Author Archives: Gormla Hughes

From top: Ireland and Ulster captain Rory Best at a press conference in Paris yesterday; Gormla Hughes

Getting my hair cut last week, I was asked, when I said I loved running in the dark, was I not afraid something might happen to me.

I said no – my age deems me invisible and experience had already taught me that the likelihood of being sexual harassed or assaulted was far higher, by someone I knew. But of course, there are exceptions. I know this too.

When #NotMyCaptain started trending, I read the comments about Rory Best, OBE, captain of the Irish Union International Rugby team, attending the courtroom the day the alleged victim was giving her evidence.

Two thoughts immediately sprung to mind; the first, that his presence that particular day was, without question in my opinion, an orchestrated strategy and second, I remembered Brian Murphy—the young man beaten until he died, a mere thirty seconds later, outside Club Anabel, 30 August 2000, by four former Blackrock College students, a place well known for its tradition of producing excellent rugby players.

At the time, newspapers spoke of these young men in glowing terms, men with bright futures ahead of them. Even the judge, in his sentencing statement said he did not want to cause any reputational damage to them by being too harsh for a night that was obviously just a bit of drunken madness—a statement dangerously close to assertions made about men who physically harm or rape women.

[Language such as ‘bright future’ attached to privileged young men, subliminally excludes women, any person of colour or with a disability—with the class division widened with the use of terms such as ‘animals’ and ‘thugs’.]

In those days, I listened to the radio when I was driving. I remember being so angry and sad, in equal measure. I remember thinking there is no justice in this world, why bother reporting anything, when men and the privileged will be ‘looked after’ every time.

I also know, there is much invested in maintaining their reputation.

I went to a private school. A school closely linked to two well known ‘rugby’ schools. I would often hear the girls talking about what they were going to wear to a match the following weekend — and any girl who had an older sister who was able to pass on information as to where the players would be celebrating or commiserating after the match was given extra attention (eat your heart out Madame Bovary).

The school scarf of a rugby player was a prized possession, one that brought the wearer extra attention and favour. If a girl was lucky enough to be given one by her boyfriend, she was lauded – elevated to a place others strove to reach. It meant she had been chosen.

If the girl went out with him long enough to bring him home to meet her parents, she was elevated higher – rewarded by bringing her shopping for extra clothes, maybe even a sneaky manicure. Her father, boasting at work about who his daughter was dating tended to be received more warmly in the business world.

Social circles increase, favours are done for the parents of – for the players – for the teachers – for the coaches – for their supporters, business introductions, tips on how to avoid paying too much tax – a world where many blind eyes are turned.

Furthermore.

The more caps a player achieves, the more likely it is that he will walk into a management position, irrespective of his qualifications or intellectual prowess.

But, not only that, when they are being ‘tested’ for promotion in most corporations – being married is a BIG plus to put you ahead of your competitors for the position of partner, ceo or cfo – everyone knows this, and works it. Men may have their affairs and flings without impacting the trajectory of their career – if a woman does, its game over.

Even in the rugby and business world – her virtue is demanded – by the very men who entertain themselves at parties, by dabbling in a picnic basket of drugs and hiring sex workers to join them – men who are advocates and beneficiaries of the social division of women’s character between deviant and devout.

It is a cultural industry that most within it benefit from. And like every cultural setting, there are good people, bad people, assholes and perpetrators.

And if something happens?

We believe the law is above all of this. We believe truth will conquer all inside a court room. We fail to remember, every time, that many of the judges hail from this culture.

Except women—(well, most) women know otherwise.

Women have been indoctrinated in the anatomy of kindness – of turning the other cheek – of self-checking, self-blame, of breastfeeding all around her, of understanding that scandal and shame gets you ostracised and if that happens you won’t be able to access a piece of the pie.

And in the meantime…

Men encounter few meaningful consequences for their actions against women in this world, particularly those centred in the world of privilege – so it was the reaction to Rory Best’s conduct that actually took me by surprise.

When counsel for the accused asked the alleged victim what she knew about rugby and its players and their social standing, I knew absolutely nothing had changed.

I also know—#TimesUp

Gormla Hughes is an essayist and you can follow her on Twitter @Paradisefound64

Top pic: AFP

Previously: Shoulder To Shoulder

From top: Taoiseach leo Varadkar with Fine Gael members commemorating the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in Ireland last January 6; Gormla Hughes

If the first nine days of 2018 are an indicator, it’s going to be a year of spin, worthy of a Man Booker Prize; a year where people continue to show their true colours and where the Irish Government will get exactly what it wants.

