The indoscopy

“Hmmm. Have you been doing a lot of exercise lately?”, enquired my GP with the mandatory note of feigned concern.

“A bit, I suppose. Well, extreme sports, mostly”

“Which ones?”

“Ah the usual. On-line shopping. Dieting. Having an *sarky quotation marks fingers* Only Child. Living in the North. Reading The Sunday Independent”

She winces at the last on the list. “Horan?”

“Sometimes. When I can be bothered. Hunt for the faux liberal middle-class concern. O’Hanlon for Shinner-induced apoplexy. And Lynch for the priceless wry pop at them all”

“That it?”

“And the Lidl brochure of course”

“Great isn’t it. Did you get–”

“The angle grinder?”


“Indeed. Couldn’t beat that price”

“Would you use it much yourself?”

“No. Never”

“Same. So, is that all…anyone else?”


An arched brow.

“OK, Sarah Carey. She gives me energy”

“Ah that explains it”

“It wouldn’t be every week, mind. Only when I’m feeling a bit lethargic, or too upbeat”

“Any Harris at all?”

We look at each other for a second before we burst out laughing.

“Actually, I’m a bit worried about the sarky quotation mark fingers, I can’t seem to control it. Can you give me anything?”

“Have you tried *sarky quotation mark fingers* mindfulness?”

My imaginary Twitter feed from the last 24 hours

Picture of my sloppy desk. Just because.

Retweeted article simultaneously attacking a conservative political view and emphasising my right-on world-view

Phil Lynott’s Old Town video #random #nostalgia #dodgy80shairdos

Breda O’Brien’s a *insert damning insult of the hour here* #emphaticheadnods

Latest blog post: Blogging brush-offs and other abandoned posts

Can’t believe *insert latest thing to be outraged about here* #shocking

Go the fuck to sleep #middleofthenightparenting

Picture of my dinner. Why not? #nomnom

Larry David quote #wisdom

Breda O’Brien’s a *insert damning judgement of the hour here* #toorightyeah

Has Neven had botox? Looks like it #nevenmaguire

Did anyone see my car keys? #doofus

Where can I get American Crème Soda? #80sflashbackcraving

Malcolm Tucker quote #modernphilosophy

Does anyone know where I can get a cheap lobotomy? #notcopingwithwork

Question: Recommend your family tent  #impendingcampingholidayannoucement

Picture of emergency coffee purchase *insert little thumb up* #survival

Picture of toothpaste on hair? #howdoesshedoit?

Picture of Bono looking worse #onob

It’s only fucking Wednesday? #cries

A very short, bland, and cranky post

There’s a video doing the rounds at the minute of a two-year old having a tantrum. The responses range from the predictable viral game of pass-the-parcel in the name of bland entertainment, while the more self-regarding sites have ushered in a few revered talking heads to give some consideration to parental responses to toddler tantrums. Which is all very harmless and right-on and will appeal to the mass parenting reading market. But this curmudgeon is sitting tight with a face on her like a badger’s arse and a curled lip for someone to  “weigh in” on the issue of children’s privacy, specifically their right to privacy on the net, irrespective of their age. Especially because of their age.

As you were.

So what do you think of the situation in Chechnya?

I couldn’t give a fuck, Jones.

Admit it, we all have occasions where we’re compelled to gag our inner Daniel Cleaver by mimicking the other person’s disgust and flexing our impressive empathy muscles. This is best achieved through a slo-mo head-nod and a momentary gaze into the middle distance to figure out how to change the subject without getting busted. A delicate manoeuvre that takes years of practice.

Some recent examples…

Friend: That Iona Institute crowd are just mental. Aren’t they?

Me: Absolutely. Bonkers. Madder than two mad things stuck together with Vatican-endorsed adhesive.

[I mean this sincerely, but am unable to sustain the outrage without getting hungry, or have conversations about them through outbursts of 140 characters or less from a person sitting right next to me; especially when 60 of those characters tend to be hogged by exclamation marks]

*momentary gaze*

Fancy sharing a slice of lemon meringue?

Friend: G’wan then

[So weak]


Dad: I see Topaz has a sale on petrol. You’d be better getting it this side of the border. It’s far cheaper. How much is it in the North these days?

