The Normalisation of Obscenity


A mural on Frederick Lane, Dublin 1

Terry McMahon writes:

I was asked to write a piece for the Sunday Business Post’s powerful three-page-special (behind paywall) on homelessness yesterday. 500 words. In fairness to the editor, it was probably the lawyers who advised the cuts, so respect to The Sunday Business Post for running what they did. This is the piece as it was intended, unedited and unapologetic

“I’m not crazy – I will end homeless families living in hostels

Then Minister for Housing Simon Coveney (Irish Independent, January 4 2017)

Imagine the excitement of thousands of forgotten Irish children, holed-up in emergency accommodation, as minister Simon Coveney swears he will get them out by summer 2017.

Imagine those children, two years later, realising the only thing Coveney’s promise secured was his own political advancement. He was made Tánaiste. The second most powerful man in Government.

Imagine those children today, knowing that their dreams and aspirations were nothing more than cannon fodder for the normalisation of obscenity.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines Psycopath as: a person who has no feeling for other people. Does not think about the future. Does not feel bad about anything they have done in the past. Very mentally ill. Unstable. And dangerous.

Coveney taught these children that lying leads to success. Lack of empathy benefits progress. Betrayal is good for business. Only certain lives matter. Dreaming is for the few. A childhood is for the chosen. The consequence of naivety is eviction. The price of vulnerability is horror. Santa is too busy hanging with the socioeconomically selected kids to visit your sorry working-class ass.

These children were taught the literal Cambridge Dictionary definition of what it means to encounter a psychopath. They have learned that political leaders don’t give a damn if increasing numbers of children’s lives, along with the lives of their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, end in a damp doorway.

Is it abnormal for our children to yearn to connect? It is abnormal for our children to yearn to love, and to be loved in return? Is it abnormal for our children to yearn for a home, with their own bed, where they can sleep, without fear, every night?  Is it abnormal for our children to want us to fight for them? For their nation. For their soul. For their right to take back their stolen childhoods.

Despite the normalisation of obscenity, there is hope. Profound hope. All studies have shown normalisation works both ways. When courage becomes common, we normalise heroism. When heroism becomes a condition of being human, we normalise nobility.

When we value humanity and art and science, beyond commerce, as something fundamental to our existence, something vital to our wellbeing, something capable of changing our world, we put those children’s sublime dreams and aspirations into action.

These children know we are braver than we believe. They understand that we will only comprehend courage in retrospect, after we have taken action, on their behalf. They have learned that we don’t have to fear liars. Or traitors. Or psychopaths.

These brave boys and girls are waiting for us. They are yearning for us to teach them what it means to go crazy for real. What it means to fight back. What it means to be what they need us to be. Powerful parents. Dragon slayers. Psycho killers.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker and can be found on Twitter @terrymcmahon69

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet


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41 thoughts on “The Normalisation of Obscenity

  1. missred

    Oh lordy, I can see why the lawyers had to cull the hell out of this. There is a good message in there somewhere though…

  2. Jenny off the block

    Shocked the SBP wouldn’t publish an article which called Simon Coveney a psycopath or psychopath even. Shocked.

  3. Lilly

    Can’t argue with that but I would have cut it even further.

    ‘He was made Tánaiste. The second most powerful man in Government.’

    Second sentence gets the chop. SBP readers know what the Tánaiste is.

    It would be refreshing to read a piece from Terry that didn’t try to diagnose anyone as a Psychopath. Given how difficult it is for experienced psychiatrists with long exposure to individuals to accurately diagnose a personality disorder, Terry’s labelling is trite.

    1. missred

      In the last few years people have also got into the habit of using the terms sociopath and narcissist a bit too casually….

      1. Lilly

        They make up 1% of the population so vigilance is no bad thing. The ability to see beyond the priest’s garb, the swimming coach’s concern or charity worker’s philanthropy was hard earned here.

