Neil Prendeville and the national ‘Do you know who I am?’ syndrome

BEHIND all the slick explanations interspersed with some orchestrated craw-thumping on behalf of Neil Prendeville, only Claire O’Sullivan realises what is truly at stake (Irish Examiner, November 4/6).

The ‘Do you know who I am?’ syndrome has been debilitating Irish society for generations and has made a mockery of any notions we might have that we live in a republic.

Status, self-importance and all the trappings of wealth are enough to dazzle the more deluded among us. It was the same grovelling attitude to status that allowed the blight of clerical child molestation to spread in this country, unchecked by ecclesiastical authorities or secular authorities, such as the Garda Siochána and the political class.

Status and wealth also blinded us to the recklessness of the banks’ CEOs and the incompetence of the Financial Regulator. These people all took advantage of the ‘Do you know who I am?’ syndrome which makes the law an ass (to paraphrase Mr Bumble in Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Claire O’Sullivan is no ‘sob sister’ – but the ‘agony uncles’ of the radio seem to have no idea that the majority of intelligent people in this country see an urgent need for a thorough hosing-down of a rotten structure called The State. Our politicians can talk about the “green shoots” of economic renewal until they are blue in the face, but unless the justice system is seen to be fair and equitable we will once again slip into a moral swamp.

The Neil Prendeville ‘embarrassment’ reflects not only the ‘Do you know who I am?’ syndrome but also the ‘Ah, sure t’will do’ attitude of Aer Lingus to what is on the statute books as a criminal offence. Its failure to follow regulations on passenger behaviour is an insult to women in particular.

We are still behind the Americans in relating the digestive processes involved in the consumption of food and drink with reflex actions but, given time, we should hear our own version of the ‘Twinkie defence’ in Irish courts – that is, of course, if such a case ever gets to court in the lumbering and lethargic Irish judicial system. The Twinkie defence, as it is mockingly called, relates to a 1979 murder trial in which a man called Dan White shot to death the mayor and another prominent public official named Harvey Milk in San Francisco.

No attempt was made by Mr White’s defence team to suggest he suffered from lacto-intolerance but his consumption of junk food, such as Twinkie bars, and sugar-laden drinks for some time prior to the crime was deemed to be significant by the defence.

That ploy didn’t work in Dan White’s favour. The widow of a man who fatally shot 22 people in a McDonalds in San Diego said the monosodium glutamate (a food additive) in McDonalds’ food was partly to blame for her husband’s murderous rage.

As Pat Kenny opined about Neil Prendeville’s alleged activity, “nobody died”. The sheer brilliance of this observation should entitle the media ‘celebrities’– along with a gaggle of ‘celebrity’ solicitors – to be judge and jury in any future murder cases in which the victim is a woman and the accused is a man.

The message really is that if you’re not careful about what you ingest, you can turn into a Frankenstein monster or Incredible Hulk in the blink of an eye. Even water can have this transformative power, especially if you’re from Galway where the water supply is full of creepy-crawlies. The Tour de France is definitely out if you’re accused of cheating and blame the cough medicine you’ve taken that day. They have heard it all before. I congratulate Claire O’Sullivan for emphasising the underlying attitudes so starkly revealed on an Aer Lingus plane. Its disregard for its female staff and for any other female in close proximity to the incident is mind-boggling. The HSE appears to have been wasting its time and the taxpayers’ money in its advertising campaign to make us more hygiene-conscious.

Aer Lingus has been jokingly referred to as Aer Fungus and its ‘Do you know who I am?’ syndrome seems beyond redemption.

Maureen O’Donnell

Boreenmanna Road

Cork

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