Five thought from last night’s MacGill Summer School



Thanks to a tweet alert from Mick Fealty, I discovered the joys of live streaming last night and watched the MacGill Summer School debate. A lot there – including Irish people’s appetite for political discussion – but I’ll focus on five that struck me as it streamed.

1. Leo Varadkar is a formidable public speaker. He knows how to establish eye-contact with his audience,  he can lever in favourable family references without letting the leverage show, he has a boyish smile and an unassuming manner which is reinforced by an occasion grin and scratch of his head. And he uses poets – Heaney, Longley – the way other people use a dagger and club. If I were Enda Kenny I’d be planning my post-leader career as from now. 

2. Micheál Martin comes from the ghastly Fianna Fail past – he was part of the administration which did those under-the-table deals and sold the Irish people into repaying debts they didn’t incur and may never get past. But he still managed to present himself as an innocent guy who, jeez lads, is only working for the good of the state, surely to God ye can see that. Incidentally, the Russians are out of order in the Ukraine and isn’t what’s happening in Gaza simply awful? The theme of the conference was ‘Fundamental reform of our politics’. As Micheál spoke the ‘o’ of ‘our’  formed a perfect halo behind his head. Jeez, lads, isn’t that the gassest thing? 

3. Mary Lou McDonald knows how to use a well-turned phrase. She talked about the “cowboy antics of the Anglo moolah men’,  how the government ‘bristles at the very idea of a wealth tax’,  how those ‘who challenge the system are portrayed as opportunistic’, she spoke of ‘low standards in high places’, and how it’s nearly time for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael ‘to kiss and make up’. She may be small but she packs a wallop. 

4. Niether Fianna Fail nor Fine Gael would  consider going into government with Sinn Féin after the next election.  Moral grounds really, although Micheál tossed in some distractions about differing economic policies. That should come as a relief to the Shinners, since the record of smaller parties in government, here and in Britain, is not too good. In fact you could say it’s near-suicidal, considering what’s left of the Labour Party, and before them the Greens and the PDs. Besides, why would you want to join with a partner who stands for everything that you detest? It’d be an exercise in futility.

5. When the weary old  ‘Was-Gerry-in-the-IRA?’ question was raised yet again  (“Sinn Féin doesn’t trust the people with the truth” Leo told the audience ),  Mary-Lou hammered home a point that should have been hammered home years ago. The political and media focus on Gerry Adams is narrow and blinkersed. Always the questions are about was he in the IRA, what did he do, etc. While zero attention  is given to the role Adams played, at considerable risk to his life, in moving republicanism from violent conflict into democratic politics. 

 No mention was made of the massive rise in the Sinn Féin vote last time out.  You’d have thought Micheál and Leo would have grappled with that, since they were talking about the public trusting politicians. Like it or lump it, the increased trust the public have shown in Sinn Féin and their policies makes  Micheál and Leo’s poking through the near-half-century-old  past look both holier-than-thou and facing the wrong way.  Time to turn and address the present and the future, lads. A boyish manner and a halo can only take you so far.

28 Responses to Five thought from last night’s MacGill Summer School

  1. michael c July 23, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Fealty likely made the tweet alert in the hope that we’d get another round of Adams bashing.Thank him for nothing Jude.In fact if you want this site to keep it’s well earned status ,keep Fealty at arms length.

    • Jude Collins July 23, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Michael C – I think that’s too hard. I take your point that Mick may not be GA’s No 1 admirer, but I’m glad he alerted me to it. And thank you for your kind words on this site’s status, but if it doesn’t include the views of those we disagree with, what’s the point? That’s what used to really get to me about Section 31 and SF blockage on air.

      • paddykool July 23, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

        I couldn’t agree more , Jude .Censorship of any kind is an admission of defeat.Can’t be having it !

