Author Archives: Terry McMahon

From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris flanked by Master of Holles Street Rhona Mahoney (left) and Master of the Rotunda Fergal Malone during the Eight Amendment referendum campaign last May; Terry McMahon

Have to ask this question. Not trying to offend anyone, though precedent suggests this will likely inspire that strange rage that seems to be our national language these days. Or that other reaction. Silence. Followed by censorship. But, in good conscience, it has to be asked.

Abortion, for a woman, or a couple, is a profoundly private decision. In advance of the ‘Repeal’ referendum, many people were asked to put their personal morality aside and use democracy to give those women or couples the right to make that profound decision in their own country, rather than be shamed into travelling overseas to terminate.

Repeal proved to be a divisive campaign. As both sides carved out their positions decades of inarticulate rage also spewed out. New names were given to old words and language lost all meaning. Anything that didn’t fit into the new narrative was cut out like a gangrene memory.

Yet, when it came to the ballot box, people believed their final decision was done for noble reasons. Both sides believed they were doing the right thing.

And the democratic outcome decided that the right to life of the unborn was no longer constitutionally equal to the right to life of the mother.

At least it was now clear. Easy to comprehend. Regardless of which way you voted. Regardless of the moral complexities.

But now we have politicians defining the consequence of that outcome. We are trusting them with the most profound issue of our time, even if many of them have a verifiable history of implementing policies that have destroyed people’s lives.

We are allowing them to define the reality of abortion, even if many of these men and women have already proven themselves to be psychopaths.

These trusted politicians are now questioning if our nation’s remarkable hospital staff, many of whom are legitimate conscientious objectors, should be forced to participate in abortions. Or face being struck off.

These trusted politicians are now questioning if race, gender, and physical or mental disability are valid reasons for late-term abortion. Including the termination of someone with Downs Syndrome.

These trusted politicians are now questioning if we should refuse to administer pain relief to the soon-to-be-terminated foetus on the grounds that it is just another attempt to shame the mother. Yes, you read that correctly.

Have we really gone from legitimately attempting to address the stigma of shaming a woman seeking an abortion by repealing the 8th, to insisting that a late-term foetus, who feels everything with every nerve ending in its body, should be granted no pain relief in case we cause that mother some shame?

No matter which side you were on, is there anyone out there – literally anyone – who supports the assertion that granting pain relief to an unborn child in advance of its painful death is somehow wrong?

Amid all the noise of Repeal, is this really what we voted ‘Yes’ for? If it’s not, then why in hell are we all so suddenly silent?

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

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

Rollingnews

From top: Terry McMahon’s impending African thriller Caged in the Creeks; article in The Guardian (Nigeria) newspaper.

Terry McMahon writes:

Even though I stopped writing for Broadsheet because of poisonous psychos hiding behind pseudonyms, I see that a recent powerful post detailing a video about incredibly brave people fighting for rights to medicinal cannabis in Ireland is still somehow lassoed by another moronic troll as a means to insult me. With yet another lie.

But the facts don’t matter to trolls. Or the truth. They simply need to defecate. Everywhere. Poor souls.

The world is a big and beautiful place. Small-minded psychos shouldn’t be allowed to define its conversations. What Broadsheet does in Ireland is important. Writing for readers who care about something beyond a troll’s obsessive need for keyboard attacks is an honour.

So, to hell with the trolls.

The keyboard warriors. The anonymous cowards. The pseudonym psychos. No doubt they’re already frenziedly trashing out their rebuttals with their usual charm and chlamydia-infected fingertips.

But that’s enough about the troglodyte cowardice of Irish trolls. Africa is calling. Big, beautiful, brave Africa.

In Ireland, there seem to be select filmmakers who get offered movies no matter what they do. Some of them can even make back-to-back duds and still secure finance for their next film.

Then, there are the rest of us. People whose track record is also irrelevant. In a destructive way.

The last film I directed won multiple awards internationally, and three IFTAs at home, yet there wasn’t a single offer to direct another film from anyone in Ireland.

Not one.

And believe me, I wasn’t sitting on my arrogant arse, waiting for handouts, I reached out to everyone. Nothing. Nada. I couldn’t even secure an unpaid apprenticeship on the television show Vikings.

For my third film, I desperately wanted to make a passion project, ‘The Dancehall Bitch,’ a deeply provocative prison drama about the nature of coercion and sexual violence.

The two leading actors of my previous films, Emmett Scanlan and Moe Dunford were as equally passionate about the project as I was. There was a kind of poetry in these two previously unknown actors, who are now trailblazing their way across the world stage, joining each other for our third film together.

Also, in an era when the dangers of violent masculinity and the obscenity of coercive rape are two of the most contentious conversations in our culture, I also believed our timing couldn’t have been better.

These were two superb young Irish actors who completely trusted their Irish director – all of whom had now proven themselves on that international stage – and we were ready to make a provocative picture about the national narrative like this country had never seen.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Irish Film Board turned the project down.

The same happened with several other projects. Evidently, the kind of cinema I wanted to make was not the kind of cinema they wanted to make.

