted attackers all spreadeagled across the goal, as Gudjohnsen drew back his foot to bury the ball in the back of the net, the world stopped. All was momentarily frozen, the players like characters in some medieval painting, bearing expressions of hope, of desperation, of horror. This moment, when the world stopped, will continue to traumatise millions of people for the rest of their lives. Even those of us for whom the result turned out to be a supremely happy one, will always suffer some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. We will continue to be haunted by dangerous visions of that moment as the ball came to Gudjohnsen, and he was about to score the winner for Chelsea with the last kick of the game, for sure.
Watching it on Sky Sports, Liverpool's former captain Phil Thompson let out a terrible bark of pain, as if he had been stabbed. At Anfield, a friend of mine slumped onto the next row of seats, devastated by a searing vision of the terrible torment that was to come. And as the world started again, as Gudjohnsen 'pulled the trigger', astonishingly, the ball flashed across the six-yard box and through a gap between Carragher of Liverpool and Drogba of Chelsea, and out across the end-line.

~ Taken from "Kop an eyeful of unreality TV" — 18 May 2008
They say that the most important part of the creative process is not what you put in, but what you leave out. In which case, the Liverpool Football Club TV channel was being particularly creative at about 5pm last Sunday evening. Live on Sky, you could see Man United being presented with the Premiership trophy. But if you didn't want to see that, you could simply turn to the Liverpool channel -- or "The History Channel" as we ruefully call it -- to see former Liverpool great Jan Molby talking us through some equally glorious events which had happened a long time ago. It was really quite wonderful, to be part of such a supreme act of denial of the present day, such a total refusal to engage with the reality of Man United receiving the Premiership trophy. For thousands of us, we knew this was the place to be. Like the survivors of some disaster -- a frequently recurring disaster, it must be said -- there was one place in which we could be together as a community, in which we could find sanctuary. And for a few minutes, we knew exactly what it was like in the old East Germany, or Romania, or even North Korea. There was not even the slightest effort to acknowledge what was happening in the outside world. There was just Jan Molby, rolling back the years, describing how Liverpool used to win things, once upon a time.
And then, to raise our hearts, we were given a special feature on the season which has just ended, or at least one aspect of it, in which Fernando Torres could be seen scoring loads of goals, for Liverpool. It was getting dangerously close to the present day, but again, it was free from any imagery which was even vaguely disturbing. They knew what to leave out, in their review of the season -- that is, everything apart from the goals of Fernando Torres. Was there anything else?
There is allegedly a world beyond these closed societies, these narrow tribal loyalties, and it was in this spirit in 1982 that a famous banner was unfurled at a World Cup game between Scotland and the Soviet Union. It read: "Alcoholism v Communism". And everyone assumed that alcoholism was represented by Scotland, though there's a school of thought inspired by the leadership of Boris Yeltsin and by other anecdotal evidence, which insists that the banner slogan would more accurately have read: alcoholism v alcoholism. How strange then, to see a sort of modern adaptation of these themes last Wednesday night in Manchester, when Rangers fans went berserk on the streets of the city, maddened by the breakdown of a giant screen, and by vast quantities of lager. And those of us who were watching the match sober on TV3 could see a certain historical inevitability in the fact that the Scottish champions' opponents on the night were Zenit St Petersburg. Back in the days when Liverpool were winning the league, this would have been the perfect forum in which to proclaim another contest between alcoholism and Communism. But of course in the meantime, Communism has been tried and it has failed. Alcoholism has also been tried, and it has also failed. In fact, all things considered, it has probably failed on a scale far greater than the failure of Communism or of any other ideology in the history of humankind. And still it endures.

