It has taken me a couple of weeks to get over Dave McGarry’s death and judging by the amount of e-mails and comments received, I would guess his death has disturbed a great number of people and him a Catholic priest whose stock as a group of people has been lowered considerably over the last few years. It just shows you what affect you can have on people if you are honest, decent, humble and above all, one of the people you are trying to help. Everybody I have ever met thought the world of him.
However time moves on and while Dave’s memory lingers longer than most, there are lots of things happening in this great big world of ours that suggest 2013 could be a cataclysmic year for the people who are Dave’s antithesis, those that are dishonest, not decent, conceited and above all live outside the lives of normal people. These in the main are politicians and those of that ilk.
Anyway and to try and change the tack slightly of this piece, I have been having another few visits to Dublin, which if you approach it from the right angle is a very fine city indeed. This luxury of visits has only been allowed to me because of my free travel pass granted by their gracious majesty, the Irish Government, this being only given to me after they had considered my advanced years and decided I can be no harm to anybody and therefore let me roam about for nothing on their whim.
Last Saturday, spouse and I visited the Abbey Theatre once more for Frank McGuinness’ adaptation of James Joyce’s short story The Dead from his book The Dubliners. An excellent production which has been sold out throughout its run. We were lucky to get tickets but I have to confess to a little insider dealing. McGuiness taught my daughter at UCD. The performances of Rosaleen Linehan and Lorcan Cranitch, as mother and son Malins, stole the show. Two wonderful actors and so I am told two very nice people indeed. The whole direction was wonderful, interlaced with the songs and music of Thomas Moore but if there was to be a second run, I think possibly the ending needs a coat of looking at. I saw it again last night courtesy of the theatre’s internal television but I still cannot decide whether it is the writing or the acting which leaves one to think that improvement might help. However I am one voice and everybody on both nights seemed completely happy with what they saw.
On Wednesday, I was back again in my role as General Secretary of the Connaught Rangers Association, an Association formed to uphold the memory of that great regiment of the British Army, from the West of Ireland, that fought with valour in all campaigns from 1793 until 1922 when it was disbanded when Ireland gained its Independence. I had been invited by Lar Joye, the Curator of the National Museum at Collins Barracks in Dublin for the opening of a French Government inspired exhibition of 300 years of a French/Irish military relationship. It had originally been exhibited at Les Invalides in Paris and lifted lock stock and barrel and stuck into a small space in Collins Barracks to celebrate the recent elevation of Ireland to the Presidency of the European Union.
I went to see it from a historical context and what it could be all about. 300 years of a military association is an awful long time in military history and my fears were immediately confirmed. It was offered by the French Ambassador, an educated lady who made her every word stand out clear and she told a few rugby jokes about Clermont Ferrand. The response was by Jimmy Deenihan, the Irish Cultural Minister, he of the broken nose, who muttered words for 10 minutes which nobody could either hear or understand, par for the course for an Irish cabinet minister I would say.
The audience consisted of about 300 typical first nighters, several senior Irish Army and Air Force officers and one or two giants of men from the French Army with a surfeit of medals on their chests. The first nighters are a typical bunch of people, dressed to the nines, able to talk on any subject without listening to what the subject is about and really there for the free food and drink that is synonymous with these occasions. The French were paying for this one so the quality of both looked good. I sum it all up as garrulous gluttony. It shows how interested they all were in the purpose of the evening when only about 10% went forward to look at the exhibition.
The show, straight from Paris was of course en francais with little pedestals giving an English translation in very small script. It was obvious that it had been cobbled together in a hurry, the whole thing was poor and by its nature very small. This incomprehensible military association between the two countries was what I could not get my head round. The organisers had hung their hat on the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 when the Irish Brigade, commanded by a chap called Butler, I think, helped save the day for the French and in the process lost 700 men.
But you cannot hang your hat of 300 years association on nine hours of one battle when 20,000 men were killed 267 years ago. There was little else, although the Irish Brigade lasted in one form or another until about 1820 with Irish officers in the main leading French allied soldiers, who were eventually knocked about something awful by Wellington’s Connaught Rangers in the Iberian Wars. There was nothing else for the last 192 years except for individual acts of bravery by Irish men and women which had nothing at all to do with military association. In the Great War 1914 – 1918 the 350,000 Irish men who volunteered were not there fighting for France but for little Belgium amongst many and other causes but certainly not France’s I meant to ask Deenihan where was the Irish military association in late 1939 and early 1940 when Hitler was grinding France under his heel, where was Mr DeValera’s thoughts on military association but old Jimmy was at the back of the hall laughing and joking as only politicians can in this day and age. I felt sorry for Lar Joye for having to be curator of this political crap and bring it to his museum but he has bosses as well. It was all a very tenuous hook onto which to hang a very oversized political hat.
I was glad of the dross, it allowed me to get away early and back to the Abbey I went, as the audience was entering their seats for last night’s performance and from a seat in the foyer I watched the show on the the internal television system. Not only watched the show but watched the young staff clean up after the crowd and bring the front of house back to normality. They were a pleasure to watch and if all young folk were like them, the world would be a far better place. Congratulations The Abbey Theatre once again.
One final word of congratulation goes to Irish Rail or Iarnrod Eirenn, if I have it spelled correctly. I have been up and down to Dublin many times in the last year and every time the train has arrived on time but more importantly it has always reached its destination in time, the coaches are warm and comfortable, the snack trolley is attentive and regular and Connolly Station is always a pleasure to arrive at and then onto the jewel in the crown which is the yet to be completed Luas, a tram arrangement that whisks you about the main parts of Dublin without fuss and again in comfort and with great frequency. It is an absolute pleasure to congratulate public transport working properly and efficiently.