  4. bobsyerauntie

    “I’m not crazy – I will end homeless families living in hostels”

    There is a a spectrum of personality disorders (or whatever you want to call them) including narcissism, psychopathy, sociopathy etc. Whether Coveney exists on this spectrum or not, is not really the point. His behavior comes across as ruthlessly ambitious, classist, and exploitative (in terms of how he used the homelessness issue as some kind of political baton without actually doing anything of note to help) and as Terry has pointed out, he basically lied to homeless families/kids. – whether he meant it or not who knows?. Whether he used it to advance his position, or not – who knows also? We can only speculate. Coveney typifies the right wing Fine Gael ideology. It’s all about optics.
    I don’t believe that Fine Gael cares about the vulnerable, the downtrodden, the destitute, the travelling community, those on rent allowance, those on RAS/HAP, those in emergency accommodation, those languishing on housing lists- basically anyone that they don’t deem as valuable to their vision of corporate Ireland. They are a corporate/landlord party, they don’t represent any of the aforementioned groups, so why would they care about them? why would someone like Coveney give a damn about homeless families. He will never have to ever mix socially with these people, he will never mix socially with anyone from these aforementioned groups. He won’t even have to mixing socially with anyone on minimum wage, or even those on basic wages – the working class. He mixes with other millionaires and privileged groups, his brother is a multimillionaire, his family are Cork royalty, he has a lineage of upper middle class breeding with political connections through his father’s political dynasty. He doesn’t come in contact with any disenfranchised groups/struggling Irish in his daily life. He is a private school educated upper class elite-living man- these groups don’t mix with anyone in the lower class in Ireland. The homeless families in Ireland are as far removed from Coveney’s reality in Ireland as migrants are in South America; they are an abstract issue which will never affect him, or his elite friends, or his family, or their friends- how can he be expected to relate to this? The problem is not Simon Coveney per se, the problem is Ireland’s hideous class system. He’s just a symptom of it.

    1. Rob_G

      What ‘hideous class system’?

      You seem to be suggesting that middle-class people can’t find common cause with poor people; the comments on posts on homelessness on this website (the vast majority of commenters here are, I imagine, middle class) would somewhat contradict that.

      1. bobsyerauntie

        I wasn’t talking about the ‘middle class’ , I was talking about the gulf between elite millionaire politicians and the poor/homeless etc. The middle class are in a precarious situation too.

          1. bobsyerauntie

            Yes it is a global problem, but I find landlordism particularly odious considering most of our history involved the exploitation of people through landlordiism/classism, and anyhow, i was talking in an Irish context, specific to Ireland’s class issues…

    2. Otis Blue

      To be fair I don’t think Coveney’s promise was a deliberate falsehood, lie or that it reflected some odd FG psychosis or deviance.

      Just the usual naïveté, cluelessness and faux sincerity of our political class.

      1. bobsyerauntie

        Yes, I agree, however such actions, despite how expected they have become from politicians- are still abhorrent. I think that’s what Terry was referring to with his ‘normalization of obscenity’ phrase.
        Coveney couldn’t get out of the housing/homelessness brief quick enough , despite claiming that he has asked for it..

        Seems at the very least, insincere to me.
        But, again, it’s what we expect from our politicians isn’t it?
        The normalization of insincerity and half-truths/deception..

  5. A Person

    How many houses has Terry delivered? How many times has been involved in policy decision, public service, doing something other than calling people names, and acting like a maniac when people criticise him. Coveny’s promise to end homelessness in such a timescale was misguided, if not both naive and stupid. The issue is not going to be solved in an instant. But to accuse him of being a psycho?? And the reference to psycho killers?? Grow up Terry.

  6. johnny

    The Normalization of Fake Old News more like it,he’s done a fantastic job with Brexit,well done Simon.

    You misquoted arguably the most gifted politician of his generation, but hey don’t let the facts get in your way, by misquoting him it resulted in your entire rant becoming just more BS….

    The SBP is on its last legs, publishing this rubbish hopefully hasten its demise,Terry’s ‘goodbye’ to Broadsheet and Ireland has be longest ever.

    “He said some people said he was “crazy” to promise a solution to the use of hotels and B&Bs for emergency accommodation for families by the middle of 2017, but he added: “I am going to make that happen.”

      1. Rob_G

        Seems kind of a cheap shot to criticise the son over something that his father done (and possibly killed himself over).

      2. johnny

        Met him a few times in NY,handles himself with aplomb,is courteous,well spoken and extremely intelligent,he’s a credit to Ireland and as far away from a ‘paddy’ as you can get.He’s also quiet witty, at one event a well know bore (no not Terry),who tends to get tired and emotional was approaching him,in the spirit of Chatham House rules I won’t repeat who it was or what he said,as i desperately sought an exit, but his comment was very funny and spot on,he’s quite likable.
        No idea about his banking arrangements, but he’s no ‘physco’ or whatever comic book,physco babble label Terry is trying apply.