More money for its corporate allies, more dinner parties and more cutsie socks, but more importantly, the creation of a career path to Europe – because it appears that there has been a mass exodus, an immigration—to Noddy Land.

I potter along sometimes, under the illusion that because I have a certain perspective on things, so do others and when I am reminded this is not the case, on occasion, very sharply, it sends me back to look at the structure of my perspective or how I developed my opinion.

It seems, from attending the school I enjoy and learn from, Twitter, opinion has been replaced with projectile verbal vomiting, which of course everyone is entitled to, in their own buckets – the problem is, by not paying attention to what is happening, they are in fact giving the government the peace and quiet it needs to continue to move forward with its undemocratic, unethical strategies and plans.

I believe it is four years ago now when I received my letter from the Department of Transport, advising me that the renewal process for Driving Licences had changed. I was now required to have my photograph (bio metric data) taken and my signature witnessed in the presence of a civil servant.

As someone who was filling herself up with knowledge on money laundering and fraud at the time, I mentally knit the new process with these. I arrived in Trim, County Meath, as early as possible to avoid the so-called queues that were being talked about.

I found the visit to be efficient and friendly. I expressed my delight with all the new technology and the woman behind the counter told me that the goal was to eventually get everyone’s details on one card. I told her that I thought this was a great idea as it increased efficiency and reduced the use of plastic which was a big plus for the environment and off I went on my merry way.

I didn’t give it a second thought until last year, when Martin McMahon (author and co-host of The Echo Chamber Podcast) began sharing his research on the PSC (Public Service Card) and the bullying tactics being used by government agents/representatives to make people use them as an identity card, but more importantly, the use and sharing of personal data without public debate or knowledge.

I do appreciate that people will jump in and say there are bigger things to get angry about, but, this behaviour is an erosion of democracy. Without holding power accountable, we begin to weave towards autocracy.

And we really do.

Eighteen months ago, a woman came to my front door and announced she was doing a survey on behalf of the European Union and asked would I be willing to participate. I said of course, it was nice to talk to a live human.

One of the questions asked was “Do you think there should be a European Army?” to which I responded yes. It is a subject I have read about, thought about and written about, privately – in other words, I didn’t take a figary that particular day.

Several weeks after the survey, the previous prime minister (I refuse to address him as Taoiseach), Enda Kenny was asked by a reporter about a European Army to which he responded “There’ll be none of that nonsense”.

Imagine my amusement and concern when, at the end of November 2017, the Irish Cabinet passed a motion for us to support PESCO (European Defence). Richard Boyd Barrett (Solidarity-PBP) accused the government of pulling a fast one, and I agree.

What the government is doing is letting the plebeians get used to the idea of defending Europe before introducing the next phase—and I am very confident there will be one.

Europe is being built in the direction of a Super State, but this concept is being micro-managed in an attempt to avoid civil disobedience or unrest. Even the Irish President, Mr. Higgins has been organised – observed with his use of the term European, even to describe ‘God’s Banker’ – Peter Sutherland.

The introduction of a European Army will impact every household in Ireland and its societal structure and therefore, I am of the opinion that it should be a matter for public debate and collective decision. The power assigned to government, the mandate to act on behalf of the people is part of the democratic process—what is not part of the process is making some citizens more equal than others, the outcome of which is detrimental.

As was done with the banking crisis.

The Central Bank of Ireland and the Irish Government colluded in assisting their corporate and banking allies. Company Law was amended to facilitate vulture funds. The Central Bank of Ireland authored and published pretty narratives that held no legal or ethical weight for the ordinary mortgage holder to lean on or use in their defence against harassment and bullying and those in the corporate world who broke the law, operated outside regulation were excused. (Even now, with the tracker mortgage scandal, there is a unwillingness to upset corporate power).

Board room tables were polished, and women were brought out to serve anything the investors wanted, with Enda Kenny assuring them there would be no ‘unrest’ in Ireland, while publicly appealing to the masses to remain calm while he brought stability to the country.