~ Taken from The Sunday Independent - 1 April 2007
Away from all that emotion, one recalled the refreshing lack of theatricality in the reaction of Mrs Woolmer to the death of her husband Bob, coach of Pakistan. Speaking on Sky Sports News, and displaying a stiff upper lip in classic mode, she set a standard to which all should aspire in these lachrymose times. Clearly she is coming from a place where releasing all your emotions on television is deemed inappropriate. And that is a good place. Most people these days are coming from the other place, where crying on television is not just appropriate, it's becoming a well-rehearsed career move.
Mrs Woolmer is made of better stuff than that, and apart from her courage in going against the tide of raw untreated emotion, her interview contained the first mention of the real possibility that Bob had been murdered. This was the most important thing to communicate, not the fact that she herself was devastated, which goes without saying. These days you can see grown men crying because their team lost a drab mid-table encounter, their weeping shown every hour on Sky Sports News (or as we call it in our house, The News). Meanwhile there's a woman mourning her slain husband who can talk about him calmly, as if recalling with clarity some charming fellow she met a a cocktail party many years ago. And when she had finished, you felt that whoever did this to Bob will not get away with it.

~ Taken from "Take the Nazi warning from history and run, run, run" - 8 May 2005
That grand old series 'The Nazis: A Warning From History' is being shown again on BBC2. And really, you can never get enough of this stuff. Still, there will be some who will watch it more for the Nazis than for the warning from history. There are some who will see this as a promise of what is to come, rather than a lesson never to be forgotten. But whatever you think about the Nazis, TV loves them. Property makeover programmes may come and go, reality television concepts may come and go, sport and soap and soft porn may come and go, but the Third Reich will last for 1,000 years, at least on the small screen.
Last week's episode contained one of the classic lines about how the respectable classes in Germany originally viewed the Nazis. They couldn't quite make out if the Nazis were "something good with a few bad side effects, or something evil with a few good side effects". The Nazis were never in any doubt. They had nothing but contempt for politicians of the mainstream - "they mistake us for one of them. We have one goal, and we will follow it fanatically, ruthlessly to the grave". Ah yes, "they mistake us for one of them". The Nazis were no petty politicians, to use Gerry Adams' term for those lesser beings. And as for the warning from history, there was hardly a line of analysis in this episode about the early years which wouldn't have struck a chilling note if you'd simply substituted the name Sinn Fein for National Socialists.
Of course, it was a great stroke of luck for Hitler that Germany succumbed to a catastrophic economic depression, creating conditions in which barking mad nationalism suddenly seemed like quite a good idea. Not just for the initiated, for everyone. So even if you reject this analogy between militant German nationalism and militant Irish nationalism, you might ponder how many seats SF/IRA would gain if Ireland became an economic basket-case again.

~ Taken from "A Fix for Political Junkies" — 10 Feb'08
They love Super Tuesday. In fact, love would not be a strong enough word, to describe the feelings of RTE's current affairs crew, towards Super Tuesday. It overwhelms them, this notion that they can be transported from the small world of Fine Gael policy documents to the big-swinging-mickey arena of Super Tuesday. Hell, they are turned on by the mere mention of the Iowa caucus, so how do we quantify their state of arousal at the approach of Super Tuesday?
Let's just say it makes them feel alive, and vibrant, and sexy. So of course it was a total waste of time and money to be sending a load of them out there, but if you saw their little faces, as they reported things that we had all known anyway for about 14 hours, you'd need a heart of stone to deny them their day out.

~ Taken from an article following the death of former President Patrick Hillery — 20 Apr'08
As a father of the nation, Patrick Hillery was a man of the old school. As president, he always gave the impression that he would be there if you needed him. But with any luck, you wouldn't be needing him. And you could sense a certain nostalgia among the crowds at his state funeral, a feeling that Hillery called it just about right, with his hands-off approach.

