Time’s Up, just not for poetic President

Time’s Up is a great campaign, and time’s up was a theme of the week. Time’s Up was established at the start of the year by a group of women in Hollywood to raise money to fight cases of sexual harassment, writes Michael Clifford.

Last Sunday at the Baftas a whole host of female stars wore black in solidarity with the campaign. The only one to demur was Frances McDormand, who won the Bafta for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but she expressed empathy with the campaign.

Time is being called on those who have always used power of one sort or another to sexually harass or abuse, mainly women, but also men.

The events of the last few months are encouraging, but the issue is as old as the hills. Hopefully, the campaign will spread right into the parts of the world where women’s rights remain in the dark ages.

Is time up for Neanderthal attitudes towards women in general? One incident last week suggests there may be a way to go.

While attitudes towards women are changing across the world and as the deluge of allegations subsides, the dreary chambers of county councils are emerging once again. (With apologies to Mr Churchill).

At a meeting of Kerry County Council last week, Fine Gael’s Aoife Thornton was told by the chairman and party colleague, John Sheehan, that she should “get the hair dyed blonde” if she wanted speaking time.

Ms Thornton, who combines her public representation with a solicitor’s practice and rearing three small children, had tried to get speaking time at the meeting.

Then she jokingly mentioned that she had worn a yellow jacket in the hope of not being overlooked. Her colleague suggested she could do something with her hair colouring to further her case.

When it did come to her turn to speak she was nearly drowned out with the laughing and shouting in response to the elevated wit and repartee set loose in the male-dominated chamber.

How would it have gone down if one of the five women in the 33-member council made a joke about councillors sporting beer bellies, or having no hair at all worth colouring?

Councillor Sheehan did apologise for the remark on radio the following day, but the incident suggests that time is not yet up on some perceptions of women in politics.

Maybe somebody should get to work and plant three billboards outside Tralee to reflect the distance yet to be travelled from the 1950s in some quarters. The red boards could spell out: COUNCILLORS PREFER BLONDES.

Time’s up for another iconic shop in a city centre. After the announcement that Liam Russells bookshop in Cork is to close, it emerged during the week that Walton’s music shop in Dublin is to relocate a soulless shopping centre from its George Street store.

It’s one more step towards the Dystopian prospect of city streets dominated by shops bearing global brands and peopled by staff who talk with demented cheerfulness in acquired American accents.

Any quirkiness or independent thought is to be dispatched into a consumer wilderness. Time’s up on the unique character of various cities and towns in the State. Was it for this the women of 1916 went out and fought and were forgotten about?

With all this change at least time appears to be on the side of one national institution.

It emerged during the week from sources “familiar with the president’s thinking” that Michael D Higgins intends to run for a second term.

The first thing to observe here is that the source of the story should be identifiable as there are a very limited number of minds like Michael D’s.

Being familiar with his thinking is a state that would be confined to a few fellow intellectuals.Let’s face it, Michael D is a breath of fresh air in a public sphere of managerial politicians who look like they have just arrived blow-dried from the gym.

He gives good speeches. I saw him deliver one last year on the evolution of the world economy since the Bretton Woods conference at the end of the Second World War. He expounded on the shortcoming of various economic theorists, the proliferation of neo-liberalism and the consequent reaction on what he called “the European street”.

There was both eating and drinking in the speech, even if he lost me around the 1970s oil crisis.

The point is, you might not know what he’s talking about but deep in your maw you know it must be great stuff.

Apart from having an enormous brain Michael D knows how to eat with the right knives and forks at state banquets.

More importantly, though, he is a poet, a real, living, breathing poet who can compose verse between courses at state banquets, while multitasking by engaging with visiting guests and their banalities.

Do foreign heads of state come here and meet this man who can articulate on the deep recesses of the human condition through the English language and then compare him to the president of the United States who is barely functionally literate?

They must all go home and tell their people that the Irish are a fierce crowd altogether for the poetry and you couldn’t find a sweeter place to relocate all technology companies, irrespective of the low corporate tax rate.

The naysayers point to Michael D’s age. Yet, he will be no older than Eamon DeValera, who occupied the office well into his 80s. Dev owed much of his popularity to the legend that grew out of his participation in the 1916 Rising.

Michael D is an avid fan of Galway United, a heroic pursuit at the best of times.

For those who claim that Michael D’s time is up, the obvious question is who would do a better job. The only candidate to declare thus far is senator Gerard Craughwell, a competent man who has brought fresh thinking to the Seanad.

But, pray tell, has he ever as much as had a run at putting together a nursery rhyme, not to mind an actual poem?

Does he know how we got here as a civilisation? Does he have access to what’s going down on the European street?

Has he ever endured a League of Ireland match on the western seaboard in the dog days of winter?

So perhaps time is on Michael D’s side. As the world spins through change, surely we need something to remind us that there is more to life than consuming, more to culture than Netflix, more to the presidency than cutting ribbons.


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