The number of people without homes is heading to nearly ten thousand. The new prime minister, who inherited the position is telling us, from his private jet wearing his cutsie socks, that homelessness is a normal outcome of recovery and there is no mention of the fact that the reduction in unemployment figures is because ‘those’ people are immigrating; in zero hour contracts; earning minimum and less than minimum wage and have to receive welfare subsidies to survive and that thousands of women in this country will not get their full pensions because it’s too expensive to reverse the austerity measures.

But there was five millions euros available to come up with a narrative to say those who did not survive the crisis and needed assistance were cheats.

Over the past decades, we have permitted the leaders of this country, through our silence and their greed, to sell our seas. Our fishing rights. Our land. Our property and use our money to fight on behalf of foreign corporations so they don’t have to pay us taxes.

But we are still not moved to demonstrate our anger. We are still not angry enough to engage in the political arena (though I note an improvement of people beginning to be public about their political affiliations).

We are engaging in civil conversations, adopting power speak in the hope they will listen, instead of demanding change, demanding accountability; demanding the authoring of new governmental ethics, where we can hold politicians to account for lying, fraud or misuse of public monies and insistence that they declare any conflict of interest eg. If a politician is a landlord he must recuse himself from engaging in any matters pertaining to rental laws or policies—where the consequences are real. The loss of position or pension – because it is in the absence of consequence that toxic masculinity begins to seep its poison.

The two main political parties, Fine Gael and Fainna Fáil are utilising the national broadcaster and many of the mainstream newspapers as extensions of their public relations campaign, for which the tax payer is also paying for.

They spend their time spewing their vitriol on Sinn Fein, probably because they pose the biggest threat to their power—and by doing so demonstrate their political immaturity (I’m being really polite).

Leo Varadkar’s defence of his political mammy, Frances Fitzgerald while she mislead the Dáil, was nothing short of embarrassing. Yet, with all his talk on properness; why has he or Simon Coveney, who have expressed their love of children and their rights, not engaged with Gemma O’Doherty on her findings on the disappearance of Mary Boyle?

Asked that the Tuam Babies scandal is investigated and support DNA testing? And as for Micheál Martin, with all his talk about ‘shadowy’ goings on in Sinn Féin—why hasn’t he taken steps to have the outcome of the investigation done by the Council of the European Union into Padraig Flynn, FF, made public; why isn’t he leading the charge on the covering up of Bill Kinneally and his abuse of children?

They are demonstrating my belief, weak leaders attack, strong leaders build—and they have brought their mediocrity into the arena of digital democracy, also.

The relatively new narrative being injected into the Irish psyche are the dangers of social media and technology. The abuse, the mob mentality, the bullying, the harassment, the implications on the legal system. My problem is that all of this existed before social media and they did and have done sweet FA about it. Their problem is that technology and social media is beginning to influence the electorate—so their actual concern is destroying that influence.

Their sense of entitlement has evolved so much, they are now throwing a noose at Digital Democracy. I’m still waiting for some tech savvy to write a piece on what has happened on Google searches.

In October last year, I was collecting information for a piece I was writing on Bosnia-Herzegovina but on the third day of writing, something happened. When I searched for domestic information, the only links that unfurled before me were tourist pages, Wikipedia and Irish business names related to the domestic information I sought. I was flabbergasted.

In November 2017, my phone was hacked. I’m not even close to being a technology expert, but I do love it. I think it is a wonder. I’m also big on personal responsibility, so made it my business long before the hack to find out how to spot it and what to do about it when it does occur.

So, yes, absolutely there are concerns (equal to the number of assholes). But with education and a portion of personal responsibility, those threats are mitigated. However, educating the public makes us less easy to scare. Less easy to manipulate—and that doesn’t serve power.

When I woke up on the  January 6, 2018 to a photograph of Leo Varadkar putting a vote into a ballot box being held by five grown women, to mark the centenary of the vote for women, I wanted to release a string of expletives.

The vote was the result of women (and men) who fought, who understood the need for civil disobedience, who marched, who were prepared to interrupt their lives for women’s standing in society—and these Fine Gael women were holding a box for a man who’s just been weaned.

It was at this precise moment I wondered had everyone gone to Noddy Land.
Or were they behaving like frogs you would put into a pot of water and start boiling. They don’t notice what’s happening—until they are about to take their last breath.

Gormla Hughes is an essayist and you can follow her on Twitter @Paradisefound64

Pic: Fine Gael