Me: Ermm

*momentary gaze*

[My Da is gearing up for a full-on rant on the price of fuel. These are occasionally subtitles for ‘I love you’ in Father-of-a-certain-generation Irish. So is ‘how’s the job going?’, and ‘how’s the car going?’. Chances are though, he will quickly veer off into the realm of the “scandalous” way the energy companies have been slow in reducing the cost of domestic oil. We’ve been here before. Speckles of red mist are already forming on the horizon. I do sympathise. But having been raised in a house where this obsessional interest in ‘the price of oil’ was considered a conversational piece and something reflected on during that five second window the priest gives mass-goers for their own special intentions, central heating was relegated to the basics in my hierarchy of needs early on. Consequently, I can’t get worked up about it to quite the same psychotic extent.]

Hmm. Not sure. My car is diesel and sure that’s always cheaper anyway.

Dad: I’m going for a walk.

[A cruel move of me, I know]


Colleague: You…like…you’ve never ever even tasted tea? Like, ever?

Me: Never

*momentary gaze*

[For some inexplicable reason, there is a cohort of Irish people who deem this an unpatriotic act and recoil in horror at the casual way I cause the architects of the Easter Rising to twirl in their graves. Was this what they fought for? Our freedom to show outrageous indifference to the national tipple? That’s me in the dodgy photo-fit flashed on the screen on Crime Call last night by the ever radiant Gráinne. I am the one. Kill me.]

I have tickled a pig under my arm though, and had a wank with a shillelagh.

Colleague: Seriously?


Friend: You’re from an Irish-speaking county, do you not think it’s absolutely ridiculous how few gael scoil places there are?

Me: Absolutely!

*momentary gaze*

[No offence, Peig, but I couldn’t give a shite. But this is not the time to challenge the middle-class aspirations of my nearest and dearest. I’d probably risk leaving myself open to charges of hypocrisy down the line when I start protesting about Electric Picnic taking place before the new school year starts. Sigh. Besides, I got hit by shrapnel from a stray ‘absolutely’ at an open evening at a pre-school the other week. Nasty.]

Have you watched Catastrophe yet? Hilarious


Mum: Would you look at that amadan *points to Enda Kenny* He’s a liar…

Me: *momentary gaze*

[Uh oh.]

*leaves room*

Mum: …would you look at the state of him. Like someone who wandered out of the ploughing championships…

Me: *gets into car*

Mum:…and they give out about Fianna Fail, but sure they’re just as bad…

Me: *drives away*

Mum:..I can’t STAND him….

Me: *arrives home*

Mum:..sitting there in the Dail for the last umpteen years and what did he ever do?…

Me: *turns off bed-side light*

Mum:..keeping the farmers sweet and nevermind the rest of us…


Sheryl was outraged to discover she had only 3 characters left

From tomorrow’s Irish Times Letters Page

1. The earnest letter from a despairing ex-pat abroad:

A Chara

I refer to Breda O’Brien’s article on stillborn babies (17th January), in which she exhibits grave concern at the language employed to describe the conditions that lead to tragically premature death and foetal complications.

Ms. O’Brien states that “Sometimes, these children are treated as if they were never alive at all. Expressions like “fatal foetal abnormality” are incredibly insensitive, as is “incompatible with life””. She fears the influence those harrowing words “incompatibility with life” has in diminishing society’s regard for the dignity and well-being of these foetuses. These are much-longed for pregnancies of grief-stricken parents who are frequently deserted by the state and left to balance their humanity with their hopes in stigmatised isolation. More often that not, these parents are treated as if they don’t exist at all.

The expression “Sometimes, these children are treated as if they were never alive at all” is incredibly insensitive but entirely accurate within the context of church and state. Ms O’Brien also states “Grief cannot be evaded or hurried. There are events in life that leave you reeling, and reaching for answers that just don’t come. But rituals help.”

One couldn’t agree more. However, for decades, these rituals were not afforded by the church and state to Irish women who had miscarried or whose children were stillborn. Women whose unborn and born babies were not afforded recognition or granted status until recent years. Babies who until recently were considered non-entities, denied the sacrament of baptism or a burial with dignity. Babies who were clumsily and insensitively discarded in hospitals.

As an emigrant who left Ireland for more equitable shores during the oppressive 1980s, the echoes of persistent hypocrisy in Ms. O’Brien’s concern continues to send a chill down the spine.