The political landscape had changed. Certain films were taboo now. Just like certain directors. Paying the mortgage became an increasingly difficult task.

I also had a new kid. Mouths to be fed. So, with twenty-five years of teaching experience, I applied to advertised positions in colleges.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I had taught in several of these colleges in the past, consistently generating remarkable testimonials from the pupils. It may not have been filmmaking but facilitating students in finding their voices can still be incredibly creative.

Then the penny dropped. I didn’t even make the shortlist for many of the interviews. Later it would be revealed that the positions had often gone to people significantly less qualified than me.

And that’s when you begin to get worried.

Five years after ‘Patrick’s Day‘ won the Galway Film Fleadh and The Cork Film Festival, every filmmaker who had made the big films in those festivals that year had gone on to make another film. Sometimes two.

Every filmmaker except the one who had won both festivals. In those five years, I had become increasingly involved in the politics of austerity and the sickening policies of our government. I had been asked to make some speeches. They caused serious backlash.

I broke some cultural rules that are not meant to be broken. Apollo House didn’t help either. Everyone is equal in this new era of equality. Except for the ones who can’t swallow the lie. I was out. Finito.

I would have killed to make my third film in Ireland. I adore our country. I adore Irish people. With a passion that’s almost embarrassing. Most of them, anyway. But telling the truth these days in Ireland is punishable by career death.

Yet, the Gods of Film are a gloriously fickle bunch. The audacity you are punished for in your own country can be the very thing that ignites the imagination of another.

And nowhere on earth embraces audacity more than Africa.

They don’t care that you took some small action against the government’s murderous austerity. They admire it. They don’t care that you want to use film to shake up the world. They insist upon it.

They don’t care that you’re a pink-skinned, black-listed Paddy who can’t keep his damned mouth shut. They love it.

The only thing our African brothers really care about is whether or not you’ll put everything on the line to make a movie. And that’s the only thing I care about too. Which is why I love those magnificent men and women right back. Almost as much as I love the trolls.

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

Previously: Terry McMahon on Broadsheet

From  top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (second right) and Minister for Health Simon Harris in Dublin Castle as results to repeal the 8th Amendment were coming through

Happened again yesterday. Happens most days now. They see you. A moment of recognition. A raising of the eyebrows. A gentle smile. And you do the same. It’s a moment. A kind of community. A sense of belonging. You’re not stopping. You never do. You don’t know each other well enough. But it’s still warm. Always was.

Then the smile stops. The lips tighten. The eyes deaden. Repeal remembered. They forgot to remember to hate you.

Many are from the Arts. The world of film, theatre, television and books. Compassionate. Good people. Some are cowards. That’s inevitable. But some are not. Some are even talented. Some are even activists. Some even reflect that in their work.

Their result was a foregone conclusion. A campaign too brilliant to fail. Initially, I was conflicted. But I was on their side. I had to be. That’s what community means. Until they forget to remember to hate you.

So I did what I always do. Did what I should do. Did what artists are supposed to do. Sought out the underdog. Searched for the other side. Listened to the opposite.

But this wasn’t a time for questions. This was a time for banal acquiescence. Blind obedience. Political absolutes. With or against. Feminist or misogynist. Yes or No. And when you vote, don’t forget to remember to hate.

Equality is a tool of division now. Compassion an ideological weapon. Human rights sans the human. So what if you’re conflicted? So what if this was devised to divide? I’d still be on their side. Still defend them. Still present both sides.

Even after the comical unfriending. The defiant blocking. The shameful prejudice. The rabid ridicule. By the new radicals. These fearless feminists. These political women and men. These masters in the art of never forgetting to remember to hate you.

I’m lucky enough to have friends on all sides. Some are artists. Some are activists. Some are neither. All are Humanists. Some are in complex agreement. Some have profound differences. All have fundamental fears. Morally. Ethically. Intellectually. They talk. They fight. They love. They get closer. And they teach me to reach for the impossible. They teach me to attempt to understand. They teach me to forget to remember to hate.

Some of them say a zygote has no identity. A fetus has got no soul. No reason to be included. No rationale to be alive. No constitution to protect them. And that’s the done deal now. The good people have spoken. Death by Democracy.

Even then, I’d still try to see their side. Still empathise. Still understand. Despite wondering how censorship had become a badge of honour. Despite realising you can’t pose the wrong questions. Despite asking yourself what kind of dumb fuck are you to forget to remember to hate?

Then that day happened. Not the election. Not the result. Not the campaign. All of that I could understand. It was that damned day in Dublin Castle.

As a community chanted their names. The two Health Ministers. One serving. One Taoiseach. Both Feminists. Sex symbols. Hashtag heroes. Psychopaths. A Bacchanalian blowjob for politicians presiding over the murder of women. The pimps of privatisation. The czars of cervical cancer. The austerity men who never forget to remember to hate you.

And you realise you’ll never understand. You realise you know nothing. You realise your soul is lost. Your mind is bludgeoned. Your heart is crushed. Your belief has bled out. And that might be why you notice those constant smiles that turn stern. That warm that turns cold. That compassionate rejection.

