COLM TOBIN: How did Rob the builder not see the Siege of Troy coming?

September 5th, 2022 11:00 AM

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FOR those of us with school-going children, it’s the end of a long summer where bedtimes have edged further and further towards the dawn, like the Sahara slowly moving into Libya.

There is most definitely a Back To School feeling in the air at the moment.

While we haven’t gone full Lord of the Flies yet, the return to education could not come fast enough, to be honest.

An bhfuil cad agam dul go dtí mo normal flipping life arís, más é do thoil é?

Yes, that glorious time has arrived when members of the teaching profession take all our feral little Tarzans back into the fold of the education system, where they can be surgically prised from their devices, fully drained of sugar, and slowly reintroduced to the ways of society.

I swear to God, at this point, there are nightclubs closing before my children jet off to Noddyland.

And don’t worry about long tearful goodbyes at the school gates, either, we’ll be catapulting them in over the walls.

Parents with kids aren’t the only people struggling with discipline at the tail end of the silly season.

Fianna Fáil is having a serious dose of the Back-to-School blues itself, after their week of Trojan melodrama which fast turned into a Greek tragedy for poor old Robert Troy, the face that launched a thousand quips on social media.

The embattled TD was eventually forced to step down as the Minister of State for Trade Promotion after it was revealed that he had more properties than Bob the Builder and failed to include his sale of a property in Mullingar to Westmeath County Council for €230,000 in his declaration to SIPO.

Oh, you know you’re screwed when the media start to label you as ‘embattled’. It’s up there with ‘doomed flight’ or ‘Ireland football manager’.

The vitriol came from all the quarters you’d expect, across all forms of media, including newspaper editorials, serialised podcasts, Netlfix spin-offs, TikTok takedowns, inverted haikus and a few regrettable instances of interpretative dance. You just know a self-styled resident pub-snug poet somewhere has penned The Ballad Of Robert Troy.

All joking aside, this does real damage to the body politic by cementing (no pun intended) long-held cynicism about the state of our public representatives and the perception that there is a cosy cartel running the country. Sinn Féin had one of their crowd at it. The Sunday World reported that a Fine Gael councillor in Dublin, having been on three foreign holidays this year, was himself in receipt of the Hap payment scheme.

And all this coming in the middle of a housing crisis which is starting to look more egregious than Cromwell’s assault on the countryside. Apparently, the only way to source student accommodation in an Irish city these days is by sneaking yourself into digs at night inside a giant wooden horse.

Which makes it all the more mind-boggling that Robert Troy left himself open to being such an easy target. There’s a bang of Tom from Father Ted saying: ‘No Father, ‘tis my money. I just didn’t want to fill out the forms!’ about it.

And for those councillors and Fianna Fáil members who are working hard every day in their communities, attempting to distance themselves from the cheap Galway Tent jibes that have haunted the party since the Celtic Tiger, this must be extremely frustrating.

House about that, then?

TTIMING is everything in this game, as we all know. So it was timely that the Siege Of Troy took place during the same week that RTÉ One chose to air a documentary on the musician and Irish speaker Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich and his titanic battle against the rural planners in Kerry County Council.

We had gone from Greek tragedy in the Dáil to an Irish mythic battle of epic proportions in the Kingdom, one small Daithí against the Goliath of the County Council! A tale fit for The Tuatha Dé Danann!

Ó Beaglaoich made an impassioned appeal to those in charge of our rural planning codes to consider the effect it is having on rural Irish communities, especially his own small Gaeltacht parish on the Dingle peninsula.

The documentary posed a query: Why is it so difficult for locals, many native to an area, going back hundreds of years, to be granted permission to build their own dwellings?

Ó Beaglaoich’s poetic overtones and his sharp sense of the ironic are just fundamentally appealing to me. So, I really did want to be on his side. And who doesn’t love an Irish person sticking it to the man in such a creative and irreverent way – building a house on the top of a trailer in order to make an ass out of the law?

This isn’t just an issue in Kerry, of course. Ó Beaglaoich would have found a much bigger movement of support outside the Gaeltacht who feel the same sense of dislocation and frustration. You hear these complaints and concerns all the time around West Cork, where locals cannot build in the vicinity of their home place. So tying it to the Irish language was a mistake, in my opinion, even if that argument is genuine and well-made. A much wider debate needs to be had about planning in rural Ireland, especially with our cities creaking at the seams and high-speed broadband now revolutionising employment opportunities.

Carnsore a sore point?

WITH energy prices due to enter the stratosphere this winter, a thought did cross my mind this week as I was rummaging in the back of the wardrobe for extra jumpers. Macron seems to have successfully kept a lid on energy price rises in France, thanks to strong State intervention and helped by their existing nuclear power capacity. I wonder what the campaigners who organised a music festival and were instrumental in successfully stopping the proposed nuclear power station in Carnsore Point in 1979 would think about our current precarious energy situation, with the country now dependent on an unpredictable and unfriendly British government? We could sure do with some of that nuclear power right about now.

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