Is mise le meas

Professor Fiachra O’Bualla
Institute of Clannad Enya Studies
Department of Celtic Mythology
University of Missouri

2. The uppity passive aggressive letter with subtle feminist undertones


There is a fine line between RTÉ giving due coverage to Leo Varadkar’s disclosure of his sexual orientation, and spectacularly exploiting it with a toe-curlingly embarrassing sensationalist headline spectacle replete with ‘in studio’ analysis from ‘Emotional State Expert’, David Davin Power.

Mr. Davin Power helpfully pointed out that Minister Varadkar appeared “somewhat nervous” prior to sharing this information on his personal life. I was able to put this insight together with my other information, which included a few condescending remarks on his “prior achievements”, and the certainty that the bulletin would have worked equally well as a news parody in a mature democratic republic.

david davin power

“Yes, Eileen, I can confirm all Ministers did arrive by a mode of transport this morning”

Finally, one wondered why the Correspondent on The Obvious was not positioned outside the Dáil to lend it the weight of gravitas afforded other government related stories, however irrelevant their location. Martina Fitzgerald would no doubt have braved it. But then RTÉ are well-used to leaving women out in the cold.

Yours etc.

Liadain O’Banshee
Chairperson Leitrim Women’s Council

3. The ‘hilarious’ witty two-liner letter


According to Minister Brendan Howlin, the people of Ireland have “lost sight of the depth of the economic crisis”.

Will this mean another tax penalty imposed on them as punishment?

Yours etc.

David Thompson
Dublin 4

A letter to Katie Hopkins

Dear Katie

Congratulations on your crusade to cure folk of their sugar addiction, and reverse their innate laziness that has them lounging extravagantly on their sofas comforting themselves with endless packets of Oreos. And, if they’re lucky, an entire box of snowballs. Ryan Tubridy would challenge the most disciplined of viewer not to follow suit. If anyone was going to inspire us to throw it all back up and avoid further calorie consumption , it could only have been you.

Of course, I mean that in the involuntary sense of the term ‘throw up’, lest this be interpreted as promoting bulimic type behaviour. A condition that can also be filed away under the eye-rolled, inverted-comma’d notion of “issues” you fleetingly alluded to during your enlightening “interview” (massive eye-roll) with Turbridy last night. Best ignore this end of the eating disorder spectrum anyway since the shame and self-loathing worn by its victims is conveniently less visible than that of the latest receptacles for your unique brand of activism. Which turns out to be not unlike the cheap ready-meals that have you recoiling in horror – takes roughly 5 minutes preparation , lacks any (moral) fibre, and leaves one craving something more substantial.

In ridding the world of the scourge of fat people, it is your express intention to stem the flow of funds pouring into the treatment of obesity related illnesses from the pockets of the tax payer. Most notably your own. Few would take umbrage with the exasperation felt by tax-payers at the questionable use of precious public funds.  Your anxiety is not unfounded.

As a graduate of economics, you will have a more rounded understanding of the generation and uneven distribution of national wealth and the corresponding inequalities that the trickle down fantasy of liberal capitalism has only served to widen.  You may even have awareness of the complex relationship between the unregulated sugar industry and the disproportionately higher consumption of low-cost products by those on lower incomes.  As a former employee of the British Army, even you will have raised an impeccably plucked brow at the annual defence bill. As a devout Tory supporter, you will have impaled yourself on various elite-friendly economic and social policies that maintain the status quo. As a privately educated, privileged, white woman, you will have little insight to the impact all of this has on the lives and survival psychology of those hovering on either side of the poverty line.

Few would argue with the need to liberate children from the fatalistic consequences of obsesity with anything other than a sense of urgency. But in promoting responsible behaviours among parents and citizens, you might also look to your peers. Those bloated with income security, tying gastric bands around their privileges, feasting on the fat dripping from tax breaks, ill-gotten corporate gains, reckless gambling, and catastrophic bank bail-outs , all bouyed up by the taxes of the same fat people you seek to ridicule. Those presiding over the uneven protection of wealth that bankrupts citizens, puncturing the wheels of public services and diverting investment away from opportunities that can mobilise “the undisciplined” up off their “fat arses” towards the prospect of a more rewarding future. Those formulating government policies that will further exacerbate their plight. imagesBGE9HGEC

Disentangling the complexity of individual lives and responsibilities from those of society and economics, takes longer than five minutes in a mental microwave, or another irrelevant blog post. But unless the fight against obesity gives consideration to the causes of the causes of unhealthy behaviours, and the determinants of health in their entirety, all you’re serving up is the intellectual and moral equivalent of a Big Mac. I usually have fries with mine. And a strawberry milkshake on a bad day. Today I wouldn’t half mind dipping Tubridy in a vat of that gooey curry sauce but I doubt it’d leave me satisfied.