        1. bobsyerauntie

          He might well handle himself with aplomb. Personally I don’t know if he is a psychopath or not but Fine Gael’s policies can certainly come across as distinctly sociopathic at times, or at the very least cold, inhuman and corporate. I suspect he is good company when he is with he peers, as you suggest, however I doubt if he would be too comfortable hanging out with anyone that earns less than 40,000 euro. I just can’t imagine him shooting the shit with someone on social welfare, or a homeless family in a hub…same goes fro Varadkar,and Eoghan Murphy and quite a few others in there- the snob factor is strong in the current government…

          1. Rob_G

            “I suspect…
            I doubt if…
            I just can’t imagine him…”

            Well, the baseless suppositions of some anonymous internet guy who has never met either of them is enough for me.

          2. johnny

            One the event’s that I’m referring to without getting overly specific as,I was a invited guest,was private at a wonderful historical club off Central Park,it was a celebration off the GFA.Sinn Fein had a few members present who appeared to be at the lower end of the earnings scale,they were a little uncomfortable not him.

            He’s actually great company,highly recommend if you get the chance you hang out with him, he did engage with the SF delegation who had one or two more polished Irish Americans amongst them,earning well in excess of 40,000!

            FG is doing exactly what it says on the ‘tin”, save your faux outrage for Labour and FF who have aided and abetted them.

          3. bobsyerauntie

            have you got a kind of tourettes for quotes only?
            I have seen him in many debates over the years, you can tell a lot about a person when they are in the public eye, you don’t need to meet them to get a sense of them and what kind of person they might be.

          4. bobsyerauntie

            Sorry I am not convinced at all about Coveney he has more than a whiff of snobbery off him, and comes across as completely classist. Perhaps the Sinn Fein folk were uncomfortable being in an elite, private function in a ‘wonderful historic club off Cental park’. I’d like to see Coveney hang out with people on rent allowance, or in a homeless hub, he’d wouldn’t last a second. He is out of touch, and has no clue what vulnerable people go through as he has been in an elite position all his life. That’s not even a criticism of him per se- it’s just a fact.

          5. johnny

            thanks Captain Obvious:)
            Agreed some the shiners in attendance also have a chip on their shoulder,Simon is lots things but a snob he most definitely is not.Why should or would you want him hanging out with people he doesn’t represent nor claim to,Ireland has been very well served by his classic Jesuit education with Brexit,he is not overawed, nor intimated by plummy Oxford educated Brits.
            He has represented Ireland extremely well in Brexit and is without doubt a Taoiseach in waiting,he caught a hospital pass with the housing crisis which wasn’t created overnight nor under his watch, simply there isn’t a silver bullet solution,a more holistic approach to the myriad,dysfunctional housing market problems is required.

          6. anne

            Served us well did it? His personality nor his education have made a blind bit of difference to the housing crisis.

    1. bobsyerauntie

      Yes I don’t disagree that he is a Taoiseach in waiting. He is one of the most power-hungry of the Fine Gael mob (and that’s saying something). In his debate for the role of leader of FG, he came across as someone who is power mad. Hungry for power- in fact. Yes he is articulate, and educated, but personally I’d like a leader with compassion, empathy and deep insight, as well as being articulate and intelligent. I don’t see a lot of compassion or empathy from him. I see a man who feels it is his birthright to be be Taoiseach.. The fact that he ditched his role in housing as soon as he got the first opportunity, and made fantastical promises that he had no intention of keeping- indicated somewhat a lack of character in my eyes- and that is the essence of Terry’s article here. He was a landlord at the time too, and I think still is- I wonder did his rental property make more money as rents have shot up these last few years under FG’s housing policies, of course that’s not his fault it it? It’s not his fault he was born into money, power, entitlement, political dynasty, or Cork Royalty is it? it’s not his fault that he has so much advantage is it? must be tough at the top.

      1. Lilly

        ‘I’d like a leader with compassion, empathy and deep insight, as well as being articulate and intelligent.’

        People with such qualities are generally not drawn to politics. You could count them on one hand: Tony Gregory, Maureen O’Sullivan, Clare Daly… few and far between.

        1. bobsyerauntie

          I know, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a Clare Daly type for Taoiseach some day or that at least we can hope! ..

  7. Optimus Grime

    Fair play Terry, I know I stuck the boot into some of your other pieces but this one was very good

  8. Cian

    Any body have any stats on how long people are homeless.

    We know the raw numbers are increasing each month – but are they housing 10 people each month but getting 12 new homeless? Or housing 100 and getting 102 new? Or housing none and getting 2 new?

  9. Lilly

    I’m developing a soft spot for Simon.

    ‘He was expelled from Clongowes after running away to a beach party he had organised in Dublin Bay that no-one turned up to. He had earlier been suspended for drinking.’

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