This week’s decision by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to ban a Christmas radio advertisement by the Catholic booksellers Veritas would be laughable if it was not so very dangerous, so sinisterly hypocritical and so utterly, mind-numbingly stupid and wrong.
The ruling is active intolerance made real and is an affront to the ethos of an inclusive, confident and strong Republic.
Though it must be recognised that the BCI must fulfil its mandate however daft there is a degree of subjectivity in the ruling that is as enraging as it is mind blowing.
Imagine the great furore, the indignation, the high-volume angst-fest on Joe Duffy’s Liveline if an advertisement with the same text advocating, say, the Church of Ireland, Falun Gong or Sean Nós dancing was banned.
There would be questions in the Dáil. Some unfortunate junior minister would be thrown to the wolves and forced to promise a review — code for climb down — to restore the multicultural peace.
In handing down its bizarre ruling the BCI said mentioning Christmas in an on-air advertisement and reading out the website address could cause offence.
Offence? If someone chooses to be offended by the mention of Christmas or a website in an advertisement suggesting that there may be a dimension to the celebration other than a credit-card marathon, then let them be offended. Let them be as offended as they like. And then let them be offended some more and remember that this is a Republic that tolerates all religions and all views. Everyone can advocate their cause, no one can impose their beliefs. Unless of course you are an official, but unelected, watchdog like BCI.
This is an ongoing farce. Last year at the insistence of the BCI, Veritas, which is owned by the Catholic bishops of Ireland, had to remove the word “crib” from an advertisement before it could be broadcast.
Why? The Christmas crib is as much a part of our culture as shamrock on St Patrick’s Day. In reality the power of its message has been greatly diminished and for a considerable number of people it is more about pageantry than symbolism.
All of this would be just embarrassing if we did not live in a world where, in 30 seconds, an internet search engine will track down genuinely offensive and exploitative advertising. If we did not live in a country where women are auctioned, trafficked and enslaved to sustain our growing sex industry.
This is not about hankering for the bad old days when the archbishop threw the ball in at the All Ireland. This is about curtailing the power of an intrusive and unwelcome nanny state. This is about confronting censorship. This is about an attack on the true pluralism that sustains any genuine republic.
The BCI ruling is wrong and it must be reversed.