Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Forgettable Damp Squib

An old friend got me a ticket for the U2 gig in Croke Park last Saturday so out of politeness, and I suppose curiosity, I agreed to go along. I'm more at home in intimate venues with the likes of Steve Earle or Richard Thompson and would have reservations about the excess and bombast of stadium rock; and the people you might meet there. I haven't really listened to U2 since the Joshua Tree days so I was mildly interested in seeing how they have aged.

Croke Park was an impressive sight, bounded by steeply-raked futuristic stands on 3 sides and with the immense stage in front of Hill Sixteen. My seat was about as far as it could be from the stage in the heights of the premier section. The band were mere specks in the distance but huge video screens flanking the stage brought us close up to them - but suggested a TV experience rather than a real encounter with the band. The sound was good enough but unfortunately those around me sang along to every anthem, which meant I heard little of the men themselves. It was more a fan-fest than a concert. And of course everyone was getting hammered. I was trapped next to a thuggish looking middle-aged guy who kept proferring me his plastic bottle of vodka and coke - and getting upset when I kept on refusing it. I began to entertain priggish thoughts and Yeats' phrase "the contagion of the throng" was on my mind.

The band seemed fresh and on song but I felt alienated from the whole thing. The recent album songs seemed very ordinary and the only flicker of fire came from the old standards: "Where the Streets Have no Name"; "Sunday Bloody Sunday"; and "Pride".

Maybe down close to the stage things were more intense. Maybe I am too old to enjoy stadium gigs. Maybe, dare I say it, U2 are a bit bland. Also, rock and roll should be about sex not politics - I hate being preached at.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Haughey - Hee-Haw

All praise to RTE for their riveting documentary of Charles Haughey. While it's far from hagiography, it does seem slightly in love with its protagonist. I always found Haughey a rather ridiculous self-important little man; combining pomposity with banality. The hilarious aping of the gentry; his studied aloofness; his Renaissance man posturings around art and music.

You can't deny he had the will to power. Much of this may stem from his deprived background where he had to fight hard for any advantage; a scholarship boy in secondary school and at university. History may judge that that having gained power, he didn't have much idea what to do with it. A lot of the initiatives he is associated are gimmicky and populist: free fares for the old and no taxes for the artists. His one considerable piece of legislation was a modernising of the laws of succession.

His most shamefeul actions were the cynical use of moral issues to win electoral favour. This was particularly true of his public attitude to abortion and contraception. His private behaviour suggested a much more liberal approach to morality. But of course the Irish press were far too craven to point this out. Private Eye was the only publication to out him and his strident bint Terry Keane.

The programme also showed how he split the party down the middle - all decency on the other side (Colley, O'Donoghue, Brennan, Faulkner, Lynch, Hillary etc.) - while he enjoyed the support of the chancers and backwoodsmen (Davern, Flynn, Gene Fitzgerald etc.). It was extraordinary how bitter O'Donoghue (particularly) and Brennan still are. Lynch of course made a huge mistake bringing him back to the cabinet; giving him a platform from which to undermine him. He mistakenly assumed that Colley was a shoo-in to succeed him.

And we had a surfeit of the oily PR goon O'Mara giving us the benefit of his attenuated world-view - where schoolboy victories are all that matter.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Clash of the Ash

Ah the sound of the summer - the clash of the ash. After the overhyped posturing of English and European soccer, the honest elemental nature of the Munster Hurling Championship is to be relished. Yesterday we had Clare and Tipperary doing battle. This is a rivalry not as tribal and vivid as Cork and Tipp, but rendered spicy by their recent cranky collisions.

Clare a team in decline perhaps, Tipp a team looking for an identity after their tame capitultion last year.

The early signs were good for Tipp - an elegant point from their master craftsman Eoin Kelly and a sense that they were quicker and hungrier. And then came connfirmation of this in the form of two quick goals. In both cases the new Tipp full-forward Webster was involved. This is a very impressive discovery - a big courageous raw-boned boy with skill and attitude. Apart from his side-step and dummy to score, his physical commitment was very evident in his goading of that old bull Brian Lohan.

After that Clare never got into it. Every time they came within a few points, Tipp pulled away again. Bring on Cork.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

McDowell Morris Dancing

Now here's a nice conundrum for Justice Minister McDowell. He has spent a great deal of time lambasting Gerry Adams about the criminal activities carried out by elements in his organisation. Pompous phrases like "no place in a democratic society" have rung out regularly.

Now the Morris Tribunal Report has presented with evidence that extensive criminal activities have clearly taken place in an organisation for which he is responsible. What's he going to do about it?

It's very clear that this isn't just about a few rogue gardai in Donegal. What this exposes is a fundementally corrupt and totally mismanaged organisation that clearly considers itself above the law. Its arrogance, dishonesty and rejection of accountability have led to a widespread distrust. Events such as Abbeylara, the Blue 'Flu, and the Dean Lyons debacle are just further confirmation of an institution that has gone bad on us.

I have found them totally uninterested in any complaints I have made to them. On one occasion I went into to my local station to report a serious assault and was told that they would call me back later to make a formal statement. I never heard from them again.

On another occasion, when in my teens, I was hauled into the garda station in Cobh and accused of obstructing traffic with a gang of my friends. When I protested my innocence and demanded a phone to contact my father, I was assaulted by a large red-haired garda who seemed to lose control completely and had to be restrained by his colleagues.

You get the feeling that a lot of them see it as a cosy club and the public are just a bloody nuisance - interfering with their sporting activities and the management of their property portfolios. The ethos is that of the rural uneducated Paddy: The pint, the craic, the football. There is a strong anti-intellectual bias. You need 5 passes in the Leaving Cert. to get in. I have a labrador who could do better.