Tag Archives: Theo Dorgan

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From top: (From left) Theo Dorgan, Ruth McCabe, Dylan Haskins, Conor Lenihan and Andrea Pappin; and Theo Dorgan on RTÉ’s The Eleventh Hour in 2011


In yesterday’s Sunday Independent Gene Kerrigan recalled poet Theo Dorgan’s contribution to the 2011 General Election.

Not a poem but a crafted monologue that literally (as we used to say on the ‘sheet) rhymed with the mood of the day. It was also one of the sheet’s earliest transcripts.

Mr Dorgan spoke on the evening of the election – Friday, February 25, 2011 – on RTÉ’s The Eleventh Hour, hosted by Daire O’Brien as the count was under way.

He shared a panel with actor Ruth McCabe, Independent candidate Dylan Haskins (damn his beautiful unelectable eyes), Conor Lenihan of Fianna Fáil and Andrea Pappin, a former Labour Party press advisor..

Daire O’Brien: “Are we on the cusp of a big change here, Theo?”

Theo Dorgan: “I think we’re going through a great change. I think the Irish people have dealt the first decisive blow to the old politics. The biggest political party and the biggest political organisation on the island has been dealt a death blow. And next time out the exact same thing will happen to Fine Gael.”

O’Brien: “Unless…”

Dorgan: “No no. No unless. I’m absolutely predicting this. Nothing in this election has persuaded me that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or a great chunk of Labour understands just exactly truly a) how desperate the situation is, b) how powerless the old politics is to deal with it, and c) what’s coming down the line behind Dylan [Haskins] and the other young candidates, the other young Independent candidates especially, who are coming.

“I think Fianna Fáil is a dead piece of roadkill at the moment. It’s only hope is that the great lost leader of the Labour party, Mícheál Martin, takes a decisive leap to the centre and to the left and recovers its 1930s roots.

Fine Gael is going to absolutely lose the run of itself in office, and it’s already riven with contradictions; you have Lucinda Creighton saying the basic rate of tax is 55% and Michael Noonan saying that this is bizarre when Pat Rabbitte repeats it in the Dáil.

There is going to be, I think, a decimation of Fine Gael the next time out. People are going through a very strange, slow-motion crash of the State. They’ve dealt with one of the great monoliths. They’re now scrupulously giving the other monolith in the old politics its shot, and when that proves itself – as it absolutely will, I’m completely certain of this – a busted flush, then the new politics will happen. So it seems to me this is an interim moment in a long, unfolding process of change.

“And the crucial thing is, actually in a strange way, to ignore the State over the next two to three years, and resume and deepen the debate on civil society that was temporarily interrupted by this.”


“It’s not just the political system. It’s the self-appointed political class. There’s a managerial approach to the Republic. There’s a distinction now, a profound and unhealthy distinction between the State and the people and, in there, the idea of the Republic has got lost… You now have a line-up, an alignment, between senior managers in the public and private service, senior managers in the private sector, senior politicians, senior civil servants and senior media figures – who have a sense that we, between us, know what’s going on and you are the little people. Now the actuality, when you look at it, is the rather embarrassing spectacle of Enda Kenny rushing over sort of to kowtow to Caesar, to Angela Merkel, without having the brains to realise she’s on the way out…there is a subservient strain in the Irish political class because, objectively, it has to be described in a comprador and a colonised situation and, yet, we’re not. So that contradiction is going to widen and deepen.”


“If you look at Dylan’s website, you’ll see a model of how the new politics is going to go, it’s interactive, through a campaign.”

Later (when asked for reasons to be optimistic)

“Precisely the generation that’s rising up. I’m constantly, I always find you can go back to Bob Dylan for a quote. When he says, ‘When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose’ which I’ve always found, as an impoverished artist, a very useful mantra. He also says, ‘Something is happening and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr Jones?’.

I think this generation [points to Dylan Haskins] knows it. And I’ve found what, you know, travelling the country in the last four or five years, there are, it’s actually a new way of thinking is struggling to be born and it’s not ready yet to be cut off at the neck and co-opted by the spinmeisters and by the image consultants. Incidentally, very old ways are coming back as well. We still have that feel for the prophetic insight and I offer you one, in light of the election. Today, in Salthill [Co. Galway], the school, the polling booth at St Enda’s National School, the floor collapsed, there’s a harbringer – the floor of St Enda’s National School…We’re at the diagnostic stage, we have to diagnose what’s wrong before we can talk about it.”


