Posted by: whatkindofweekhasitbeen | October 21, 2011

What Kind Of Quinzaine Has It Been, Part 1

In the past fortnight I’ve done a Robbie Keane and hopped around some of my favourite boyhood cities: Brussels, Dublin and Galway. More on Brussels presently, but first I’m keeping it country.

It’s hard to assert your voice in a crowded and din-filled area, and the Presidential election has caused a lot more din than average. But it provided no impediment to SpunOut, who hosted last week’s Presidential forum. Nor indeed did it impede the hundreds of young people who attended, who proved what I and other veterans of the business have known for a long time to be true: give young people the chance and they’ll take it.

And offer them an hour’s worth of questions to the candidates (all bar The Holy Caucus, Mitchell and Dana, the former begging off at the last minute because he had people to alienate in Cork that day) seeking the highest office in the land and they’ll ask the most perceptive, most ballsy, most pertinent questions of the campaign.

Rachel McNulty of the Donegal Youth Council, for example, asked Mary Davis a question about airbrushing and body image that would be featured in Miriam’s award show montage if she had come up with it. Others asked questions pertaining to rights and opportunity and equality, and generally none of the usual gubbins that has steered the discussion at large thus far. None of the candidates, whose order of speaking was determined by pulling their name out of a jester’s hat complete with jingly jangly bells, seemed too startled by the gauntlet The Youth laid before them, but some went down better than others. Michael D Higgins’ opening statement was met with woops and stomps, whereas Mary Davis’ response to her absolutely not airbrushed posters was loudly derided. David Norris whipped the crowd into frenzy multiple times but watching him speak is like watching Curling: you’re cheering him on and he hits right to the centre in some style, but then he keeps going and you wish to hell he’d stop, for his own sake. Martin McGuinness maintained his habit for saying useful things you weren’t expecting by saying he’d open the Aras to the poor at Christmas, while Sean Gallagher was also present. Entrance and exit polls were taken before and after the candidates spoke. Before, Higgins led Gallagher and Norris by a couple of points. Afterwards, Higgins rocketed up 18 points, while Gallagher dropped 10. Meanwhile, reports were seeping out that Gallagher had inexplicably leapt into first place in a Red C poll. If only the wider world wasn’t so narrow.

The presence of the candidates was but one small element of the day’s magic though. The atmosphere in the room was somewhere between Victorian parliament and South American football stadium. Hands were flying up to ask those perceptive, ballsy questions at sub-atomic speed. Prior to the Presidential ampitheatrics, I got to interview Orla Tinsley and Colm O’Gorman, who had been on my chat wish list for quite some time, and we had a terrific discussion on the great things you can do when you have an idea and act on it. “Children should be seen and not heard” is long gone, and replaced by “You had better bloody listen”. More of this please.

With my world revolving round the Presidential forum and other such affairs of late, word of other news had to be snatched in hotel foyers, brief internet sessions and a diagonal glance at a newsagent’s papers, but one story did surprise. Liam Fox was the unlikely winner of the First Tory To Leave Cabinet Award, a feat he wasn’t even training for. The former Defence Secretary’s copybook was irredeemably blotted because it turned out he was showing his best mate and best man Adam Werrity his classified homework. Not just that, but he took his pal (who had cards made up claiming he was Dr Fox’s advisor – he wasn’t) on several international trips where official affairs of state-type meetings were happening, and even some holidays. If only Liam had just given him a few quid to go to the cinemas of the world he might still be Defence Secretary. While seeing a senior minister getting sacked for being too close to his mate is a rarity by Irish standards, it gave the press the chance to do what they love doing most: making lousy puns based on his surname with glee not seen since The Falklands War prompted the resignation of the veteran Tory Sir Geoffrey Cockfight.

Wales made it a fruitful week for surprise exits, as they managed to lose their Rugby World Cup semi final to a French team as organised and disciplined as Will Farrell and Vince Vaughn at a keg party. Now, Ireland will have to live vicariously through the team that beat the team that beat us as France, whose jersey badge should at this point be a headless rooster, take on the might of the All Blacks. The Kiwis presumably already have their name shaded in on the trophy in pencil.

In the world beyond Auckland a larger David and Goliath battle is taking place. On my way from Dublin’s Temple Bar to Galway’s Eyre Square I saw both the Occupy Dublin and Galway band of merry men (I genuinely didn’t see any women among them) fighting their good fight, but they and their big ticket items in New York, London and across the world are being treated with promethean curiosity from the wider media. “What do they want? The protestors don’t seem to have a clear plan“, they all say, either through wilful ignorance or genuine density. So rather than just analysing the phenomenon of such large and organic groups of disparate people coming from a number of angles to make a range of points about the way our world is run, the mainstream media berate them for their poor elevator pitch. The revolution will not be televised, at least not until they get themselves a good media strategy.



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