16 March 2008

You say it best when you say nothing at all

From the "You're not helping" section of the ecological and proletarian struggle (with due kudos to Jon Stewart for coining the phrase) comes a tale of two star-crossed lovers, an ancient seat of Irish High Kings, a road, a tunnel, and the Irish Prime Minister.

The Tara Bypass is a controversial road that is being built near the Hill of Tara, former seat of the High Kings of Ireland and hippy central in the mythos of neo-pagans. I've been there. Its a hill, with sheep, covered in sheep-poo and mud. There's nothing especially mystical about it. However it is of incredible archaeological importance, as is most of the land around it. You really can't dig a hole in the ground without finding something of archaeological importance. This is the Boyne Valley, Brú na Bóinne, home of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, neolithic tombs older than the pyramids, and who knows what other marvels are lying inches beneath the earth. It is into this area of rich archaeological treasure that the government is ploughing a new bypass, with almost no regard for the consequences of their action.

On April 30th last year, the first part of construction was formally begun. On May 1st, less than 24 hours later, construction was officially halted as the remains of a 4,000 year old wooden henge were uncovered. That's how ridiculous this road is, every single meter of road will literally destroy thousands of years worth of history. Tara has thus become a beacon around which many environmental groups are flocking, to protest and lend their support, and draw a line in the dirt against the further destruction of the environment by the ever onward march of globalization.

Or because they got dumped by their girlfriends.

The Irish Independent, a newspaper that has never been accused of missing an opportunity to sensationalise, demonise or belittle anything outside the pale of its comfortable Celtic tiger smugness, carries a heart-warming tale of "Squeak", a young protester who risked life and limb by tunnelling under the proposed route of the road and chaining herself there in an attempt to block further destruction, pausing only to dump her boyfriend as her protest began.

The Independent writes:
She had been so intent on staying in the tunnel for the long haul that she dumped her boyfriend before beginning her protest.

Her 'ex', who remains at the protest site, spoke earlier of his heartbreak following her decision to finish their relationship, and of his concerns for her safety. Paddy O'Kearney had vowed to stand by 'Squeak', despite being ditched by the eco-warrior.

She told him she was ending their relationship at the same time she revealed she planned to enter the Tara bunker.

Asked whether he was proud of his former girlfriend, Mr Kearney replied: "Well, I don't know -- seeing as she dumped me two weeks ago when she told me she was going down the hole."

Commenting on the reason 'Squeak' ended their relationship, Mr Kearney said: "I don't know [what her reasons were] and I can't speak for her but I think that [her decision to go down the hole] was part of it, yes. That would be the main reason I reckon."

He continued: "She pretty much [told me she was going down the hole] as she was breaking up with me.

"I would much rather that a road go through this place than for any harm to come to her. Obviously she doesn't feel that way."
Ah, youth is most definitely wasted on the young.

The Independent also pauses to mention that Squeak's father is a close friend of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (the Irish Prime minister), who said "I probably knew her too! Well obviously the thing I would say is she had to stop it for her own safety. She's made her point. She's made her protest. She should mind her health", as her father negotiated with her to end her protest.

What annoys me about all of this is the way in which the Independent trivialises the protest, reducing it to a game of silly children, with no mention of why the protest is happening, or what is at stake. It's typical for a paper that glamourises the banal and superficial, eulogising over the self-inflicted overdose deaths of models as a symbol of Ireland's lost innocence, while social injustices throughout the country go unreported. Rossport and Tara are depicted as the lunatic fringe, while drug addicted socialites are held aloft as icons and role-models.

Back in the 90's I spent some time with road-protesters camping in the trees at the Glen Of the Downs, a forested area about to be chopped down as part of a road widening exercise. The group was a mix of professional protesters that travelled from site to site, middle class kids rebelling (like myself) and well-educated and genuinely concerned environmentalists, trying to raise public consciousness on an issue that is now mainstream and widely accepted - destroying the environment is not a smart thing! While the lack of basic hygiene on their top-ten list of priorities drove me in a different direction to the protesters, I still respect who they are, and what they try and accomplish. The blogosphere has enough angry ineffectual pontificates, what we need are a few more people unafraid to get their hands dirty, live in a tree, or climb down a tunnel.

Oh, and Paddy O'Kearney - you're not helping.


At 3:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well fair enough i takë your point about the glorificication of so many things wrong with society, but one thing you have to realize is that the indo really likes to misquote people, escpecially when they re stressed beyond belief.

The point i suppose, to this message is firstly i have no real experience with the media, prior to this.(it really shows)

Secondly I had to be there to make sure they didnt try some disgusting shit like cut off her air supply, knock her out and then force her out the tunnel.

And to end it all, what if that were somebody very close to you, tell me you wouldnt be scared shitless.
having the indo and other tabloids trivialise the situation though annoying as it is was kinda inevitable.

At 3:47 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

Completely fair points Paddy. My point was more on the trivialisation by the media, rather than any specific action you or any other individual took. Squeek was amazing to go down in the tunnel, and you were strong to stay with her and support her.

1) The fact that you were there in the first place while I, like so many others, sat on our arse and did nothing puts us all to shame.

2) The Indo are bastards. All they do is trivialise and sensationalise. They always go for the angle that will make the smug middle class feel safer and smugger

3) You stood up for your ex, and stayed with her, even after what had happened and happened publicly.

Paddy - you are helping, and much more than the rest of us.


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