        • Jude Collins July 23, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

          I rarely turn away a compliment, but Norma has sent a comment, the first half of which is highly complimentary to you but the second half of which returns (albeit in jocular fashion) to her interest in chewing on intimate parts. I’m not putting it up – there is a line, as we former teachers know, which must be drawn…

          • paddykool July 23, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

            Sounds like pretty racey stuff there Jude …best not frighten the horses then, Hah, hah!! It’ll have to remain a mystery then!

          • Pointis July 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

            Probably afraid to put it up lest Norma chewed it off!

    • Virginia July 27, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

      I Googled for a definition of “blinkersed” all that came back was Swedish, help? In American- English what does that mean?

      • Jude Collins July 28, 2014 at 9:05 am #

        I hope you’re not being ironic, Virginia. I should of course have typed ‘blinkered’. As in horse. Or on horse, to be exact.

  2. Francis D July 23, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    The old ‘Gerry Adams in the IRA Chestnut never seems to go out of date, indeed matures in intensity with age. Brian Feeney wrote once that ‘the only person who didn’t know Gerry Adams was in the IRA, was Gerry Adams’. There was not an arbitrary sting in the tail in this Article as I recall. Its flavour was sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t re GA’s denials. Would a flood of ‘I told you So’s’ be followed by self congratulatory back slaps and applause if this Circus was to end with a weary ‘Yes I was…can we move on now to sorting out the mess FF and FG et al have left the country in. Not a chance. Assuming he was in the IRA these opportunists all love to labour under…..So Feckin what would be an apt response from Mary Lou when next poked by the media. And cancel 1916 commemorations as well because they were all RA as well….Has no-one told them yet. Wrecking Dublin wouldn’t have been a vote winner in the immediate aftermath.

    Gerry Adams should say to them,-what if I was? Does this invalidate the GFA if so? I have some issues with SF turns in the road, but would be prepared to hold hope that they would not dilute the greater Economic and Social Justice programme north and south of Ireland, ergo qualified support remains.

    As for the West Brits who are looking desparately for anything to thwart such an agenda….GAF! Its and acronym for the peace agreement but I’m suffering from dyslexia due to quiet irritation at these gombeens.

  3. RJC July 23, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    It’s worth bearing in mind that Sinn Féin are still a relatively small party in the Dáil, yet all we here from the bigger parties are talks of coalition (or lack of) with them.

    Interesting point about Leo Varadkar – you may find yourself having to update your profile picture before too long. With regard Enda, LV’s wikipedia page tells us that – ‘He said the Taoiseach should ‘enjoy writing boring articles in The Irish Times’ in a few years time’ which may well prove prophetic. Time will tell.

    Mary Lou’s remark about how FF and FG should ‘kiss and make up’ seems fairly pointed in so far as the Rizla thin difference between the two parties on matters economic, social and political.

    Much like ‘Unionist Unity’ in the North, will we indeed see a FF/FG coalition in the south, to keep the dreaded Sinn Féin menace at bay? SF would do well to stay away from ever being the junior partner in a coalition with either party. One would hope that their principles will win out over the politician’s lust for power.

    The Irish Times tells us that –

    “I can’t envisage a Coalition between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin,” Mr Varadkar said, citing its past, as well as its current policies.

    You could just as easily say –

    “I can’t envisage a Coalition between Sinn Féin and Fine Gael,” Ms McDonald said, citing its past, as well as its current policies.

    At what point do politicians stop dragging the past into the present?'Duffy

  4. Perkin Warbeck July 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    Quite remarkable how such a small town like Glenties has associations with so many big name writers, from the two Patricks, McGill and Boyle to the one and only Brian Friel.

    Now while the first Patrick was schooled in Glenties the second Patrick was a banker there. Strange therefore that there has yet to be a bank named in honour of the second Patrick, not least because two of his novels were clearly written under the influence of his time spent in the Ulster Bank in Glenties.