“A large turnout in a general election is people reclaiming their democracy. It’s absolutely true that there was a big revenge component in this but I think it’s a big mistake to think that that’s all there was. People have been drilled and educated in the issues and they’ve said, ‘you’ve made a mess of it, step aside’.

But the sights of the exact same people who voted for change, apparent change, today, will now be on the same government with the same lack of mercy for bullshit and lies and spoofing. And I’m waiting, will it be a week or two weeks before, “oh, if we’d seen the books, we’ve had said differently…” There’s a dreary predictability about this but the people are waking up.”

Watch the panel’s discussion in full here

Previously: You’ve Seen The Trees. Here’s The Wood

Poet Theo Dorgan, who dazzled last year on The Eleventh Hour, was interviewed by Charlie Bird (sitting in for Marian Finucane) on RTE R1 on Saturday about the Quinns, Bertie, Ireland and the role of the poet. And genuinely illuminating the chat proved.

It followed an interview with Fr Brian D’Arcy about his public support of Sean Quinn.

Charlie Bird: “What do you think of the whole controversy surrounding the rally in Ballyconnell last Sunday.”

Theo Dorgan: “I think probably media study classes of the future will listen to that interview with Brian Darcy as the most extraordinary example of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds that I’ve heard in years. I find it very difficult to follow him in his equivalence of a march for victims of abuse in Dublin and a march in support of a man who took the 5,000 jobs he created – for which he is to be praised – and gambled them on the property market and lost and now feels sorry for himself. I can’t see why Brian couldn’t offer pastoral care in a personal capacity to the Quinns if they’re feeling distressed.
But quite honestly the courts of the land found that €500 million of money, owed not to Anglo but to the Irish Bank Recovery [sic] Corporation, the IBRC – our money, money we need for schools, hospitals, guards, road repairs, all of those things that make a civil society – the Quinns have decided it’s not our money, it’s theirs, in defiance of the courts, and any public figure who supports them in that is standing against the rule of law.”

Bird: “But he makes the argument…”

Dorgan: “It’s got nothing to do with compassion, this is to do with the law.”

Bird: “But let me just… He makes the argument that he was there basically as his pastoral duty and also as a friend, somebody from the area.”

Dorgan: “I’m quite sure that he’s – and he’s clearly a genuine man I just think that he’s morally very confused. You can offer pastoral care to a person… I have friends who’ve broken the law. I don’t condone their breaking the law. I will not publicly support them in their continued defiance of the law. Whatever compassion I feel for them on a personal basis, is a personal thing, and I do feel compassion, and I am aware that Brian Darcy has been in the Maze and Portlaoise, and I know people who have had great personal comfort from his human heart. In this case he made a political decision to take a public political stance in defence of a man who is defying the courts of the land. And that, I think, is a distinction he needs to reflect on, and I think in time, I think in time, because he is an honest man, I think he will come to see that there is a very important distinction.”

Bird: “OK, before – just one last question before I go on to talk about your own sort of career: Is there not the, you know, here is something, what happened in Ballyconnell last Sunday is it not maybe, you know, I don’t want to call it the urban rural divide but, you know, people in an area rooted in the soil, rooted in the earth, they want to be seen to support their own. And it could happen down in Cork, it could happen in Kerry, it could happen in any other part of the country.”

Dorgan: “I had this conversation with a friend in Ballinamore 48 hours ago. They were making the case saying ‘why are they coming after our Sean?’ My question was, well, if he was the fourth or fifth person to be prosecuted for owing money to the state, would it make a difference? And when exactly does the rule of law apply? It either does or it doesn’t. I mean, you know, a lot of people who know me will think this is a curious position for me to be taking, because you know there are many things on which I disagree with the state and would be prepared to break the law as an act of civil disobedience. But squirrelling away money, that is so badly needed, because a gamble failed.
I’ll tell you what I think. I think that Sean Quinn did an extraordinary thing in his area, in opening his quarries and opening the Slieve Russell and that – albeit that all his truck drivers were on piece work I’m told, and they drove seven days a week to make a living. But he took those livelihoods, that he had helped build up, and he felt he had the right to put all of those livelihoods on the line in a gamble that failed. So it’s not Anglo Irish took those jobs away, it’s not the IBRC or the Irish taxpayer, it’s not the High Court. Sean Quinn took those jobs and put them on the line and lost.
Now, people are hurting, they’re hurting desperately in that area. They’ve had to struggle with the reconciliation of a dying war; they’ve very few employment opportunities; they see, immediately in front of them, ‘we had jobs and they’re gone’. I think they’re blaming the wrong people.”

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