Leadership, referenda and when is it time to stop?

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Picture by itla4u

People – including Enda Kenny – were talking yesterday about how ‘Ireland’ (that’d be the twenty-six counties) has proved itself a bold, splendid, equal…I can’t remember the exact words but I got the general drift for sure…’Ireland’ had proved itself a wonderful ‘country’. Is he right?

Maybe. If we judge by the numbers of people who voted for same-sex marriage (a brief mention of that other referendum later), then the twenty-six counties is a state which has no problem of any kind with gay people – they are accepted as full and equal citizens. But that’s at the legal level. I wonder how true that is in what have been called the twigs and straws of life: the little encounters, the brief conversations, the passing glance. Is the south of Ireland totally free from homophobia? I suspect not. Which raises a question that was raised on BBC  Raidio Uladh/BBC Radio Ulster earlier this morning: do the big gestures like handshakes, like referenda,  impact at ground level?

As usual, Chris Donnelly got it just about right – he indicated that the hand-shaking of Gerry Adams and Prince Charles was a worthwhile event, but that we shouldn’t overestimate how it will change things on the ground. Indeed. That’s not to say these big events shouldn’t happen. Leadership means taking actions that set the pace, raise the bar, whatever analogy you want to use, for the rest of us.  It doesn’t mean that we instantly embrace reconciliation; but it does nudge that project a little bit further forward, and over time people gradually take their cue from that. Conversely, if leadership revels in division and insult and noli me tangere, then that’s what the general public who follow such leaders will feel justified in adopting.

The key thing about the the handshake between Gerry Adams and Prince Charles was that it set in view that very old notion: a good example. Likewise the gay marriage referendum success: it says that all discrimination against gays is a bad thing. That may take a long time to filter down, particularly to those whose minds are closed to change. But the hope is that it will happen.

Mind you, we shouldn’t over-estimate example. There can be little doubt that Sinn Féin have been setting example after example of reconciliation in action over the past number of years. Has it filtered down into the unionist community? I hope so – though looking at and listening to their political leaders, it’s hard to believe. In fact there are an increasing number of people on the nationalist/republican side who are near to despair. If unionist leaders  have seen fit to reject all overtures, even unto a pleasant word or the odd handshake, and this has been going on for seventeen years, is it not time to abandon what is clearly not working?

Final point: the people who embraced (if that’s the word) gay marriage at the ballot box on Friday also voted not to embrace the notion of letting people younger than 35 running for president It’s not the most pressing problem in society at  the moment, but it does show ageism (this time against the young) in action. But nobody was squeezing into Dublin Castle carrying placards about that.

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3 Responses to Leadership, referenda and when is it time to stop?

  1. Wolfe tone May 24, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    Alas jude the irony is lost on those now claiming a ‘brave ireland’ and all that. When they rejected lowering the presidental age it left me with a wry smile.
    The ‘revolution’ that is claimed now has shown how much of a yellow streak that runs down the back of free staters these days. They don’t care to bestow their equality on their fellow citizens in the north east of ireland? There is no clamour to seek our inclusion lest it offends our neighbours? There will be no clamour to confront tougher referenda like irish unity etc by these rebels that’s for sure. The eejits deserve all Angela merkel decides for them lol.

  2. Perkin Warbeck May 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

    Last week the Free Southern Stateen during the Visit, Esteemed Blogmeister, was a grand place entirely to be. Even a grand avuncular place to be.

    For relationships were to the fore. Apart from the much trumpeted new maturity of the r. between the two sovereign states thingy but also on the purely domestic level as well. For it put the spotlight on a much neglected rank, one which normally comes far down the pecking order after Mums, Dads, paters, maters, bros, sisses, cousins, from first to distant, uncles, aunts, steps, fosters, nanas, grams, granpops etc.etc

    A rank so neglected indeed, a grade so degraded that is often leapfrogged in the generation gap by such as great grand fathers. One is referring, of course, to the nigh forgotten echelon known as….grand uncle.

    Indeed, up to this week of weeks carbuncles themselves have received more coverage in the FSS media, a sad fact which is mainly down to the Carbuncle Convention which is held in the appropriately named Boyle, County Roscommon.

    A tri-annual affair dreamed up the the try-anything Irish Tourist Board (nee Bord Failte) in a desperate attempt to attract bed nights (not to be confused with bed lice) to the Hell that is Wesht of the Shannon

    A medico/academic knees up which attracts a cohort of critically-acclaimed lancers on a global scale. And who seem to enjoy the experience if one is to judge by the beaming smiles on their dials (or pusses) as they depart.

    The ITB’s advertising slogan seems to have worked as the number of visitors to Boyle has increased, tri-year on tri-year: ‘Abscess makes the heart grow Fonder’.

    It took the contribution to a radio retrospective on the Visit of a grand-niece of another famous grand-uncle to focus Perkie’s attention on this aspect.