    That is obvious from the titles: ‘At night all cats are grey’ and ‘All looks yellow to the jaundiced eye’. The colours grey and yellow were an obvious attempt to turn his mind from his tedious day job, that of deciding who was in the black and who was in the red.

    It was also obvious from the very start that Patrick Boyle was destined to be a banker; it would take longer for his inner novelist to announce himself. Mr. Boyle, banker, was born in Ballymoney.

    Encouraging beyond words to see that the McGill Summer School is still hale and hearty, after all these years. It was originally hatched in the canteen of RTE as a counter-attraction to the Merriman Summer School down in County Clare.

    That school of course started as a Winter School and was conducted entirely through the lingua franca of the Leprechaun but as the column inches, as a result, were measured in micro-millimeters, it gradually switched to the Summer and was conducted entirely in the Queen’s English, hogging the headlines of the shilly season in the process. A natural progression as it was discovered that the Merriman after whom the School was named was not actually a leprechaun by the name of Brian who was a minion of the moon who courted a dark lady called Midnight. Rather was it named for (sic) the major character in a play by Oscar Wilde who is given just the one sentence as befitted his role as a butler. But what a line !

    -The dog cart is at the door, sir.

    There was no stopping it after that. Much to the chagrin, it must be said, of one Joe Mulligatawny who was the award winning producer of ‘Twenty Four Hours/Seven Days’, the flagship current affairs prog of RTE, and known as 24/7 by the cognoscenties (sic) at the time. Ahead of their time, or what. Note incidentally the number arrived at when the number of hours is added to the number of days: 31. This was in the time when Section 31 was at its zenith. A mere coincidence, you may say.

    Being a good son of the Donegal soil, the bould Joe Mulligatawny set about establishing the McGill Summer School in Glenties, Ulster West. It was a success from the very off. And was known in the rhyming slang so beloved of the RTE insiders as ‘The Bay of Plenties’, a reference to the plenty of free publicity which the RTE insiders would gain in the pages of The Unionist Times during the, erm, off season: ‘Where the Cognoscenties (sic) come to Bay’ was one catchy title in the same organ.

    Though, it must be noted that the prime purpose was not actually to give the muzzle men and women of RTE and their political patrons an opportunity to bay (it is what the muzzleati do) but rather to keep those silenced by Section 31 an extra opportunity to be ‘ina dtost’. (Silence, in the l.f. of the L.). Ina dtost of course, rhymes with ‘dust’ and that relates to the political pariahs who were justifiably un-invited to the rainy (alas, the inclement weather is know to reign supreme there) North West. They were known variously by the cognoscenties(sic) in the Bay of Plenties as: Shun Fein and the Children of the Dead End.

    Encouraging too to see that this not ignoble tradition is still being upheld.

    Glenties of course is draped in the transparent negligee of Ballybeg in the most profound of Brian Friel’s astounding dramatic output: ‘Translations’. This of course is the pay which features ‘the greatest love scene since that of Romeo and J. ‘ (according to the theatre critic in TUT). The one between Maire, the local lassie and George, the English orthographer. While George spoke in the Q’s his opposite spoke in the l.f. of the L. Or, did she. Well, accroding to the T.U.T. she did, and that settles whatever hash tag one might have had about the matter.

    Again, to quote the theatre critic of the TUT at the time: ‘One was moved to tears and hused to silence by this Bilingual meets Girl scene’.

    Thus, Moleskin Joe McHugh need not actually have been an absentee at this year’s School; instead he was hounded to another rushy Glen (Columkille) set among the airy mountains by the red with rage Gailygores. If only he had acquainted himself with that Billlnigual meets Gael scene he would have known that it is p. feasible to speak Irish through the medium of the Q’s English.

    On a Friel Day, you can hear forever.

    Incidentally, the time that Brian F spent as a senator in the Seanad was truly THE golden era of that endangered house. Not only did he remain silent in one national language but he actually managed to do in – both! Mind you, some suggest it was his way of protesting against S.31. Myself, I prefer to think he was accosted by Famous S on his way to Teach Caligula. Or, whatever.

