Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France


A few times during the past few months, I have slipped in the odd comment about Irish domestic politics. These probably annoy just about everybody, i.e. 1) residents of the Irish Republic, because they hear enough about their own politics without also having to see smart comments from a half-informed Yank, and 2) everyone else, because even if they are at all interested in Irish politics, they are left with a sense of incompleteness at knowing how the alluded to situations have progressed.

Well, I am herewith setting out to perform a service for the latter group. Here is my up-to-date update of some of the situations I have mentioned in the past few months:

  • Government Spending: Shortly before the parliamentary elections in June, I mentioned how the governing party (Fianna Fáil) was emptying the treasury’s coffers as fast as it could and then during the campaign bragged about this fact as a major accomplishment. “Even more amazingly,” I added, “the other parties, rather than doing the obvious and pointing out how Fianna Fáil has been handing out money hand over fist like a drunken sailor, have all proclaimed in their ads how they, if elected, would spend even more money than the current government.”

    The update: With the hindsight of half a year, it is now entirely clear how unfair and inaccurate it was to describe Fianna Fáil’s spending as being “like a drunken sailor.” It would have been much fairer to have said that it was like a drunken sailor who had somehow gotten hold of Donald Trump’s credit cards. The victorious Fianna Fáil’s post-election victory celebrations were barely over when the government broke the shocking news to the electorate that Ireland was broke. Well, not exactly broke, but spending was far outstripping revenues. Since then, there have been news reports about nothing except which worthy programs and cherished tax loopholes will get the axe. This situation has permitted the opposition parties to do what they do best: have their cake and eat it too. They continue their harping that the government isn’t spending enough and howl over each announced or proposed cutback. And, at the same time, they excoriate the government for bankrupting the treasury.

    In a vaguely related matter (did I use the words “drunken sailor”?), the latest scandal is that the leading Irish Sunday newspaper has revealed that years ago one current government minister ordered 5,000 euros worth whiskey and cigars to be delivered to him, courtesy of the national airport authority, and never paid for it. (It wasn’t disclosed whether he drank and smoked all of this by himself or if he had a few friends over.) The transportation minister duly declared that he would launch an investigation into the matter. Then, it emerged that the transportation minister himself was the alleged whiskey-and-cigars man. Where else is government money so free that it can pay for staff time in order for a government minister to investigate himself?

  • Dr. Jim McDaid: In the very same column, I came to the defense of the then sport and tourism minister, Dr. Jim McDaid of Donegal. He had been lambasted by everyone for making some tough comments on people who commit suicide.

    The update: Well, after the election, Dr. McDaid was shuffled out of that ministry. Then his wife, from whom he had been estranged for some time, wrote a kiss-and-tell book, in which she described her life with him as a living hell, basically painting him as an alcoholic and serial adulterer. (His best known escapade was an affair with Ireland’s preeminent news anchor, a robotic woman with a monotone voice, who is apparently a lot more fun than she appears when reading the 9 o’clock news.) The book’s coup de grâce for the minister who had spoken so forcefully on the subject of suicide: Mrs. McDaid wrote that, when her life with the minister became completely unbearable, she threatened to end her own life. Dr. McDaid’s response, according to her, was to point out where the pills were.

  • Roy Keane: Around the time of the World Cup in June, I wrote some words about the man who is arguably Ireland’s greatest soccer player, Roy Keane. (I followed up with an update about his autobiography in October.) As you may recall, there was a huge row between Keane and the manager of the Irish national soccer team, Mick McCarthy, which resulted in Keane quitting, then coming back, then spewing obscenities at McCarthy in front of the rest of the team and consequently getting sacked. Ireland went on to do better in the World Cup competition than anyone had expected without Keane’s participation—a development which prompted Keane’s supporters to argue that Ireland would have actually won the World Cup if people had been nicer to Keane and convinced him to stay on board.

    The update: After the World Cup was over, Ireland went on to lose two soccer matches badly, and whatever support Mick McCarthy had had, dwindled. He resigned, and a search is on for a new manager. (Ireland managed a draw in a third match under caretaker management.) Meanwhile, Keane was found guilty of bringing shame to British soccer, in his role as a player for Manchester United, because of an incident described in his own autobiography (which he didn’t even write himself) wherein he deliberately injured another player. That ruling is under appeal, apparently for reasons of principle, since the fabulously wealthy Keane would never miss the amount of money he would be fined. His die-hard fans continue to insist that Ireland would have won the last three matches if only Keane hadn’t been forced off the team—ignoring the fact that he was recovering the whole time from hip surgery.

    Meanwhile, Keane’s most rabid fan and defender (and, coincidentally, the author of his autobiography) Eamon Dunphy was banned from driving for ten years because of multiple convictions of drunken driving. Oh yeah, and a Scottish consulting firm did an independent analysis of the World Cup fiasco and concluded that Roy Keane was right in saying that the Football Association of Ireland’s management of the facilities and training was fourth rate. This immediately caused Keane’s supporters to declare that he was completely vindicated and in the right. So, in typical sports fanatic logic, the player who whined and walked away is the hero and the manager and other players who put up with miserable training conditions and performed in the name of their country (and better than anyone expected) were so much chopped liver.

    The disclaimer: No, I did not make any of this up, although I wish I had that much imagination. Next week, I’ll try to write about movies again.

    -S.L., 28 November 2002

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