    One is referring to Nora Owens, a grandniece who surreptitiously entered politics a generation ago as a great unknown and carrying a large or largish placard which read: ‘Michael Collins was my grand uncle ! ‘

    This modest dodge proved so successful indeed that her sis and fellow grand niece of the Big Fellow, adopted it too. That would be Mary Banotti, or even, Mary Bean Otti.

    Or it might have been vice versa: could have been M before N except after O or something on those grammatical grammy lines.

    Anyway, as a guest (distinguiished) of the stern yet fair broadcaster on RTE, the legendary and utterly unique Una O’Uniform (or maybe it was Tina Indistinguishable herself) , she, Nora the Grand-niece quoted verbatim from the statement issued by G. Adams in the immediate aftermath of the mass massacre in Mullaghmore.

    -Absolute viciousness.

    Is how Nora the Grandniece hissed her summing up.

    And hissed in such a way that for a few blessed moments Perkie’s inner peacemaker was wafted back in time to the dark days of the Norneverland troubles when the Free Southern Stateen was the Switchboard of Superiority (Moral). To which trunk calls were made from all arts and parts of the globe itself as part of the immoderately successful Dial a Denunciation Scheme.

    (The joyous scenes in the courtyard of Dublin Castle aka The Rainbow’s End, in which we in the FSS have once again become a deacon blue beacon of tolerance, decency, equality etc etc etc to a Watching and Watchful World, also recalled those heady days of Moral Superiority)

    Nora’s inner grand niece knew where Charles’ inner grand nephew was coming from and she knew too that he was now in, erm, a good place.

    This is understandable for both their Grand Uncles had much in common, being strict adherents to a common code of conscientious objection.

    It is a well known fact here in the FSS that Grand Uncle Mick never stooped any lower (although there was a lot of stooping involved in this particular fun-filled act of schoolboy cheekiness) i.e,than the letting the air out of the tyres of the Crossley Tenders of the TAR (Tans, Auxies and Regulars).

    It was for the sheer harmless delight of hearing the hissy sound that it is was done (even if others were unfortunate enough to get the,erm, tar beaten out of them for being the perpetrators, alleged).

    Nora O would seem to have inherited this love of hissy sounds from her great Grand Uncle.

    What is not so well known is that the other Grand Uncle of the moment, Dickie, was also prone to such lower-form larks, such as might have lingered from his days and nights in the Lockers Park School in Hertfordshire, a public school lesser known on account of its passion for privacy.

    Dickie was to graduate cum laude from his alma mater in his two favourite subjects, fagging and peashooting.

    Indeed, the subcontinent of India itself was to provide unexpected opportunities to him to practice both on a, erm, grand scale.

    Before he graduated to his Honda 50 for nocturnal journeys twixt the castles Classiebawn and Glenveagh, the favourite mode of transfort of the then Viceroy of India was the, erm, elephant. Normally associated with the Lancers of West Bengal.

    It was a most pleasant way be transported among the peasantry.

    And as he sat perched there high up in his howdah he would divide his attention between saying the Hindi for ‘Howya’ to the adoring Asprushya or ‘untouchables’ below even while throwing them his cast-off jockey shorts to the eternally grateful lower caste. Who would insist of wearing them, unwashed. (Hence, the origin of the term ‘untouchable’).

    But, Grand Uncle Dickie was nothing if not an animal lover. And his other eye was constantly focused on the mahout or driver wallah of the elephant who sat perched on the animal’s neck, naked from the waist to the turban.

    The mahout was armed with a goad called in the local barbaric dialect, an ankusa. To prod the animal forward he was allowed to stab it in the head, without as much as an excusa.. But if the elephant was slothful or stubborn the mahout might sometimes be tempted to stab the mammoth animal in either the mouth or the inner ear, both areas of particular sensitivity.

    This would invariably enrage the normally placid Grand Uncle Dickie to take speedy action with this boyhood souvenir, his beloved peashooter. That fairly brought a halt to the mahout’s misdemeanour.

    There is no other recorded indiscretion (if such it was) of Lord Mountabatten’s during his long and distinguished career of civilising the gollywogs and other untouchables. At least in the Free Southern Stateen media.

    Now, that one thinks of it, Nora Owens, grandniece extraordinaire was actually a guest (distinguished) on the Pat Kenny Show of Newstalk, a prominent wireless station in the DOBlin media.

    The same Pat’s Daddy,coincidentally, earned a crust by feeding crusts to trunks in his capacity as Elephant Keeper in the Dublin zoo (pronounced locally as : azoo).

  3. Tony Mc Phillips May 24, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Jude, the referendum in the Freestate on Friday was never about equality it was simply about accepting or rejecting the Church held belief that marriage was between a man and a woman. Now we have the verdict, civil law in the Freestate no longer recognises that proposition but the Churches teaching shall remain as it was and I for one am happy to subscribe to that teaching. I value all people on this island of ours as I believe that everyone has a contribution to make for the betterment of all but please spare us the sanctimonious bullshit from all our politicos about “equality” on this particular issue, because it never was about equality.