~ Taken from "If Everyone's a Binge-Drinker, no one is" - 15 July'07
If everyone has a problem, then no one has a problem. If you set the level of 'binge-drinking' so low that it includes almost every man, woman, and child who has ever touched a drop, you can say that almost everyone has a drink problem. And what's that line again? If everyone has a problem, then no one has a problem. It has a certain ring to it, and it's easy enough to remember. Perhaps, indeed, it should be committed to memory by all interested parties, in the light of another contribution to this subject, by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI).
Its new report reveals that almost 30 per cent of people think bingeing involves more than 10 drinks, which is far higher than some 'official' estimates of what constitutes a binge. And DIGI says it is concerned that this misconception could make heavy drinking seem acceptable.
Yet if I had been surveyed by DIGI, I would have been among that 30 per cent who think that a binge involves more than 10 drinks. I think I would have been among that 30 per cent, and I think I would have been right.
If language is to have any meaning at all here, you can't be using a powerful, old-fashioned word like 'binge' in an entirely misleading way, just to suit your agenda. As DIGI points out, in some quarters, a binge is defined as five units of alcohol, which is roughly two pints of beer.
Which would mean that, apart from life-long teetotallers, just about everyone in Ireland has a drink problem. And if everyone has a problem...
Interestingly, we don't hear much about the most intelligent definition of all, which comes from a source of the highest standing, the British Medical Association. According to the BMA, there is no consensus on the definition of binge-drinking. The definition of a binge, according to the BMA, is that there is no definition.

~ Taken from "The Anti-Happiness League" ~ 3 Feb'08
You should never underestimate the Anti-Happiness League. It has responded to changing times, mutating into forms that keep it centre stage. In two areas in particular -- addiction and the environment -- you can hear the heavily disguised voice of the Anti- Happiness League.
When they talk about addiction these days, they are constantly lowering the bar so that almost anything which gives humans any pleasure is classed as an addiction. So "addiction" is becoming just another word for what used to be called "sin". And wherever you have sin, you'll have various Leagues of Decency, pointing the finger and declaring strict limits on the legitimate pursuit of happiness.
The environment too, is drawing them in large numbers, with the result that any concerns I might have about global warming, are greatly outweighed by my concerns about the Anti-Happiness League bringing their chameleon energies to the struggle.
And last week on the RTE News, there was a stunning fusion between the campaign against addiction and the campaign against global warming, with that report about the disgraceful plans to ban patio heaters. The News format is not really equipped to identify the true nature of this conflict, describing it as part of the struggle against climate change and so forth, when in fact it's part of a larger, more ancient struggle.
The environment has emerged as a major world religion, and its priests are everywhere, styling themselves Friends Of The Earth and so forth, hounding the non-believers, demanding obedience. And patio heaters are supposedly bad for the environment, so they have to be destroyed, even though they provide some small comfort to drinkers whose social lives have already been horribly compromised by the smoking ban. So if you detected an extra relish in the environmentalists' attack on the patio heaters, you can hardly blame them for getting excited. With one blow they could reduce the sum of human pleasure, and deepen the unhappiness of the addict.
How could they resist?

~ The difference between a real laugh and when the joke's on us - 29 Apr'07
It's a strange thing to be looking at the TV and to find yourself laughing — laughing in a good way, laughing with the programme, laughing at something that is generally intended to be amusing.
You can have the other kind of laughter any day, the bad kind. But you don't realise how rare the good laugh is, until it's actually happening to you. The other week, for example, I was watching Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, and scarcely a minute of the show passed by in which I didn't feel that involuntary spasm of mirth, and think how rare it is. I even laughed when Ross announced that next week's guests would be the artists Gilbert and George. Nothing funny about that, on the face of it, but it was still... funny. Ross had succeeded to such an extent in drawing you into his world, getting you on his side, you were laughing just at the pleasure of being alive in that moment.

~ Commenting on the 2006 All Ireland Final - 24 Sept'06
The nation's finest representing Kerry and Mayo charged into the arena last Sunday, undaunted by the fact that TV viewers were struggling to tell them apart. They were both wearing mainly green jerseys, despite my long-running campaign against this weird practice, despite my words of hope on the morning of the match that it would be different this time. Like the elephant-in-the-middle-of-room, no-one else mentions this perverse custom. They were both wearing white shorts too, lest a change of colour be interpreted as a sign of surrender. But did France lose its manhood by wearing white shirts in the World Cup Final, instead of the traditional bleu?

