History And Cute Hoorism



Historian Diarmaid Ferriter

Anthony Sheridan writes:

This article is dedicated to the millions of Irish citizens who have suffered and continue to suffer because of the absolute refusal of Irish journalists and commentators to call a spade a spade.

The spade in this instance is the disease of political corruption and how that disease has infected every aspect of how our country is governed.

The commentator in this instance is historian Diarmaid Ferriter.

Mr Ferriter is a highly regarded academic, a man who is steeped in the study and history of Irish politics, a man who regularly frequents the airwaves and print media delivering his opinion and analysis on current and past events and in particular on current and past political events.

Because individuals like Mr Ferriter are highly respected they have a profound influence on how people think, how they form their opinions, how they understand what’s happening in politics and in the country in general.

When such influential individuals fail to understand the reality of how our country is (mis) governed they do serious damage to any hope of rectifying the situation. They become, in effect, part of the problem.

Political corruption is the most serious problem facing our country today. Political corruption lies at the core of almost all that is rotten in our country. Political corruption should be front and centre in the minds of every single journalist and commentator who writes or speaks about what is happening in our country today.

And yet, the word ‘corruption’ is rarely uttered or written, the term ‘political corruption’ is avoided like the plague by mainstream media and political commentators. Political corruption is never, ever the subject of a major, stand-alone documentary by any media outlet.

Mr Ferriter provides us with the most recent example of this depressing fear of calling a spade a spade. In a 900-word article in the irish Times on the subject of political corruption he manages to avoid using the word even once.

Even the headline avoids the reality. Cute Hoorism Has Cast A Long Shadow’

Cute hoorism is not proper English; it is a meaningless term in the broader world. It is strictly an Irish term with just one function – to avoid calling a spade a spade.

It serves just one psychological function for those in denial – If I don’t write or utter the term ‘political corruption’ then I don’t have to acknowledge its existence and therefore I don’t have to identify those responsible for the disease.

Opinion makers and in particular academic opinion makers should use proper, accurate and powerful words to drill right down to the heart of very serious problems such as political corruption.

Mr Ferriter’s headline should read: ‘Political Corruption Has Cast A Long Shadow’

In common with most other commentators Mr Ferriter knows there is something very seriously wrong with Irish politics but is not prepared to state the brutal truth – our political system is intrinsically corrupt, it is beyond repair, it is the principal reason our country has morphed into the status of failed state.

Instead of identifying and criticising those responsible, the ruling political elite principally made up of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour, Mr Ferriter, in common with many other deniers, blames the ordinary people of Ireland.

“They (the people) were only too happy to embrace the abolition of rates that finished off all pretence of autonomous local government, enhanced an unhealthy concentration of power at the centre and had serious consequences for the funding of local services.”

He goes on to confirm his total misunderstanding of today’s political realities by completely misreading the reasons for the rise of the water protest movement.

While acknowledging that the rebellion against Irish Water was justified he asserts that the issues that triggered the protest were – charges, pollution, fairness and conservation.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Political corruption and betrayal was and still is the overwhelming reason for the rebellion against water charges. A significant and growing percentage of the population have lost faith in the political system and by extension, state authority.

Quoting Arthur Griffith, Mr Ferriter writes of individuals, operating in an imaginary Ireland, disparaging those making serious efforts to resolve serious national problems.

“Pious patriots praised an imaginary medieval Ireland and then wondered why Ireland was decaying around them but were determined to preserve their picturesque ignorance.”

Mr Ferriter is writing about himself. He operates in an imaginary Ireland that still believes the old corrupt political regime is fit for purpose, that it works for the good of the people and the country.

That is why he cannot bring himself to utter the dreadful ‘corruption’ word, it would mean acknowledging and therefore having to deal with the brutal reality of a hopelessly corrupt political system.

Here’s my interpretation of the above quote as it applies to Mr Ferriter and other commentators who cannot or will not acknowledge the brutal reality of our corrupt political system.

Delusional commentators praise and defend an imaginary democracy and endlessly wonder why that democracy continues to decay around them. In order to preserve their picturesque ignorance they insist on only writing and speaking in the language of cute hoorism.

Diarmaid Ferriter: Denial and the language of cute hoorism (Anthony Sheridan, Public Enquiry)

Diarmaid Ferriter: cute hoorism has cast a long shadow (irish Times, April 15)

83 thoughts on “History And Cute Hoorism

  1. dav

    I think either the indo or the daily mail were running a similar theme as well – “If you oppose the water charges/privatisation you were nothing but a scrounger that votes for bertie ahern”

  2. MoyestWithExcitement

    “Delusional commentators praise and defend an imaginary democracy and endlessly wonder why that democracy continues to decay around them.”


