Conor Cruise O’Brien in 1973
On foot of the first part of RTE’s documentary three=part series Crimes And Confessions [examining the most notorious miscarriages of justice from the 1970s and 1980s especially the methods of the Gardai] which was aired on RTE television last evening, the coming week is going to be a stressful one for members of the broad political movement Continuity Conor Cruise O’Brien, foot soldiers and big shot columnists alike.
Last evening’s episode made repeated, and in the opinion of some in the greater Howth Hill area, gratuitous use of the term “heavy gang“, a phrase which brings your average fan of the 1973-77 Fine Gael-Labour Coalition government out in raging hives. Near the end of last evening’s episode, the great Dr O’Brien himself is shown in a most unflattering light which, in the eyes of some misguided young people, may make him look like a kind of poor man’s General Pinochet.
The second episode, which airs next Monday January 17 on RTE at 9.35pm promises to be such unpleasant viewing that many Conor Cruise O’Brien fans will spend the next week face down in dark rooms, without so much as another Fintan O’Toole column about Brexit (or how it’s all the Provos fault) to hand. If you are a carer for, or relative of, a member of Continuity Conor Cruise O’Brien, feel free to print out this poem and mop their brow with it. We owe them that much.
To The Man Who Defines Ireland
When telling us, as a nation, to cop on to ourselves
you spit the words Provo
or workers’ paradise like a lady
trying to rid her mouth of sour milk.
But your voice is church bells and sunshine
pouring down on Kingstown Harbour, circa 1913
when you put your tongue across the syllables
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.
The greatest thing to come out of Crumlin
since the curried chips
that made a young Phil Lynott
question his lifestyle choices.
You are politically and philosophically serious
as a second division footballer’s fashion sense,
circa 1977; or a stockbroker last seen exiting
a high-end house of great repute
wearing a thirteen gallon hat;
or a guy in a white linen jacket
who’ll end up wandering O’Connell Street
shouting against Home Rule.
And without you, we’d not be ourselves.
For you are our national anticonvulsant
without which we’d be in danger
of actually doing something.