~ Taken from TV Review column - 05 Nov 2006
In the context of that terrifying picture from the recent Galway county hurling final, of a boot about to stamp on the face of a player lying on the ground. In '1984', Orwell wrote that "if you imagine a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." Orwell didn't realise that he was aslso describing the future of the GAA in Galway.

~ Taken from "Pensions: Gambling without the Fun" - 15 May 2005
It's not as if the Irish don't like a gamble, they're mad for it and soon there will be a betting office on every street corner. Everyone understands that stock markets rise and fall, that there's a gamble involved in pensions. But this is gambling without the fun. This is sme guy down the stock exchange gambling on your behalf, and not very successfully at that.

~ Take from "The flock's new spiritual leader is Eddie Hobbs" - 13 Nov 2005
We have had some dark times in this country. On almost every page of
our island story, there is war, invasion, famine, emigration, alcoholism or just a general feeling of depression. Yet from these unhappy events have emerged heroes who have tended to be glamorous, even exotic characters. We can call to mind a fine collection of warriors and mystics, of swordsmen and holy men, of romantics and intellectuals, of poets and crazy dreamers.
And now that all that unpleasantness is apparently behind us, and Ireland is one of the richest countries in the world, a new type of hero has emerged. A new leader has arrived, one who can inspire the people, at this, their brightest hour. You see, any old swordsman can throw a few shapes when everything has turned to total disaster. Any old rabble-rouser can urge the people to get up from their knees, and fight for what is right, in a time of misery and want. It takes real talent to do the same thing, in a time of plenty. But this is what Eddie Hobbs has done. Last week, just like a movie star or a top model, he walked up the red carpet to receive an IFTA award for his blockbuster TV series Rip Off Republic. And then, almost in passing, he saw the government abolishing the Groceries Order, in direct response to his critique of that apparently ridiculous measure.
...religion, an elusive concept these days, in which men seek not the answers to the most profound questions which have always tormented them, but instead agonise over whether a cappuccino for €3 can really be any good, when there's one for €5 available up the street. To guide them through the darkness which engulfs them in these moments, they don't need Thomas Aquinas, they need Eddie Hobbs. They don't need a moral philospher, they need a number-cruncher. And they need him now.

~ Taken from TV review of "The Last Furlong" - 20 Nov 2005
When something as terrible as "The Last Furlong" happens, in a strange way, it brings people together. Viewers who would normally be grumbling and grousing about their regular TV fare suddenly realise that there are worse things out there than they had ever imagined. When something as unspeakably bad as "The Last Furlong" arrives almost without warning, it puts everything into perspective. Though we are aware that something awful is unfolding right there in front of us, we do not rush to condemn. Rather, we feel some profound sense of compassion, for everyone involved, people like us in many ways.
...viewers never care about such things when they're watching a mediocre programme, but when they sense that a really bad one is going off, they are drawn to it on many levels. They genuinely empathise with all concerned. They realise that most of the people who made this are not fools, but are actually intelligent, talented people, who have done good work before, and who will do good work again.
Yet these good people found themselves doing this bad thing, and evidently there was nothing anyone could do about it. In fact, it is the strangely unstoppable nature of TV badness that is perhaps most compelling. Badness seems to kick in with the same force as brilliance. You know when you're watching something really good, and you get the feeling that this is going to be a bit special, and it keeps getting better, and you're quietly urging them on, hoping that they don't blow it, that it doesn't take some sudden turn for the worse? In a peculiar, twisted way, something similar is going on when you realise early doors that you're in the presence of true badness. You sense that you may be watching a hellish legend being born, as long as they don't suddenly take a turn for the better.