      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        Did you see Leo’s new campaign today, encouraging poor people to inform on each other so we can make up 14 whole million euros in the budget?

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          And of course there’s the whole ‘waters must pay’ line of attack on the poor person boogeyman when half out water is lost to leaks.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Love it. Best thing ever. I can’t wait for the government’s ‘Tout on a Tax Avoider’ national campaign they’re definitely going to launch.

          2. Sheik Yahbouti

            Leo launched about the eighteenth ‘snitches R Us ” only days ago. Should net us eleventeen pounds and twenty persicules. Still won’t cover the ‘Performance Related Bonuses’ of one hundred per cent of IW Staff……..

          1. nellyb

            it’s fair to say ‘imaginary’ because election platforms are essentially karaoke machines. Pretend stars with pretend abilities. (no disrespect to real karaoke lovers)

      2. ahjayzis

        Local democracy, for one. Various planning fracas in Dublin show the city is ruled by unelected bureaucrats and not by elected representatives.

        The Senate is a farce, that’s a whole chamber of our parliament.

        The fact FF and FG play the roles of opposition and government but when the two switch they adopt each other’s scripts. Cases of injustice are dropped by one and taken up by the other, the newly installed government begins parotting the same civil servant written non-answers, evasions and downright lies they castigated the other side for the month before.

        1. Rob_G

          Local democracy – I don’t know enough about it, tbh

          The Senate – I think the Senate is the biggest load of nonsense, such an anachronism – but the people were given the opportunity to get rid of it, but some reason decided not to take it. Dumb and illogical, but definitely democratic…

          FF & FG changing positions on issues for electoral purposes – I think this is more a case of realpolitik, which happens in every democracy.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            “I think the Senate is the biggest load of nonsense, such an anachronism – but the people were given the opportunity to get rid of it, but some reason decided not to take it.”

            Guy questions statement that our democracy is an illusion; moments later advocates getting rid of upper house.

          2. ahjayzis

            If I break your window, I’m not gonna give you the option fo either blocking the opening up entirely or leaving it broken. It needs to be fixed into a real oversight chamber. There’s literally dozens of reports on how to do this we’ve already paid for. It is a corruptly self-serving act to knowingly leave it as it is.

            I really don’t think you can compare Labour and the Tories or the Republicans and Democrats changing office to what happens between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. They’re *ACTUALLY* identical once they’re in power. Like literally down to the vocabulary and talking points they use. That’s not true of the others.

        2. cluster

          ‘Local’ democracy is quite hard in such a small country.

          If anything, in recent decades, many of pour systems have become more centralised in order to make them less susceptible to ‘cute hoorism’ and local corruption.

          Probably the most grievous failure of governance in recent times has been in planning and a lot of that is down to incompetent / corrupt local councillors.

  3. Vote Rep #1

    Interesting article. The cute hoorism he refers to it corruption. Everyone knows it is corruption but it is corruption with a small ‘c’. Corruption without the negative connotations that comes with the word ‘corruption’. The sure-everyone-does-it attitude that prevails Irish society. Not calling it what it is allows people to get away with it.

    I disagree with this though:

    “While acknowledging that the rebellion against Irish Water was justified he asserts that the issues that triggered the protest were – charges, pollution, fairness and conservation.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again.”

    I’ve seen this quite a bit recently, the idea that the actual charges had nothing to do with the protests. I distinctly remember that the charges had quite a lot to do with it. That they were the final straw for many in austerity.

    1. ahjayzis

      For many, yeah, but for a lot of people I know it was the humiliation. Threats, after years of forking over ever more money for a state that had mortgaged itself on behalf of private banks and they came out with THREATS. John Tierney making an absolute mess of running Dublin, now running IW and bringing his mates along for the cash/ride. 50 million spent on advice on how to set up a bill-issuing utility, spent by a bill-issuing utility company. Labour campaigning on no water charges, denying they ever campaigned on it. Performance bonuses for 100% of workers. It was a humiliation to have money demanded of you for something so transparently botched, so deeply wasteful, so incompetently executed.

      1. scottser

        don’t forget o’brien and how the metering contract was issued. it stank of corruption from the very start.

