Veering West

COLM TOBIN: Frosty reception as State turns all nervous, ‘helicopter parent’ on us

December 19th, 2022 11:00 AM

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JANUARY 8th 2010 was a big day in Irish internet history. 

I’m not talking about the release of the iPhone 4, or the installation of the first fibre optic cable. 

No, I’m talking about a moment of far greater importance, a moment that has lived long in the memories of those who experienced it.

It is the cautionary tale of a man who was altogether too careless as he briskly walked along a Dublin footpath near The Four Courts.

 A man who careered past an RTÉ cameraman and flew up into the air, landing back on his pole with a smack on the footpath below. 

A Man Who Slipped On The Ice. 

Nobody has ever tracked this legend down since. He exists now only in meme form, occupying a space of Irish internet irony where Teresa ‘Don’t Make Unnecessary Journeys’ Mannion and Eddie ‘Je suis une baguette’ O’Keefe live. 

Now, The Man Who Slipped On The Ice is like a paean to a simpler time, when it was completely acceptable for a man to be shown falling helplessly and being concussed on the national news, purely for our amusement. 

He is now a ghost in the interweb, a cautionary tale of humankind’s endless struggle against the elements and man’s arrogant folly when it comes to slippery things.

It is all the story beats of Titanic compressed into a split second. 

The Man Who Slipped On The Ice sure could have done with some of our panic-inducing official warnings in 2010. 

We are kinder these days, it would seem. Modern Ireland doesn’t simply point and go ‘ha ha’ at a fella nearly knocking himself out cold on the roadside.

No siree. If he was setting off from home today, his phone would have been lit up before he left the kitchen, with at least three official warnings describing varying shades of emergency. 

Level Orange freezing fog alert! Status Yellow snow warning! Status Red – the footpaths are treacherous! For God’s sake, hand in your notice and go back to bed!

I’m sure I’m not the only one suffering from alert fatigue at the moment. Our official agencies are like nervous, overprotective parents fussing around us in case we graze a knee or, god forbid, fall helplessly on our arses. 

I know, I know. It’s great that we are looking out for each other, especially those too young, old or frail to mind themselves.

But we were definitely a lot happier when we weren’t being warned about some incoming peril at all times of the day. 

And we took care of business with a sense of stoicism.

The general attitude was – we put up with 800 years of British oppression, a bunch of famines and enough emigration to empty a small planet. 

We should be able to handle a touch of frost.

The end result of having nervous, helicopter parents, of course, is that the children end up afraid to do anything in case the world goes chicken-licken and the entire sky falls down.

When I learned The National Emergency Co-ordination Group were going to convene for the week to monitor the cold weather situation, I honestly thought I was having an acid flashback. 

Are the Russians attacking, or do we just need to get a few more gritters on the roads?

I was mortified that someone from Sweden or Canada might be passing through Dublin Airport and see us all losing our lives over what is a fairly predictable seasonal event. And when you consider that in Co Clare, for a time last week, people in the International Protection programme were sleeping in tents in sub-zero temperatures ....

Well, you’d have to accept that our priorities and sense of proportion have gone the way of Shergar.

When worries about ourselves turn into State-level neuroses and our ability to turn a blind eye to the true emergencies that surround us appears to get more callous year by year, you’d sometimes wonder what we’re at.

Handing the big keys back

IT’S the changing of the guards in the Taoiseach’s office this week as Micheál Martin comes to the end of his tenure with relatively strong approval ratings and hands the keys back to Leo Varadkar. 

It’s been a strange week for Varadkar, with that video circulating, and the media getting itself into a twist about whether it should be reported or not. And if so, how. 

For some, it’s a sign that there is a cosy media conspiracy that won’t report on the establishment parties in the same way they would the opposition. 

For others, it’s a gross breach of a citizen’s privacy. 

Having openly mocked the Harry & Meghan Netflix doc earlier this week and then being forced at gunpoint to watch the first episode by my family, I think it’s highly preferable that we have a media mature enough to respect the boundaries between public and private life. 

We don’t want to travel down the same dark tunnels the British red tops ventured down, do we? 

Although why the Harry & Meghan stuff was featured in our main evening news bulletins and then Prime Time – well that really boggles my mind. 

Kane’s not able, nor am I

I HAD mixed feelings about the England v France game last weekend. On the one hand, I really wanted to see France win. 

They are an awesome team, I happen to love the place and dark memories of Thierry Henry’s handball have lifted somewhat. 

On the other hand, the English are our close neighbours. 

 We share a long and complex history on these islands and Gareth Southgate’s team seem like a genuine bunch of lads. 

But then, I saw a company based in Dorset was facing a ‘major loss’ after purchasing 18,000 T-shirts sporting the message: ‘England, World Cup winners 2022’ and I smiled and thought to myself, they’re at it again!

And so, I found myself cheering when Kane blasted his peno over the bar and out into the solar system over Qatar, even if it was going  against all my better instincts. 

Like most Irish people who felt for the first time that maybe, just maybe, they could genuinely support the old enemy, it really feels like some sort of progress.

 I’m not there yet.

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