    It was after seeing a tear-inducing, hush-provoking performance of ‘Translations’ that prompted P. Warbeck to make his one and obly foray towards the rainy N.W. And after listening with great intent to all the guest speakers who sounded oddly like the usual suspects from RTE he was prompted to comment, ‘Wonderful to hear everyone speak in the l.f. of the Leprechaun here where the airy m. conjoin with the r. glens’.

    The ubitiquitous Joe Mulligatawney pounced on P.W but a unfortunate misunderstanding was nipped in the bod by the timely, kindly intervention of a minor member of the not ignobility, Lord Flatulence of Tonlegee, the key note speaker.,when he worded the following deathless line:

    -Confusion is not an ignoble conditon.

    After that, it was all hunky dory, culminating in a rousing sing song by the founding father of the Summer School, Joe Mulligatawney who led a fine Fine Gael full voiced four o’clock chorus in the morning: ‘Oo-adge, up the Raj ! Oo-adge ! Up the Raj’.

    One song which was off limits, by the way, was ‘Hello, May Lou’ while ‘Hip, hip, Horatio’ fairly make the rafters of the Highland Hotel (almost said ‘Hi, Lads, Hotel) ring a ding ding. It is a measure of the efficacy of Section 31 that the other Nelson song was gagged.

    And Ricky wasn’t even a Sticky !

    • Jude Collins July 23, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

      Perkin – Myles na gCopaleen will never be dead while your writing hand is quick (alive). Baroque on steroids. Or sumpin. In the l.f.of the l., Maith thú – Le meas, Jude

    • Jude Collins July 23, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      PS Ballybeg features in at least one other (more than one other, I suspect) of Friel’s plays – the wonderful, heart-cracking ‘Philadelphia, Here I Come’. Once more a play for our day ( or nous jours, in the l f of the f)

  5. Pointis July 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    I see the esteemed ruling parties in the Republic have abstained in a vote by the UN Rights Council into Israel’s attack on Gaza.

    Another good reason for Sinn Fein to spurn any advances prior to a General Election. This government is totally out of touch with the sentiments of the Irish General public and show nothing but cowardice when it comes to dealing with issues of Israeli barbarism!

    • neill July 23, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      Isnt it very strange that you talk about Gaza and the killing of a few little children and yet know nothing of a country not to far away were much much worse is happening and nobody knows or perhaps far less cares its the lack of consistency that gets me pick a trendy conflict…

      • Pointis July 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm #


        First off, one child would be one to many!

        Second it is not “a few little children” it is in excess of 500 Palestinian men, women and children the majority of whom are non-combatants along with 29 members of the IDF needlessly killed in combat.

        Lastly if you don’t explain which country you refer to then nobody will be able to determine whether they know anything about it or not!

        • neill July 24, 2014 at 9:47 am #

          Nobody likes children being killed however it happens I wish it didn’t.

          The country is Libya many thousands have been killed in the last few weeks many children included in that figure and no response from the media

          • Antonio July 24, 2014 at 11:05 am #

            And the reason little is mentioned about Libya by the main stream media in western countries is that many western countries backed rebels in Libya with miltary and financial assistance, without knowing much about who they were backing (but they were anti-Gaddaffi so they decided to back them) and now Libya is becoming increasingly fractious and in danger of joining Somalia as a lawless ‘failed state’ and so for example, Britain and France who were central to this ‘humanitarian intervention’ into Libya remain very quiet about in order to ‘save face’

          • Pointis July 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

            Yes Neill, context is everything! I happened to be commenting on Jude’s blog about the attitudes of the 2 Major parties down South.

            Your initial comment was disingenuous and I believe a little cruel. Every life is precious including those lost in Libya. Antonio’s explanation is probably the correct one.

            You promised Jude you would write a blog, why not write one on the events in Libya and how cynical media organisations have ignored the issue? You are an intelligent, coherent man, I have every faith in your ability to put a case!