  4. Daffyd

    While Anthony Sheridan may have identified a type of “intellectual corruption” – which is what “cute hoorism” really signifies – he doesn’t really identify to any genuine political or financial corruption that Ferriter has missed. The more appropriate term might just be “lazy populism” which abounds both within the main parties and even moreso in the Right2Water movement. However, to admit this shared folly on both sides of the spectrum wouldn’t be very convenient now, would it? You might even call its avoidance lazy.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Or we might call your attempt to demonise the right2water campaign a case of dishonest, politically motivated smearing.

      1. Daffyd

        All expressions of political opinion are, to an extent, politically motivated. To call what I said dishonest is out of line however. There is a difference between a criticism and a smear. I am correctly critical of Right2Water because I think the movement has legitimate questions to answer about how to address public service provision. I also think the movement can by definition be classed as populist, in that it seeks a simple solution to a more complex problem. I also think Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have been craven and populist in succumbing to Right2Water’s diktats for electoral reasons (Ferriter is correct on this too).. I never smeared Right2Water though. I never personally attacked or demonised the people involved. We live in a democracy (an imperfect one, granted) and criticism is important. Having the maturity to accept criticism in good faith is even more important.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “I am correctly critical”

          What a line.

          “I also think the movement can by definition be classed as populist”

          Your using politically charged labels but deny you’re engaged in politically motivated smearing. Ok then.

          “I also think Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have been craven and populist in succumbing to Right2Water’s diktats”

          Diktats. You are definitely engaged in politically motivated smearing; trying to paint a corrupt government who’ve shown nothing but contempt for a society it sees as beneath them as being somehow victims of a ‘dictatorial’ people’s movement. YFG? New?

          1. Daffyd

            I don’t see the government as victims, I see them as indecisive, messy and overly dependent on focus groups. This has been made worse by SF/FF showing a more extreme example of the same, thus holding the whole political system to ransom over one issue.
            You might see populist as a politically charged term but I don’t mean it as such. Beyond its misuse in certain journalistic circles it still has some usefulness as a political descriptor and I use the term sparingly. I doubt I’ll get the benefit of the doubt in this regard but so be it.
            Incidentally, I don’t see Right2Water as a durable people’s movement. Beyond this single issues it won’t survive to achieve broader political aims. Solidarity-PBP haven’t really benefited from it to the degree they would have hoped and it’s failed to have any of the momentum comparable to other new movements in Europe.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            SF/FF? PBP-Solidarity? Again, belittling a people’s movement? It’s difficult to take such obvious FG pr seriously.

        2. Seamus Kelly

          “We live in a democracy [ an imperfect one , granted” now thats good for a laugh.
          What is your definition of an imperfect democracy ?. Been away for a while, have you.

          1. Daffyd

            Indeed I have been away a while. I emigrated during the recession and came back a short while ago. I was hoping that political discourse would have matured a little dyuring the past 10 years but apparently not.
            Ireland is not so bad though, when you look at it more broadly. Like I see all the protest signs in Dublin implying that the state is incredibly oppressive for proceeding with prosecutions after Jobstown. If this happened in Greece, the police would have beaten the crap out of them. In France, there would be teargas all over the shop and in the UK they would have been kettled for hours. Going through the courts rather than a series of beatings shows a healthier democracy if anything.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Defending political corruption by referencing how things are worse in other countries. House!

  5. Fact Checker

    Political corruption exists in Ireland, as it does everywhere. Ireland is not as pure as a lot of northern Europe, but by global standards still in the top 10% when you look at the statistics.

    Anyway, can someone tell me what was explicitly politically corrupt about the introduction of water charges in Ireland?

    The author makes the claim but provides no evidence.

    1. dav

      I refer you to the number of items that Catherine murphy has exposed regarding siteserv and irish water. I’d also like to point out that Catherine Murphy had to make her disclosures under dail privilege because of the litigious nature of one of those involved.

      1. jungleman

        Has there been a finding of corruption in respect of irish water though? Journalists should certainly ask questions but it is not their place to cast judgement.

        1. nellyb

          Finding requires legal and political will, we have neither. Nor we have functional anti-corruption laws. Journalists are entitled to their opinions once they declare them as such. What’s the point of them otherwise? Information transmission? We have air for it.

          1. jungleman

            You are confusing journalism with opinion pieces. Good journalism is about finding out the facts and delivering them to the public. It is certainly not about giving one’s opinion. And before you say it, by “finding out the facts” I do not mean casting judgement.

      2. cluster

        There have been some not-well-answered questions about Siteserv.

        The problem is that when you label everything that you don’t like or agree with as ‘corruption’, then the term becomes meaningless.