Looking forward to seeing how the project progresses on that obscure satellite TV Channel soon.


Birgitte Nyborg v Lucinda Creighton

Clare. Just like I pictured it; skyscrapers and everything. Well, a supremely cool lighthouse in Loop Head, anyway. And, Gee, those Cliffs of Mo-hair sure are awesome. The place will always have a piece of my average-sized heart. And possibly some disturbing reverb from my occasional roars at Lucinda Creighton on the box.

Our visit last year coincided with the sleep-deprived government debates on the implementation of Ireland’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. Based on the 1992 Supreme Court Ruling, it allows for limited rights to abortion on the grounds of the threat to the life of the woman, and the threat of suicide by the woman.

After months of protracted hearings and debate, and days of will she or won’t she, the Bill was finally passed and Lucinda was shown the door from her parliamentary party. The one she took great care to remind us, repeatedly, she was forced to prise open and slam shut with the might of her own unrivalled courage and conviction.

Two developments collided on the venn diagram of public opinion to produce her magical beatification.

Firstly, Creighton was upfront and unequivocal in her opposition to provision for the threat of suicide.  A high profile junior minister challenging party directive. Her beliefs aired in adherence with the availability of free speech. But by the time the vote came round, Creighton was not the last opponent standing. Six of her colleagues were expelled from Fine Gael following their defiance of party policy by voting against it.

Secondly, the media, having cynically played Creighton’s resoluteness off against similar concerns from her female colleagues, soon forgot the other 24 Dáil members who voted against the Bill. Focus rapidly zoomed in on Michelle Mulherin’s U-turn as evidence of a lack of sufficient moral conviction and selfish careerist motives. In turn, the weight of Lucinda’s unyielding convictions won her the higher moral ground.

With the exception of Vincent Browne, this narrative appeared to go unchallenged by the mainstream media. Over the following days, Lucinda’s bravery frontloaded the headlines. By this stage, it was Lucinda who was providing most of the commentary from what appeared to be a temporary altar built on the shoulders of cameramen and microphones. A new secular saint was born.

Danish TV drama is not a clinically approved petri-dish for lab analysis of Irish politics, but like much of popular culture, it has its usefulness in showing us something about how the world works. Watching Borgen over the year since these queasy events has helped shaped a few questions that were achingly absent during the carnival.

Birgitte Nyborg is the impossibly charismatic leader of The Moderates, a centre-left party occupying the ruling seat in the governing coalition. As PM of Denmark, Nyborg presides over the usual dilemmas pertaining to a range of domestic (welfare reform, criminal justice, immigration) and international (rendition flights, international trade, war and humanitarian intervention) affairs. Negotiating policy is based on skilfully balancing trade-offs between those ideologies among her coalition partners and opposition, with the best possible outcome for the common good of the Country and its citizens. Or pragmatism, in short. Backed up by commendable communication skills. It is classically Danish in its leftist leanings. To illustrate the complexity of fixed morals in the political bear pit of government, Nyborg emerges as an exemplar of a liberal idealist forced to surrender to seemingly unpalatable compromises.

Negative public opinion against her intensifies the longer she fails to bow to internal pressure to upgrade spend on military hardware in the wake of Danish peacekeeping casualties in Iraq. She caves in. Proposed early retirement age leaps up and down as the policy pieces are moved around the chess board. They settle on a half-way year. Business oligarchs are courted and double-bluffed. Everyone’s a winner. The cracks in capitalism are assumed, but the purest form of liberal policies prove an ineffective panacea alone.

More than once, Nyborg is accused of undermining her party’s ideals and the lines between political necessity and retention of power at all costs become blurred. Are the risks she takes to pitch for the role of mediator between two warring African countries indicative of the vanity and glory-seeking many accuse her of, or her fundamental humanitarian impulses she cannot ethically ignore? Probably both.

Was Michelle Mulherin’s U-turn a case of outright redundancy protection, a simple case of toeing the party-line, or surrendering to the will of the people?

Was Lucinda’s steely reserve in the face of party discipline purely a case of moral conviction at a heavy price, a self-serving move that elevated her public profile, or an exercise in placing personal conviction above consensus and the will of the electorate?

