herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Model Lynn's trial by social media is bad ... but gemma's court decision is shocking

Two Irish beauty queens were in the news this week, both having courted controversy for very different reasons, but both cases re-igniting the debate about "role models".

Lynn Kelly's "offence" was to post a scantily-clad picture of herself on social media, during a lingerie-based fashion show, which showed off her thin figure and inevitably provoked an outbreak of scorn for supposedly sending out the wrong message about body image to young Irish women.

This "role model" tag is, of course, mostly a lot of twaddle.

The idea that an Irish model losing weight is going to provoke a outbreak of bulimia amongst teenage girls, while a show like Operation Transformation - which charts even greater weight loss - is held up as "empowering" and "life-changing", is an absurd double standard.

MEASURED

And Lynn herself was perfectly measured in her reply, pointing out that: "I train hard every day and eat extremely healthily... the fashion industry is not to blame for how I look. I choose to look this way."

While Lynn was being criticised from all angles, however, former Miss Limerick Gemma Reilly was receiving only the most minor of censures from a judge, after having been caught driving at an eye-watering 187kmph - nearly 120 miles per hour.

Choosing not to disqualify Gemma, but simply fine her €500, Judge Durcan commented that: "I am not disqualifying you because you have been absolutely honest in how you have dealt with the matter and I want to commend you on that."

This judgment drew criticism from Gay Byrne, former head of the Road Safety Authority, who pointed out the appalling message that this fine sends out to other motorists.

"She was doing an outrageous speed. And she was outrageously lucky in the treatment she received from the judge," he said.

Gay is absolutely right in being baffled at why she should be shown such leniency, as the judge's logic is bizarre. "If I had detected any element of dishonesty in your evidence I would have disqualified you, but I must say I found your honesty refreshing," Judge Durcan said.

Gemma's honesty involved her saying that she was speeding simply because she was late for a dental appointment, and "I was driving my mother's car and didn't realise how fast I was going ... I have never been speeding before".

ENCOURAGE

It's an admission which, ironically, makes her offence even more serious. Because if she has never driven a car at more than 120kmph, she was dangerously ill-equipped to suddenly be driving at nearly 190kmph on a public road.

It is a bizarre state of affairs when a model being honest about her figure draws condemnation, but a model being honest about driving dangerously draws praise.

Because while Lynn Kelly's snap might conceivably encourage a few women to lose weight, the treatment of Gemma Reilly would surely encourage every motorist in Ireland to break the law, knowing that if they are "honest" in court, they will escape with a slap on the wrist.

Lynn Kelly's trial by social media is bad enough.

But even more shocking is the trial of Gemma Reilly by the Irish courts.

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