    2. nellyb

      Corruption levels are measured in perception. Our perception – we don’t really have corruption, but cute hoorism.
      You’re supporting Shane, not opposing.
      Think of us coming out as some of happiest people in the world: despite the 1-in-4 horrors, expulsion of youth abroad and amass, 2.5 people ending their lives daily, wishtleblowers treated like criminals and public sector is essentially an imperial rubble.
      We’re not worse than many, but if we keep head in the sand and @r$e in the air – we will be.

    3. Andy

      “The author makes the claim but provides no evidence.”

      No surprise there. Why make an argument when noise will do?

      This article is just a tantrum on a keyboard.

      1. cluster

        Completely agree.

        Labelling everything ‘Political corruption and betrayal’ is so broad as to be meaningless.

        Whereas, there is a streak of ‘cute hoorism’ which we should be trying to eradicate,

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Where are you getting the idea that “everything” is labelled corruption? It looks like you imagined it.

  6. realPolithicks

    “can someone tell me what was explicitly politically corrupt about the introduction of water charges in Ireland”

    The awarding of the contract for installing water meters to a company owned by Denis O Brien is just one obvious example.

    1. dan

      Even the meter installation process was corrupt.. no permits to dig up the footpaths required, no inspection of the works post completion, no sign off by local authority.
      How many of you had a water meter installed where the installer came into your house to verify that the pipework was actually connected to your house? None I bet, corruption on a grand scale.

      1. Cian

        So do you really think that if you are going to provide 2,000,000 water meters that we need all the red-tape (and cost) involved in
        1. getting permits to dig up footpaths?
        2. a second set of people to inspect the work post completion, and
        3. a sign-off by the local authority?
        And you are complaining about the money wasted by IW?

        And no, the installer didn’t come into my house to verify the pipework was actually connected to the house. He opened the footpath at the end of the driveway, installed the meter and tidied up afterwards. I suppose there is a possibility that the water pipe outside my drive suddenly scoots across the lawn and goes to next door, and their pipe does the opposite – but it’s unlikely. Hmmm… I’ll check when I get home.

  7. bisted

    …this is a powerful commentry and exposes an uncomfortable truth…when people like Diarmuid Ferriter turn from reliable historian to revisionist then there is little hope. The transformation of Ferriter has been a revelation…he was never one for the euphamism but he’s well on his way to becoming just another cute hoor himself…

    1. Medium Sized C

      This does not expose anything.
      It is not powerful.
      It’s just a childish ad-hominem attack from a guy who’s feelings are hurt by the suggestion that he might be at fault for political norms in the country.

  8. Eamonn Clancy

    Mr Sheridan needs to be reminded we don’t speak “proper English” (whatever that is) in Ireland, but Hiberno English, and the headline makes impeccable sense to those of us who speak it.

    1. realPolithicks

      Either you’re incredibly dense or are deliberately misrepresenting what he is saying. His (obvious) point was that phrases like “cute hoorism” are used when what should be said is “corruption”.

      1. cluster

        But cute hoorism is something different. It often includes a level of low to medium level corruption but also a mask for incompetence.

        Part of the specific issue with ‘cute hoorism’ is that there is a significant streak of the public who wants ‘the job to get done’ and has little interest in the process. It is worth diagnosing this specific part of the challenge.

        A lot of the electorate will vote for a Lowry-type who managed to put in a good word when a relative was on a hospital waiting list over a politician who will refuse to do so on the basis that he’d ratehr do the long-term work involved in helping to improve the health system.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “But cute hoorism is something different.”

          That’s the point of the piece. You don’t want to refer to corruption as corruption. You want to use softer phrases like cute hoorism so it doesn’t sound as bad. You are demonstrating the problem the OP was addressing.

  9. Declan

    Can someone define what “Cute Hoorism” is and what type of political corruption are we talking about.

    It’s like everyone wants to “reform” the Senead but no one wants to actually say what it is (to be above board I voted to abolish it)?

    My issue with using the word cute hoorism is that it’s something Dub’s apply to people from the country when they want roads, bus’s (no bus service in the rest of the country for 9 odd days but sure it’s not Dublin) and other stuff. The exact same crap goes on here but it’s not called that.

    And yes I do know there is back scratching but shock it happens in Dublin too

      1. Sheik Yahbouti

        No, I don’t think he does – the usual, thin skinned “they might be slagging me” response. The author is correct – just another euphemism to avoid calling a spade a spade. And for our ‘sensitive’ friend, I can say that I was at a social gathering at the week-end where “Cute Hoor” bottled beer was served. It wasn’t brewed in Dublin.

  10. Nigel

    I wish I had more faith that the anti-water charges people remembered their outrage stems from corruption and other government failings rather than flipping water charges. Otherwise fair point. Avoiding ‘corruption’ as a term in favour of vernacular slang favours the corrupt.