            Good luck.

      • Páid July 23, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

        “talk about Gaza and the killing of a few little children” you really should be ashamed with that comment Neill.

  6. Pointis July 23, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    Sorry my previous link takes you to the story that the vote was called. The actual report on Ireland’s vote is here:-

    You can see from the comments on the RTE report just how many Irish people who read the story are disgusted.

  7. Iolar July 23, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    A disinterested Martian, not Micheál, might have gained an interesting perspective on Ireland had he/she/it read the Sunday Independent on 20 July 2014. The front page carried the lurid titles, ‘Sodom and Gomorrah in the Sun’ and ‘Incinerate Morgan Kelly – The Most Shocking Anglo Tape Yet’.The former deals with booze, sex and brawls in Magaluf. Next our visitor could have read about the publication of ‘Sworn to Silence’, a recently published book detailing the predilections of Brendan Smith and the secret church inquiry into abuse. There was also detailed coverage of the outcome of a murder trial. The headline read, ‘Gangsters’ Molls may Hold Key To Murders.’ Eoghan Harris shared his ideological convictions and the fact that he was moved by the heroism of the Good Old IRA in 1921. For a little light relief, our visitor may have been entertained by Ruth Dudley Edwards writing about Monty Python. However, the piéce de résistance was in the ‘Letters’ page. A gentleman complained about anti-English sentiment and ‘language that would make Mrs Brown and her boys blush’, in Dublin pubs. He posed the question, ‘could there be any connection between the apparent rise in anti-English sentiment and the rise of Sinn Féin? Without doubt, the martian visitor would have spotted the the obvious flaws in the queston, before being beamed out of here and back to the future.
    P.S. A friend left the said journal of record in my home but we are still friends.

    • Jude Collins July 23, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

      Maith thú, Iolar – well dissected. If you wanted something that would send the Martian scampering back to his space-ship, it’d be a dose of the Sindo. My only consolation is that such ghastly mish-mashes in a newspaper are usually a sign that it suspects it is drowning and so flails around desperately before going glug-glug.

      • Argenta July 23, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

        Of course the Sindo furthers the cause of nepotism by providing jobs for assorted members of the Harris and Fanning families!As I recall Eoghan Harris added to the Collins coffers a few years ago with an ill advised wager!And yet he contributed to your last book.The Sindo has many failings but would I be right in assuming that quite a lot of people still buy it?

      • Iolar July 23, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

        Methinks the glug-glug was the sound of the writer drinking his prize, three bottles of Dubliner Irish Whiskey Liqueur awarded for letter of the week. I understand that winners under 18 receive an alternative prize of equal value. I did not think the reading age of the paper was so high.

  8. Antonio July 23, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    It is so hypocritical of Fianna Fail and Fíne Gael to say they would not enter coalition government with Sinn Fein on a supposed moral outrage when the same parties have spent the best part of twenty years endeavouring to get Unionists into a coalition with Sinn Fein north of the border.

  9. Ceannaire July 23, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    Ah, Antonio – don’t be listening to that old nonsense.

    I remember a respectable man, by the name of John, who once told his friends, opponents and the world that it would make him absolutely sick to the stomach to talk to the IRA. Some, with stoney face, nodded their heads in agreement.

    Guess what?

  10. Mick Fealty July 24, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Thanks for the thanks Jude. I just wish they’d turn round the video quicker.

    I did write up on Slugger, but failed to do ML (I’m a BIG fan) any justice because neither the video nor the script was available.

    The unanimity on political reform (all three spoke in favour of a List system) was encouraging. As for each, I’m something of a quiet fan of all of them:

    – Leo because he speaks volumes for the value of ethnic diveristy;

    – Micheal, because he’s doing interesting things with an old brand;

    – And Mary Lou, because I think her political instincts are a lot sharper than her leadership team give her credit for…