~ Taken from an article about TV coverage of the Ryder Cup - 29 Jan'06
Iit has come to the attention of the Government that the Ryder Cup is apparently the third- biggest sporting event in the world, after the World Cup and the Olympic Games. So instead of audiences being small, it turns out that they are massive. A subtle change of emphasis there. In Ireland we find ourselves with a few months to go, and suddenly Bertie's sixth sense tells him that quite a lot of people might want to see this thing on the telly, except that, unfortunately, Rupert Murdoch owns it. But even with the clear-eyed, straight-talking Bertie Ahern guiding the way, there are still aspects of this which are not quite as clear as they might seem.
One of which is the implication, for example, that subscription TV is available only to the pampered elite, and that for the vast majority of the people the idea of paying a few hundred quid a year to watch English football matches and American golf tournaments is some sort of impossible dream. In fact, it has become such a normal thing that it is now very difficult to find a public house in Ireland which is not showing an English football match or an American golf tournament, paid for by the proprietor's annual subscription, but 'free' to the customer. It's not as if these great events are locked away like the crown jewels, hidden from the common man. It's not as if the only place you could see the last Ryder Cup was in a secret room in the bowels of the Masonic Hall on Molesworth Street. Nor were you sworn to secrecy as to the wondrous events which you beheld therein. The fact is that you would have to go to considerable lengths to avoid seeing the Ryder Cup, no matter what country it was being played in, no matter how little your interest in the proceedings.
Frankly, if subscription TV is not a normal part of your life at this stage, you are either totally indifferent to sport in general, or you're a middle-class man who is ruled by his wife. Certainly no genuine sports fan would deny himself such basic necessities. He would happily forego food, light and heat, possibly even the roof over his head, if he was forced to make such choices, which very few people are forced to make anyway in Ireland today.

~ Taken from TV review of "Celebrity Big Brother" featuring George Galloway MP - 29 Jan'06
It was a brave decision for 'Newsnight' to make, no doubt the result of a fierce internal debate between the newsroom hardliners who are appalled by such trivia, and the more progressive types who have come to realise that serious journalism is not just about politics any more, because politics is not just about politics any more.

~ Taken from "Those Magnificent Men" - 16 Dec'07
Has anyone noticed that the BBC is dead? It only occured to me the other night... At some point it may have struck you that you're giving no more consideration to the BBC these days that you'd give to the Sumo channel or the Bucking Bronco channel... The BBC is good for something. It's got "Friday Night with Jonathan Ross". And quite rightly, Ross has a contract worth £18m. The rest they wasted. Strange, how one of the world's great institutions can gradually disappear before your eyes. It was great too. It seemed to employ an inordinately large number of alcoholic men who took long lunches, but that didn't seem to matter. Indeed, maybe that's what it lacks these days: that intensity, those lunches, those men.
...During the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show... Luciano Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma accompanied the pictures of recently deceased legends such as Alan Ball, and at the end the presenter felt the need to explain that Pavarotti died too. I can't imagine Des Lynam, when he was on top of his game, feeling the need to help it along like this. Des would have felt that this showed a lack of class. And if one or two viewers were so stupid they didn't recognise the voice of Pavarotti, and make that connnection themselves, maybe they'd be happier watching the Stupid channel... Sir Bobby Robson managed England in Italia 90 when Nessun Dorma was used as the BBC's theme tune. At the time it just seemed like another touch of BBC class, when, in fact, it was the last roar of a doomed civilisation.

~ Taken from "Social Ineptitiude is your only man" - 15 Jun'97
This is an article on the recent genetic research which says that girls are socially nicer than boys because of a gene inherited from their fathers.

There are depressing implications for girls in these findings.
For a start, whatever progress there has been in human history has emanated from the minds of people who are completele screwed-up, and who are avoided in the street by all right-minded folk.These are usually men.
Inarticulate wretches have been behind most of the major advances in civilization. If Vincent Van Gogh had been able to get on with his neighbours, then he might have become an excellent painter-decorator, and received a big turn out at his funeral, and that would be that. But the genes wouldn't let him.

It is also true to say that while one man is painting "Sunflowers", another man is embarking on a career as a serial killer, for reasons that are not unrelated. He has an insane need to make his mark, because decent people find him unacceptable as a fireside companion.

