herald

Monday 23 October 2017

In a week which witnessed Fine Gael's brazen cronyism - and their pathetic attempts to explain away appointments which would have caused even Fianna Fail cause for concern - politicians weren't alone in taking the art of waffle to new levels.

In a week which witnessed Fine Gael's brazen cronyism - and their pathetic attempts to explain away appointments which would have caused even Fianna Fail cause for concern - politicians weren't alone in taking the art of waffle to new levels.

The various representatives from Irish Water who braved the airwaves in recent days to face questions resembled nothing less than the old men and children the Third Reich sent into the streets to try to hold back the Red Army in 1945.

Outnumbered, outgunned and apparently without clear direction or leadership, you'd wonder just how much was spent coaching them - all at our expense, of course.

Honestly, you could smell the nerves coming off the radio.

Still, there's always a laugh to be had elsewhere, not least with the claim that one of Gerry Adams' key speeches at a crucial time in the Peace Process was written for him by a top British civil servant.

debauchery

Well, Adams did take Her Majesty's shilling (plus expenses)as an MP so why not avail of the services of someone who can actually construct a proper sentence while he's at it?

Meanwhile, some of you may have noticed posters for something called Guinness Amplify about the place.

Well, following scenes of drunken debauchery you'd normally only encounter on Paddy's Day the good folk at Diageo decided to pull the plug on Arthur's Day this year.

Personally, I reckon they did us a favour, if only to prevent radio stations playing the truly awful songs complaining about the event from Christy Moore and The Waterboys.

Amplify at least spreads live music around the country and into several smaller venues, rather than having thousands of pissed-up students and assorted scobies piling into town on the same evening and turning the city centre into even more of a no-go area than it already is.

I've certainly no problem with a few low-key gigs celebrating one of the country's most iconic products.

If Guinness covers free shows in genuine music joints like, say, JJ Smyth's then there's no harm done at all - despite the grievances held by Mssrs Moore and Scott.

Coincidentally enough, this week I also happened upon the fact that Arthur Guinness (the father of 21 children, so he must have been getting the good stuff) was so staunchly opposed to the United Irishmen that his brew was known for generations as 'Guinness's black Protestant porter'.

Naturally, that didn't stop people consuming it by the barrel-load but it was just one of many little gems to be found in From Clery's Clock to Wanderly Wagon - Irish History You Weren't Taught at School, by Damian Corless.

A colleague and friend of mine going back years, Damian specialises in delving though the past to find quirky little gems which, as is the way of such things, give a more rounded aspect to the bigger picture of Irishness in all its many forms.

I lost count of the number of times the phrase 'God, I'd forgotten about that' went through my head as a piece on how music being played upstairs on Dublin's buses led to a political row in 1977, after Fianna Fail worked a song into an advertisement.

gems

Then there's the fact that we gave the world the cheese'n'onion crisp (Seamus Burke of Tayto, take a bow), invented the Irish Coffee and the almost certain knowledge that the first potato and tobacco plants to be grown in Europe took root on Sir Walter Raleigh's estate in Co Cork.

The book is full of similar gems, all presented wittily in easily digested short chapters.

An ideal toilet book, in other words, and with a certain time of the year coming up the timing of publication couldn't be better.

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