Veering West

It’s column 100 and we’re still in a hopeful, if weird, world

March 20th, 2023 11:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

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ONE day you get an email out of the blue from the all-new editor of The Southern Star asking if you’d consider writing a few bits for the local paper back home. 

Then all of a sudden, in what feels like the blink of an eye (and half a global pandemic later), here we are at column number 100! Not that anyone is counting, bar me! But I guess time flies when you’re making puns. 

Don’t worry, I know it’s not really that big a deal – I don’t expect to be paraded through Ballinascarthy on the back of a donkey or anything – but we all love to mark an anniversary.

And I suppose one of the drawbacks of remote working is that I can’t celebrate it with my colleagues. No brownie with a candle stuck in it, no tokenistic card, nobody giving me the bumps in the canteen …. Nope, instead, I get to sit here alone in my attic, with a lopsided party hat on my head, as I listen to the sounds of Dublin people complaining through the narrow gap in my Velux window. 

Don’t feel sorry for me, though. There are people who are likely feeling much more isolated than me this week. I’m thinking specifically of the BBC chairman Richard Sharp, by way of example. 

Yes, it’s been a rocky old week for the organisation after the controversy that exploded surrounding a series of tweets sent by Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, drawing comparisons between the immigration policy of the Tory government and the language used by the Nazis in 1930s Germany.  

Pretty heavy stuff for a guy most famous for kicking a leather thing into a net. 

The saga is a depressing sign of the times in the UK, where everything seems to have been turned into a political hot potato at the centre of the culture wars. Even poor David Attenborough isn’t safe!

This week’s ‘storm in the red tops’ marks a particularly low point for the BBC top brass. In many ways, it was the equivalent of RTÉ deciding to wage war on Mary Morrissey. There’s only going to be one winner there, and so it seems to have panned out, with Lineker returning to his post earlier this week and sticking to his guns, tweeting: ‘A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away.’ 

According to ex-BBC head Greg Dyke, who is no stranger to West Cork, the current chairman Sharp ‘helped fuel the perception’ the corporation bowed to government pressure on Lineker. As we all know, Sharp famously facilitated a £800,000 loan guarantee for ex-PM Boris Johnson. 

Although this all looks like a victory for right-thinking people, with Lineker sticking it to the Tories and stirring an inner revolt amongst his colleagues in football and broadcasting, you’d wonder how it will all play into the wider culture war. Will this really have an impact on the immigration policy of the UK or will it just be another way for Sunak and Co to point out how British values are being eroded by ‘woke nonsense’ in the run-up to any future election? 

So Lineker and his supporters may think it’s all over. But is it really?

App comes off the tracks

I WAS sad to see the Covid tracker app being discontinued this week. You’ll say I’m gone stone mad. The thing is, I seem to have developed some sort of strange emotional connection to the app at the height of the pandemic, some sort of Stockholm Syndrome. 

Every morning I’d check in on the app, to diligently report my lack of symptoms. Maybe the ritual gave me a sense of control, a sense that I had the power to actually do something to help the cause instead of just staying at home screaming into the fridge. 

It was also a source of hope, an intimation of some Utopian future where we could use technology in a civic-minded way to ward off microscopic threats to our existence. That’s the hopeful version. 

The realistic version is that the app cost €811,227 to launch with over €100,000 spent on support and development in the six months thereafter. And didn’t really make much of an impact.

And so the app is now taken out the back to be shot, like so many other ideas that have gone through government departments over the years. 

I’ll try not to be too cynical and I hope that we’ve learned some lessons in the launch and implementation of the app. I’d hope also that this knowledge can somehow be captured and used again, should we ever be met with another outbreak in the future. 

As is the case with the Cork footballers, it’s the hope that kills you in the end. 

Oscars highs and lows

IT was a disappointing night overall for the Irish on the red carpet in Hollywood, with The Banshees of Inisherin coming away with a sum total of zero Oscars. Given the noxious stereotyping being bandied about during the ceremony (see Jimmy Kimmel leading a donkey on stage) and a general acceptance within the culture in the US that anti-Irish racism isn’t real racism (see Saturday Night Live’s awful, unfunny sketch about Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson), I’m kind of glad. 

I thought the film was completely overrated, with its clumsy trade in stereotypes and cliché. It amazes me how willing we are to just accept this sort of nonsense still, in exchange for any bit of global attention. Then again, we’ll all be more than happy to facilitate this Paddywhackery on a grand scale this Friday again. So long as the yanks are willing to pay the eye-watering hotel prices, we seem happy to roll out the donkeys and demean ourselves as a nation of alcoholics, even if we’re all secretly drinking virgin mojitos and meditating behind the scenes. 

I was gutted that An Cailín Ciúin didn’t cause an upset, or that Paul Mescal didn’t win. They both would have deserved it. 

Thankfully, we had the animators flying the flag again with Richie Baneham’s second trophy. And wasn’t it heart-warming to see the entire audience singing Happy Birthday to James Martin from the short but perfect An Irish Goodbye, just moments after the film won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film? Magic

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