Feminists must also be concerned that their core audience consists mainly of women. Its hard to forment rebellion in a gender which is programmed towards social harmony.The empty heads of men would appear to be more fruitful as receptacles for original thought, if it wasn't for the fact that they don't possess social skills such as the ability to listen.

However, if you have a highly nuanced persnoality ( are a girl ), and you live in tastefully decorated rooms with furniture that you have chosen yourself, you are less likely to be scribbling manifestos which call for the overthrow of The System by lunchtime tomorrow. That’s what guys do.

And who's to say that this is not a valuable contribution? Obviously if you can't talk properly, and you cause offence to civilised people in most of your ham-fisted dealings, you get to thinking that the world is organised to your detriment.

It is a small step to the assumption that the world is organised to evrybody's detriment. From this you get Hitler, but you also get Leonardo Da Vinci, for whom nothing was quite to his satisfaction. His mother may have been a nicer person, but its her crazy offspring that we remember, for reinventing the world.


This article "Holding The Fort" 24th May 1998 : Declan Lynch proposes that the Good Friday agreement on Northern Ireland is but an imitation of the following comedy sketch...

A Protestant (John Byrne) & a Catholic (Kevin McAleer) are sitting in a pub in Northern Ireland. They confess to bigotry in the past, but applaud the new spirit of finding common ground, particularly in relation to History...

Kevin McAleer: "The Protestants, I think we would all agree, arrived here 400 years ago, they robbed the Catholic land, they drove us up to the hills like so many sheep, they did their best to brutalise our culture, our language, our traditions. Our struggle continues to right these wrongs, and that struggle goes on even, I suppose, even as we speak... "

John Byrne: ( who has been signalling warm approval, takes the batton ) "I couldn't have put that better myself. These early settlers were fine, decent, hard-working Protestant stock. They found a wasteland, a bog, as Kevin said, inhabited by semi-nomadic non-English-speaking Roman Catholics. They built towns, they built cities, they started up industries, basically they transformed Ulster into the garden that we know today... "

McAleer continues: "It's so refreshing to hear John speak of the positive aspects of Ulster. Our Gaelic culture, as he says, is flourishing, and we're going to outbreed you Prods. And we will not hesitate to use the ballot-box as a weapon if that's what it takes to achieve our constitutional ends of a united Ireland... "

Byrne adds: " I share Kevin's vision of this threat of a United Ireland, and what we need is a wall, a big wall... "


From "Football & Free Will", ( Holding The Fort ) March 16 1997

A fan of Leicester City football club is trying to sue the FA for 2 days loss of earnings. He was so distressed by a bad penalty decision which knocked them out of the FA cup, that he temporarily lost the will to live.
There are many who regard his action as eccentric. I believe that the man is perfectly serious, but that his undoubted trauma might be more fruitfully addressed in the realm of counselling.
The lawyers would argue that in supporting Leicester City of his own free will he had entered into an unspoken contract to endure emotional disturbance over a prolonged period , probably for the whole of his natural life, barring the odd cup run.
He might respond that supporting a football team is not really a matter of free wll. It is so often an accident of birth, or something more mysterious, like the fact that Uncle Johnny supported Leicester City as well, and somehow bequeathed them to you.
Was I a responsible person at the time I started supporting Liverpool?
Only insofar as a 10-year old boy can form rational judgements. No other decision with profound ramifications for one's future happiness is left to such prepubescent caprice.