    1. rotide

      because articles published in a nationally circulated newspaper need a to have a light shone on them…..

  11. Medium Sized C

    Jaysus what a pile.
    Political corruption is the most serious problem facing our country today.
    No it isn’t. Political corruption is ever present and we could totally and entirely eradicate many of the most serious problems facing our state, (Homelessness, health care crisis, punative cost of living) without eradicating political corruption. What an utter nonsense.

    “Political corruption is never, ever the subject of a major, stand-alone documentary by any media outlet.”

    Political corruption is about a loose and broad a concept as you can and that would not be anywhere near as effective as making documentaries about specific instances of corruption.

    Cute Hoorism is proper english. It is a vernacular which is widely used and understood all over the country and it is dishonest or illogical to equate the use of the phrase with ignoring or diminishing political corruption.
    People use it and know what it means. Just because the author chooses not to doesn’t change this and he has NO RIGHT to tell someone else what language they use to express themselves.

    Instead of identifying and criticising those responsible, the ruling political elite principally made up of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour, Mr Ferriter, in common with many other deniers, blames the ordinary people of Ireland.

    Populist guff. The Ordinary people voted for FF, FG and Lab. The ordinary people accepted the abolition of rates. Every alternative offered has always been emphatically turned down but the ordinary people of Ireland. We deserve the blame because we are to blame. Suggesting that there is some nefarious elite lording it over the people here should be the first check in your B.S. detection algorithim now. There is no ruling elite, the Dail is full of primary school teachers. We did this and as a collective are choosing to do nothing about it.
    The dude doesn’t like to think that he is as responsible as anyone for the state of the country and so accuses Ferriter of being accessory to political corruption (never says what he means by that though) .

    “Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again.”

    Is he gonna call Ferriter fake news next?

    The water protests were not about betrayal, that is nonsense. They were about being charged for water. Some people felt strongly about Irish Water and privatisation and felt empowered to join because so many other people were protesting about having to pay for water. But the slogans were about not paying. The mantras were about not paying. The “We already pay through tax” people outnumbered the “I don’t mind paying but I don’t want Irish Water” people greatly.

    Anthony is writing about himself, the childish populist hypocrite and it is dripping crap. An insult to the very words it uses.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Corruption’s grand lads because it always happens. Also, people voted for FFG and Labour so that makes them grassroots parties who only have our interests at heart. Oh and water was just about water. It wasn’t about anything else. The country is grand, lads. There’s a few troublemakers writing nonsense on websites but everything is fine.

    2. Kieran Nice Young Chap

      Well said, Medium

      “We deserve the blame because we are to blame… The dude doesn’t like to think that he is as responsible as anyone for the state of the country and so accuses Ferriter of being accessory to political corruption (never says what he means by that though) ”

      Irish people seem chronically incapable or taking responsibility. They’re always the victims of a useful scapegoat. First it was the British, then the Church, now it’s the ‘elites’.

      No “ordinary decent people” took out mortgages they couldn’t afford, voted for the local pol who’d abolish bin charges or helped with their medical card, or sent their daughter off to the nuns when she became pregnant. Nope, always someone else’s fault and “the people” were forced into it.

      It’s embarrassing actually.

      1. Nigel

        One day Irish people will make the connection between bad governance and the quality of the people they elect. One day.

      2. MoyestWithExcitement

        The right wingers again defending the powerful. It’s never *their* fault when things go bad. We should thank them for jobs and infrastructure and wealth and order but it’s the peasants’ fault when things go bad. Disgusting.

  12. Junkface

    Ireland is entirely politically corrupt. How else would you explain the Housing crisis, the Health services crisis, and the car insurance (ripoff) crisis. Also the fact that we’re already in another property bubble and the government think there will be a soft landing! What a ridiculous politcal system.

    1. Junkface

      Oh I forgot to add the Police to the corruption list. Oh yeah the head of our Olympics commitee was arrested in Brazil last summer for corruption. I think the FAI are fairly corrupt too. Jesus, this list could go on forever.

    1. Kieran Nice Young Chap

      I seem to remember endless reenactments of tribunals on the radio all the time when I was younger.

  13. sonofstan

    A failed state is somewhere like Somalia. Calling Ireland one is like throwing the word Fascist around when you mean ‘ someone we don’t like who is a bit right wing’

  14. G.R.I.T.S.

    If one of Prof Ferrits students used “cute hoorism” in an exam question they’d be marked down
    wouldn’t they?

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