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22 July 1999 Edition

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Television: Rats, utopians, and Eoghan Harris

By Gilbert O Lughnasa

Programmes reviewed;

Weekend Sport
Far Out (Channel 4)
Ruby's American Pie (UTV)
Questions & Answers (RTÉ)

Five minutes to go and Mayo are clawing their way back into a classic Connacht Final when RTÉ Radio One decides to switch to one hundred odd wallys and their cronies in Carnoustie boring us all to tears with their big sticks and little balls for nearly 40 hours, with the climax taking place in a soggy puddle.

The `action' continued long after the final whistle had blown in Tuam and about 48 hours after the Galway GAA Comm-itt-eeh man assured Rodney Rice that the Tuam rats had been cleared and a special rodent-proof Portaloo had been imported for Her Excellency, Mary McAleese.

Surely the most hilarious piece of radio this summer saw Rodney futilely attempting to put the committee man to the pin of his collar after the Western Health Board's condemnation of Tuam stadium: abysmal rest-room facilities including overflowing and blocked latrines, unhinged doors (the sort you have to keep one foot jarred against in case of embarrassment only to discover an absence of toilet paper) and rat colonies.

Gone are the days where we were graciously condemned to the corner of the terrace or the nearest bush and dock leaves. What with this Europe lark, the next thing they'll want is bidets and condom machines.

The burdened committee man evaded all questions, assuring RTE that only an odd mouse had been seen darting about (he was probably interested in football) and all gaps were being filled (or unblocked) for Mary's visit.

Far Out, Man

The Cotswold Commune, featured on Channel 4's Far Out, was a gathering of disaffected utopian socialists who sought to build an alternative society to industrial capitalism at the turn of the century, long before the flower power and harmless hippies who revolutionised nothing before returning to their mortgages and Volvos.

This self-sufficient collective banned money in favour of barter, had no belief in government and had no feeling of class. Needless to say, they incurred the wrath of the local authorities, who destroyed their movement by demolishing their houses and imprisoning their members.

Alternative beliefs and practices have long been viewed with disdain by mainstream society, particularly the so-called witches, who were seen by the Church and others as a threat to their authority.

Cecil Williamson spoke of his boyhood experience of a rural English witch-hunt where a 78-year-old woman was forcibly stripped by local fascists who attempted to expose a third nipple on her genitilia, supposed proof of the presence of the Devil!

Other elderly witches and hippies told tales of their `search for spiritual meaning', the emergence of vegetarianism in Britain (the first speciality shop opened in Birmingham in 1910), and the hostility of the mainstream to anything that was different.

Get out there on your broom, Nora, and don't give a tinker's curse what the neighbours say!

Madonna in A Minor

In need of some magic spells were the parents featured in Ruby Wax's American Pie, who force their offspring, some as young as 12 months, onto the catwalk, in search of gratification for parents who all seem to have a screw loose.

Girls of four informed Ruby of ``the need for a professional smile and a good personality'' with make-up disfigured faces of 40-year-olds.

Dolly told us how her daughter was a conservative Republican, was in touch with her diaphragm, and how she `assists' her practice her smile in front of a mirror for hours on end.

One can't but feel pity for these mini-models who should be at home playing with their dollies and trailers, instead of being exploited as Pre-Madonnas.

For an Irish version, run along to Feis dance competitions where pushy mammys and daddys spend anything up to a thousand pounds on dance costumes and drag their poor children to draughty halls for days on end where old men in tweedy jackets dole out paltry pieces of gold and silver.

Semtex and Sausages

In a surprisingly lively Questions & Answers on Monday night (RTÉ1), David Trimble fan and ex-Workers' Party-cum-Fine Gael-cum-Marxist-spin doctor Eoghan Harris was busy entertaining and insulting the masses for not rewarding Trimble for his ``tremendous courage'', labeling us all as ``tribalists'' and ``rednecks''. Rather be a redneck than a Zelig!

Harris was fairly courteous to former An Phoblacht editor Danny Morrison, preferring instead to try to bully Fianna Fáil's tenacious Marian McGennis, who rightly pointed out that lorry-loads of Semtex outside Stormont wouldn't satisfy unionists.

Finally, we look forward to Pat Doherty (former Six-County Minister for Education) and Martin McGuiness (former Six-County Minister for Agriculture) having a lengthier spell in ministerial office than 14 minutes and abolishing the 11-Plus, trebling all student grants, and giving free rashers and sausages to all!

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • Don't miss your chance to get the second edition of the 2019 magazine, published to coincide with Easter Week
  • This special edition which focuses on Irish Unity, features articles by Pearse Doherty, Dr Thomas Paul and Martina Anderson.
  • Pearse sets out the argument for an United Ireland Economy whilst Pat Sheehan makes the case for a universally free all-island health service.
  • Other articles include, ‘Ceist teanga in Éirinn Aontaithe’, ‘Getting to a new Ireland’ and ‘Ireland 1918-22: The people’s revolution’.

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