Of course there was a war going on. And for me that conflict finally ended last week when I was watching a trailer for BBC Norn Iron's Newsline, and the lead item spoke of "testing times over parking at the New University of Ulster". In the days when Newsline usually led with a story about 40 people being blown up by a car-bomb, we used to dream of a day when "testing times over parking at the New University of Ulster" would make the headlines. Now that day has come.
And later that night the Province's joy was complete when Norn Iron finally scored a goal, the first in over two years, or 1,298 minutes of football - a world record. Watching the wild celebrations of the Windsor Park crowd on BBC Norn Iron, I felt that commentator Jackie Fullerton somewhat underplayed the new world record, which will surely stand for all time, opting to look on the bright side. Yes, they had scored, though admittedly Norway had already scored four times. I have never seen such a scene of slaughter, devastation and shame ending on such a high note.
Here was a new twist on the "zero sum game", whereby progress for one community is seen as a black day for the other community. Here the Norn Iron fans were elated after watching their own side going down to a 4-1 defeat. A tad dysfunctional, perhaps. But suddenly, everything seems possible.

        - Reviewing Newsline & Northern Ireland v Norway on BBC Northern Ireland (22 Feb '04)


And then there is Ireland. Communists & caapitalists alike differed from us, lacking the moral firbe to endure a virtually unbroken succession of evenings like last Wednesday. They decided, as a guiding principle, that it was unaceptable to go 3-0 up after an hour, and to lose 5-3. Ever. It is some consolation to Shelbourne that they represented Corinthian values during one of the blackest weeks in all sport. A fine thought, and one to savour as they are led away to be shot.

- Commenting on the Shelbourne 3-5 Rangers match in a week when the Festina team was thrown out of Le Tour De France for using drugs developed by communists, and exploited by capitalists. The American media has disgraced itself by its sordid and dishonest curiosity ( into the Clinton-Lewinsky affair ), while sections of the Irish media have disgraced themselves by their dishonest lack of curiosity ( into the Michelle Smith drugs scandal )

I prefer it when the lads are playing on the telly, not necessarily to see them, more to have them where you can keep an eye on them. And they normally play well on the telly, because they know you'r watching every move. Then they go and play badly on the radio, doing the dog on it because they are out of your sight, and can no longer feel your eyes on them, burning with anger and grief

- Declan is a Liverpool fan The issue of Packie Bonner still hangs in the balance. Watching him presenting TV3's Champions League coverage, the conflict seems to rage within his very being, with his mind trying to concentrate on the football, while his eyes dart all over the place.
We sense that he is seeing things he does not understand, things which we can't see, but which, if they were visible to us, would fill us with terror.

       - from a TV Review column (27.02.05)

It is strange but true that the weather is not a matter to be treated lightly in broadcasting. The style of your weather tends to set the tone of the entire proceedings. When we think of the BBC World Service, we think first of the Shipping Forecast. Its deathless world-music evokes the entire philosophy of the BBC at its best.
Look at the weather on Sky and you are similarly informed of the overall ethos, which is that everything aspires to the condition of a singles bar. You're not sure whether they're going to tell you about thunderstorms in Bosnia, or give you a big wet kiss and buy you a spritzer.
The legendary Kelvin McKenzie knows his weather. When he ran Live! TV, he declared his crowning achievement to be the dwarf who read the weather. The little guy could always reach up to Birmingham, but he never quite made Edinburgh. It made Kelvin laugh every time. Live! TV was essentially about laughing at dwarfs.


~ Taken from "Traveller Health: Why Settle for Less?" by Eilis O'Hanlon 11/12/05:

The latest figures from the Department of Health show once again that being a Traveller is bad for your health. Travellers have an average life expectancy 10-12 years lower than that of the settled community - and in parts of the West, the gap's even bigger, due to the large number of farmers shooting Travellers in cold blood and dumping their bodies over walls. Funnily enough, that's the same reduction in life expectancy you get from smoking, while alcoholism also reduces life expectancy by between - you guessed it: 10-12 years. So if you're a chain-smoking, alcoholic Traveller, then put it this way: don't be making any plans. Chances are, you're not going to be around to see too much of RTE's traditional Christmas TV schedule. So at least it's not all bad news.
For argument's sake, let's presume the doctors calculating Traveller life expectancy didn't just say: "Sod it, let's make it 10-12 years lower. That's what we always do." Isn't it obvious, then, that there must be something wrong with the lifestyles of Travellers that makes them less healthy than their settled neighbours — things like, oh, living in a caravan with no electricity or running water, not learning to read the labels on the medicine bottles, that sort of thing — and they should, well, stop it? That's what the fagheads and the George Best wannabes are always being told to do. But no, apparently the answer to poor health among Travellers is to spend lots more lovely money to allow them to carry on living the anachronistic life that's making them sick in the first place! There's a novel approachto Irish healthcare in the 21st century.
The best way to improve Irish health would surelybe for us all to followthe example of the Japanese. A century ago, hardly anyone in Japan lived beyond the age of 50. Now they're all holding on until approximately their 396th birthday. Whether they want to or not. The answer to poor health is obviously lots of sushi, earthquakes, gadgets, sumo wrestling, tea ceremonies, sexual repression, and invading and brutalising the nearest neighbouring country. In our case, that means Wales. Oh well. At least we'll not be damaging anything that's worth preserving.


Sir : I was shocked by the language of Molly McAnailly Burke's piece on lesbian rockers, and your allowing it in a family newspaper. The offending phrase "five writhing beauties hot for each other" should be "five writhing beauties hot for one another," since *each other* applies only to two.

- Letter to the Editor of the Sunday Independent There are some things you can't cover up with lipstick and powder. If, in years to come, someone trawling through the detritus of 20th century entertainment comes across the collected works of Roddy doyle, they'll imagine that in the latter half of this century Dublin was made up of chippers and second-rate soul bands, populated by young kids kicking a ball against an inner city tenement wall while their elder siblings hid behind the proverbial bike sheds, getting off with each other and screwing without recourse to contraception.
Adult society, they'll assume, spent their evenings in some grotty backstreet pub where an ancient rite called Italia '90 was re-enacted every night of the week. These future sociologists will puzzle over the identity of Big Jack - they man even begin to question if such a character ever existed, or whether he was a creature of myth, dreamed up by the high priests in order to fill a void in people's lives when they weren't giving bith to kids destined to be called Anto. Still, one never knows; perhaps this might be the year that the Academy grows a spine and hands out goodies based on merit rather than paraochial rewards for the local boys. Or, at the very least, foment some paranoia by giving the Best Docementary Feautre award to Star Trek : Insurrection. #

The Worldfile Section

May 1997

*Amount of foreign aid that the US gives Israel per square mile = $110,000

*# of world's 50 poorest countries in Africa = 38

*Ratio of US aid to Africa vs US aid to Israel = 1:1

*Population of Israel = 5 million

*Population of Africa = 1 billion

*% of Americans who believe in Heaven who think there will be Harps = 43

*Factor by which US child homicide rate exceeds that of 25 other most industrialised countries = 25

*Ratio of murder + attempted murder charges against South African police compared to charges against general public = 2:1


Aren't the Russian Mafia the clever crowd all the same? Glasnost was only on its feet before they were functioning like Western-style experts in everything from drugs to stolen artifacts to illicit arms. And they were much freer than their political masters in seeking alliances with foreign organisations of a like mind, setting up networks in illegal trade throughout the Eastren Bloc, and then turning to Europe & the United States.

Their progess has had several distinguishing features, one of the most notable being the way they have been able to steer clear of the great defenders of our democratic freedoms, those blindingly resourceful cinematic superheroes, who stoically stand for life, liberty, and the Western way.

In going about their professional routine, the Russians have somehow sidesteped the likes of Schwarzenegger and Willis and dealt instead with what might be called the reserves, or cinema's second string, of popular bonecrunchers. What else would you call Charlie Sheen & Steven Seagal?

In the weirdly titled "The Glimmer Man", they have pitched themselves manfully against Seagal's charmless bulk. They don't get anywhere, of course, but they have to be commended for trying when so many others have failed : failed, that is, to elicit a genuine flicker of presence or human emotion from this walking pillar box

- Irish Independent, Friday, November 29, 1996, Film Review of The Gilmmer Man #

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