We’ll never really know. Partly because the prevailing responses to these questions came only from Lucinda.

Fine Gael was upfront in its coalition deal with its governing partners. The Bill was to be passed. It was informed by a Court ruling mandated by the electorate in a referendum 20 years previously. Time for a cabinet to do its work for the common good long built on electoral consensus. A no-brainer. The issue of conscience a moot point.  As Vincent Browne emphatically pointed out throughout – abortion is already available to Irish women if they have sufficient means, and an acceptable form of identification for Ryanair, to have one. Nyborg would credit the electorate and her cabinet with more cop than wilful border blindness and hypocrisy.

At no point during the media spectacle was Lucinda asked to consider the worth of the moral convictions of those who voted as a matter of conscience. Those ‘brave’ Dáil members who used their conscience as an instrument to balance personal and party ideologies with the best possible outcome for the Country and its citizens. Pragmatism, in short. The stuff that progressive modern democratic politics is based on. Not parish pump politics in which progress is stifled or buoyed up by the mettle of individuals rarely tested. Nyborg hails from a tradition of the former; Ireland is built on the latter. The implementation of the Bill presented a break-away moment when fresh realities bubbling below the surface for two decades would finally flower. When notions of bravery and conviction would be re-defined.

As an individual who felt stifled by her party directive, Creighton was free to declare her position, bare her fangs, and bow out. As an accidental arbiter on standards of political conscientiousness, it was a role she cheerfully grabbed from a willing media. Nyborg would not have been arrogant enough to accept such a misplaced honour.

That any of these women share similar genitalia should be neither here nor there, but stories of halos and villains in battles involving wombs are always easier to write when women are the chief protagonists. As politicians, all of them, like their colleagues, and the parties to which they belong, are weak to overtures from compromise, party leaders, personal gain, and the will of the people.

Would the woman with the most courage of her moral convictions please stand up?

You can all sit down now. And Lucinda, please close the door gently behind you on your way out this time.

Has anyone seen the counter-culture anywhere?


Sorry, what was that? Where did I see it last?

Erm….let me think…mmmmm


Miriam O’Callaghan and David McWilliams had it. Again.

I suppose I should look there.

Well, whadaya know.

Give it back you cosy-consensus peddling fuckers. Our anti-establishment forefathersandmothers didn’t rebel for ‘debate’ to permanently end up in the lap of the establishment.

Don’t you be getting all angsty now, Fintan.


Minimised in the corner of this screen is a portal to the past in the shape of a photograph. It is of a teenage boy averting his gaze from his dancing partner to somewhere off camera as they shuffle awkwardly in their finery at their prom. Or debs. Or tracey. Or sharon. It scratches at my peripheral vision and I am compelled to open it again, study it, minimise, maximise, minimise. Its sender tells me the boy now shares his life with a woman in America, and has a teenage boy of his own with another.

The determination to stay social networking sober does not guarantee immunity from passive snooping. One click on a teasing email subject and I’m staring my past right in the spotty face.

Closer inspection reveals his partner as the one who replaced me. It was inevitable. A careless kiss with another would see to it that I had killed it as far as he was concerned. Our two years together survived parental interference brought on by intervention from the nuns brought on from the curiosity brought on by the early morning shadow that passed their windows. He would ease his way back out of my bedroom window at dawn, cross the field, and cut through the convent grounds before jumping behind the wall and in through his own. Huddled innocently together on my bed, we compared the size of our hands and lay still against the backdrop of quarrelling parents, bickering siblings and the Big Ben bells at 10 on the telly. The strip of light disappearing from beneath the door at midnight signalling the end of family strife.

The mattress replaced the steps by the parochial house where we sat after school. Right under the nose of those collared conquerors of passion. A daily ritual forged after a summer’s eyeballing on the Green from opposing teams in a season long game of rounders. We had already engaged in a heady exchange of compilation tapes, the intensity of commitment measured by the frequency of shared folks songs ‘with meaning’ (me), and power ballads and rock anthems (he). He was fourteen, quiet, with a fondness for all the wrong music, and Charles Bronson films. I was a year younger with a taste for colourful shoes, and my head (and sometimes my hair) in the clouds. Both of us about to find the other in the shape of our first love.

[several paragraphs later]

And then I emerged from my mother’s womb, totally naked. The shame.

The beginning.

Thanks Facebook. You are to the soul what Peppa Pig is to psychoanalysis.