Saturday 24 March 2018

Bernard's show lacks punch

I LIKE Bernard Dunne. Everybody, I'd venture, likes Bernard Dunne. What's not to like? He was a great boxer and a terrific champion.

He's also a wonderful advocate for his beloved home patch, Neilstown in Clondalkin, an area that's taken more of a battering in the media down the years than the one Bernard administered to Ricardo Cordoba to become WBA super bantamweight champion in 2009.

His success hasn't pulled him away from his roots. "I wouldn't want to go living in a fancy area," he said, pointing out that his current house is just two minutes from where he was standing.

Bernard is also a pretty good television presenter, vibrant, immensely likeable and blessed with natural on-screen charisma. But you get the distinct feeling from the opening part of Bernard Dunne's Brod Club that he's fighting a losing battle.

I confess I had to ask our youngest daughter, who's in her last year at primary school, what "brod" meant. When it comes to the Irish language, I'm a willing ignoramus, and I suspect I'm far from alone.

Whatever little bit of the so-called native tongue I had as a child has long vanished, more through indifference than neglect. Having it caned into you as a child by state-sponsored lunatic in a tweed jacket tends to breed a lifelong aversion.

For the record, "brod" translates as "proud". So Bernard -- whose love of Irish was rekindled while he was in America, of all places -- is on a six-week mission to restore people's pride in the language and get them to re-engage with it.

Bernard's not out to single-handedly revive a dying (dead?) language, nor does he expect anyone to be able to speak it fluently. His aim with Brod Club is to recruit "100,000 reborn users of Gaeilge", who'll use whatever focail they have in their daily lives.

To this end, he's roped in what he called "a pretty motley bunch of personalities", including, among others, Brendan Courtney, Paul McGrath, Jennifer Maguire, Ray Foley, Kamal Ibrahim (aka Mr Ireland) and Fiona Looney, who offered the following wisdom: "Just because not a lot of people speak it doesn't mean it has no value." Looney also coined the Brod Club's T-shirt slogan, "Get back on the capall".

Aside from his celebrity friends, Bernard's other tools are local advocacy, publicity stunts and guerrilla tactics, the first of which was a flashmob event featuring the Dublin City Choir performing U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For as Gaeilge to the Sunday morning crowds at the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre. (You'll be pleased to know it sounds less pompous in Irish.)

Apparently, 1,602 people had signed up for Brod Club by last Sunday. Kevin Myers, however, the lone dissenting voice here, is not one of them. Describing the Irish language as "redundant to Irishness", Myers said it was "false and deluded" to suggest people are somehow "more Irish because they speak Irish".

I wouldn't care to get into a ring to argue a point with Bernard Dunne, but I'm in Myers's corner on this one.

There were moments during Breast Cancer: No Laughing Matter, comedian Anne Gildea's frank documentary about her (thankfully triumphant) battle with the disease, when I thought: "I don't really want to watch this."

I'm not the squeamish type, so when Anne pulled down her hospital gown and showed us the result of her mastectomy, I didn't feel revulsion; merely sadness and sympathy -- in so far as a man can feel sympathy for a woman he doesn't know personally whom life has dealt such a cruel hand.

What made this film-cum-video diary difficult to watch were the moments of intimacy between Anne and her siblings, Una and Kevin, also a comedian. Television is the most powerful and persuasive medium, yet there are still places where it shouldn't intrude.

This felt like one of them.

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