Posts By Joe Horgan

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Our ‘Profound Indifference’ Towards Asylum Seekers?

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Enda Kenny in his apology in the Dail called it a ‘profound indifference.’ He said we were able to put the Magdalene women away because ‘for too many years we put away our conscience.’ He was talking of course about something that had been happening since the beginning of this state and which only finally came to an end in 1996. For Enda Kenny though and most of the audience the idea was that this, the horror that was the laundries, the sin that was the incarceration of innocent women, could all be blamed on the past, that what we were really talking about was 1950s Ireland, about a prejudice and snobbery and false piety that belonged to an Ireland that was now gone. Our ‘indifference’ belonged to the past, our buried ‘conscience’ was now unearthed. For ‘our’ indifference and conscience what we really meant was ‘theirs,’ those from the past. Them not us. Not us, at all.

Which is nice and comforting, isn’t it? As if we were confronting something when in essence we were just blaming it on those who went before. Like being absolved but of someone else’s sins. Still, the history of societies looking the other away, claiming not to have known what everyone really knew, has a sinister history, with even the worst state murders of the last century being characterised by that very thing. Thankfully, we are not within that sphere of inhumanity, but do we even want to share any of those social characteristics? Do we want to be another society that turned away, that buried our conscience, that lived by indifference, that ‘didn’t know’? Because we do know and if we don’t talk about it we are indifferent or putting away our conscience or lying.

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Enough of Apps

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I was at a poetry reading not so long ago when one of the poets made a great point of displaying the phone screen on which he had composed a poem and from which he was now going to read. I have to admit that the poem doesn’t stick in my mind though I’m not sure that is any reflection upon the quality of the work. I was simply too distracted. It felt a bit like finding a great pub with a decent counter and a fine pint when the barman suddenly flings on Sky Sports above your head and the whole space takes on a different dimension. Here too the technology worship, I thought. The acceptable bling. The cool consumerism. Not, I’ll admit, that my mind was on the truly nagging issues behind these Apple and Google sects, ‘the chaos that lies beneath’ them as one Observer journalist recently put it, the mined and rare materials neodymium and europium, the cobalt and coltan from the Congo over which people are killed, those factory camps in China with their nettings to prevent suicide. The hidden costs behind the latest must-have phone or laptop. No, to my shame I was merely lost in suggesting to myself that poetry is, perhaps, the ultimate in insecure arts. Damien Hirst and David Hockney are two widely known and acclaimed artists but I have spoken to quite a few artists, painters and sculptors who have freely admitted that, for all their acclaim, Hurst is widely recognised as at worst a charlatan and at best a mere salesman. Hockney is admired for his paintings but giggled at for his I-Pad creations. They don’t shy away. They know. Yet, as the poet Laureate in Britain launched a poetry App recently, among such true poets as Harry Enfield and David Cameron’s friend Helena Bonham-Carter, the one of whom the Irish actress Kathy Burke was so profoundly descriptive, how many of us wanted to, I don’t know, shout enough. Enough of this nonsense. Enough of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Or are we too frightened of being seen as reactionary, of being in opposition, as if the purchase of a phone was now the signifier of an open and adventurous mind. After all, despite those noises a few years back about the arts being the saviour of the economy we know deep down that market economics treats us with a deep indifference. We know that the School of Chicago economics, the reduction of everything to its market value, which is essentially the belief system we live under, leaves next to no room for poetry. Might that then explain Seamus Heaney’s praising of Eminem, or Carol Ann Duffy’s equating of poetry with texting or tweeting. I even read recently where one poet claimed that texts and tweets meant we were thinking harder about our writing than ever before. I tell you I LOL about that one. It’s all a bit desperate. It’s all a little bit like trying to get down with the kids. I mean I’m no spring chicken but even I cringed when Carol Ann Duffy praised the verbal dexterity of rapping by citing the Arctic Monkeys.

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The Gathering, Mr Varadkar, The Gathering

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It is not often I feel the need to praise someone who plays a public role in Irish life but this time I do. In an age obsessed with celebrity, where being famous is seen as an achievement itself rather than doing something notable that has the side effect of fame, keeping some space celebrity free is a necessity. Remember after all that this is a country in which last Christmas the Taoiseach Enda Kenny had a two hour meeting with the rock singer Bono to discuss, and I quote, ‘affairs of state.’ Yes, affairs of state. With a singer. I wonder did Dickie Rock get a meeting too. Or maybe that Irish fella that won Big Brother.  Or Brian O’Driscoll’s wife. Or that Mullingar kid in One Direction. Though perhaps, depending on their levels of fame, their time spent with the Taoiseach discussing ‘affairs of state’ was a bit shorter. No one, after all, is more famous than Bono. So forgive me if washing up in the kitchen the other day I was only half paying attention when the actor Gabriel Bryne popped up on the radio. Not for long though.

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Airport

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AIRPORT After the Report of the Mahon Tribunal What you have heard is true. But don’t let them cry out as we leave. Don’t spare them indignation and disgust as we depart. For the television…

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