Allow the Kingdom and gardaí their moment

Like a Trumpian election, or a Brexit vote, the public element of Dancing with the Stars has given vent to deep prejudices which reflect badly on large swathes of the nation, writes Michael Clifford

Dayl Cronin and his dance partner Ksenia Zsihotska with RTÉ presenter Ryan Tubridy.

Dancing with the Stars has, in a single episode, descended from light entertainment to a repository for dark forces. 

Like a Trumpian election, or a Brexit vote, the public element of the RTÉ programme has given vent to deep prejudices which reflect badly on large swathes of the nation.

As the lights dimmed on the studio on Sunday evening, it was already becoming apparent that there exists in society corrosive resentment towards two sub-groups who soar like eagles on this island — those who are of Kerry and those who are of An Garda Síochána.

By way of explanation: recently retired Kerry footballer and serving garda Aidan O’Mahony was voted into the final of the TV competition at the expense of former boyband something or other, a lad by the name of Dayl Cronin.

Dayl may not be a star in the sense that we understand the term, but many felt he was far better down there for dancing than was Mahony (the ‘O is an optional extra in Kerry). Yet it was the latter man who got voted through by the public.

The reaction in cyberspace was swift, vile and pregnant with resentment.

“Devastated for Dayl. You can’t trust Kerry people with a phone.,” went one tweet.

And then this: “Poor Dayl he’s a great dancer but no match for the gardaí, GAA and all of county Kerry.”

There was more and more. “I don’t know about the rest of ye but I blame the gardaí” came another tweet, followed by: “Let’s cut all the landlines in Kerry for next week’s final.”

By yesterday, the dam of hatred had burst. Dayl was nursing his defeat on Ryan Tubridy’s radio show where messages were coming through about “parochial voting” and something about “better dancers had to leave because of strong GAA votership”.

The idea that either Kerry folk or the gardaí would compromise their integrity and honesty to vote through one of their own is not just insulting but deeply wounding.

Take Kerry people first. The late John B Keane once handed down the tablet which set out the responsibility that Kerry people have. (While his dictat described the male of the species, he was a gender neutral philosopher.)

“Being a Kerryman,” he stated, “is the greatest gift God can bestow on any man... in belonging to Kerry you belong to the elements, to the spheres spinning in the Heavens. You belong to history and language and romance and ancient song. It is almost unbearable being a Kerryman and it is an awesome responsibility.”

In that frame, it is understandable that some would use Mahoney’s victory as an excuse to drag down Kerry people.

But the outpouring of prejudice also infers that those from the Kingdom do not take seriously that “awesome responsibility” conferred by John B. How could any Kerry person betray the awesome responsibility bestowed at birth for the paltry price of a rogue vote in a light entertainment show? To infer such a betrayal is a slur of the most grievous order.

Equally, members of An Garda Síochána would never compromise their integrity in interpreting dance moves simply to promote one of their own. A few years back a tribunal judge noted that “in An Garda Síochána loyalty is valued above honesty”.

There is not, however, a scintilla of evidence that such priorities would ever pertain when it comes to the deadly serious business of dancing. A guard knows a good mover when he sees one.

So pack up your prejudices and accept that Mahony is in the final by the democratic will of RTÉ viewership throughout the State. The fella can put on his red shoes and dance the blues as well as the next man.

His advancement, while entirely legit, does present the two relevant subgroups with solace at a deeply troubling time. For the gardaí, up to their oxters in tribunals and whistleblowers and strike threats, the prospect of a member excelling at anything provides welcome distraction.

And for Kerry folk, suffering another blow from the rampaging Dubs just 24 hours before Mahony donned his jewel-encrusted tie, there is the prospect of winning something this year.

If Sam Maguire is staying put in the capital, at least a former warrior might show up with a cup for throwing shapes of a different hue. Not that such considerations would ever impinge on the awesome responsibility that comes with being of Kerry. No way, José.

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