From people you still respect. From women and men you still adore. From the work you still love. From the community you still embrace. Even if they never forget to remember to hate you.

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

Rollingnews

Terry McMahon (front centre) with friends from the class of 1988 in Mullingar Vocational School at their 30-year reunion last Saturday

Terry McMahon writes:

Sometimes you just get lucky in life.

We went to a Christian Brothers School, up to the age of twelve. Our teacher was a nonce. Served a lengthy sentence for multiple counts of child sex abuse. He had his own private bathroom in the class. How transparent. Bastard tried it with me. First time I fought an adult. And almost won.

That was our primary school. Couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. But the nonce had other plans. The Christian Brothers had a secondary school next door. I was destined to go there. We had to do an entrance exam. But it was all a done deal. An all boys school. All ripe. All ready.

On the other side of town was the Vocational School. The Tech, they called it. The shithole. For the poor folks and the dumb fucks. The rejects. The rabble. At least that’s what the snobs said. The snobs and the Christian Brothers. It was also a mixed school. Boys and girls. Nobody ripe. Nobody ready. All curious as hell.

We used to have to line up for the nonce before entering class. He was from Belfast and reckoned himself a quasi-military man. The boys he wasn’t sexually aroused by he simply beat.

He had a Masters Degree in Humiliation. The day of the entrance exam for the shithole school, he ordered the boys who were going to do the exam to take one step forward. Every poor bastard he had ever tried to break stepped forward. The rest of us stayed where we were. He was happy with the result. A line of winners and losers. Eugenics in full flow.

I was too scared to breathe. Sweating. Paralysis. But some things need to be done. I forced my skinny, trembling, twelve-year-old frame to step forward. The nonce did a double take. Loving the theatre of his own making.

He stood in front of me. I could smell his cigarette breath. Feel his spit on my face. He told me to get back in line. Everything in me wanted to fold like a cheap accordion. But I looked at him. My voice barely broken yet. I said, “I’m going.”

He didn’t get angry. He got off on the skinny defiance. Grinned. Aroused. ‘Okay, boy.’ Your skin would crawl at the way he used the word ‘boy.’ He put his mouth close to my ear but spoke loudly so everyone could appreciate his stature.

‘You can do the exam but you’re not going to that school. Ya hear me, boy?’

I nodded. Defeated. Knowing he was right. Knowing that the entrance exam for the Christian Brothers secondary school was the following Saturday. Knowing my fate was sealed.

We crossed town to get to the shithole school. Me and that motley crew of miscreants. Some of the best men I would ever meet. We had to go through a public park.

The closer you got, the more you could feel the greasy grip of the Christian Brothers lessen. And the girls. Everywhere. One more beautiful than the next. We were only twelve years old but it felt like our hearts were too big for our chests.

We sat the exam. Giddy with hormones. Then returned to our Christian Brother madhouse. The nonce ridiculed us as we took our seats. A particularly ugly grin for me. ‘See you at the exam on Saturday, boy.’ I wanted to punch his head in. Perhaps someone is doing it to him in prison right now.

That Saturday morning my folks got me and my brother up early to sit the Christian Brothers entrance exam. I said nothing. Ate breakfast. A simple plan had formed. Only a simpleton could have come up with it. We walked there. Me and my athlete brother. Him, the perfect specimen for Christian Brother GAA glory. Me, the perfect gammy-legged gimp.

Halfway there, I stopped. Saluted my brother. And walked the opposite direction. He called after me. But I was gone. If I didn’t sit the Christian Brothers bullshit exam I couldn’t legally be allowed to attend the Christian Brothers bullshit school.

The nonce wanted me dead. Probably to fuck the corpse. But I was going to a place where raping children wasn’t the top priority of most of the teachers. The Tech.

A place so underfunded most of our classes were held in prefabs. A place so underestimated most of the students were deemed to be anonymous plebs to be exploited in the labour force.

A place so fucking beautiful it became our Paradise.

From day one everything was different. My brother’s secondary school seemed hellbent on ripping the underpants of every vulnerable boy so far up their backside that it took months for their testicles to recover. Wedgie, they called it. And how they laughed. Like psychopaths inhaling a deep y-fronted high only they could understand. We, on the other hand, were walking around a building possessed by angels. Real ones.

The girls were so much more mature than us that the idea of giving anybody a wedgie made you feel like a moron. While the boys in the Christian Brothers school were busy learning how to flick towels at naked arses in the shower room, we were getting lessons in how to be men. By the most formidable women we could ever dream of meeting.

The teachers were amazing too. Mostly. No doubt there was the odd degenerate. No doubt some of those girls have some of their own horror stories. No doubt those stories were buried, like everything else in our culture at that time. Just like now.

I remember the girl who told me what her father was doing to her at night when her mother went to bingo. She needed help. Decided I was the one to tell. I had no idea what to do. I approached the religion teacher. Not because I gave a fuck about religion. But because she was a beautiful woman. Inside and out. She handled it with the seriousness that it deserved. Then the girl told me it had stopped. But she looked sad. Not relieved. Soon after, she left school. Never saw her again.

There is a hundred-thousand stories to tell of that school. Of those people in it. Of the boys and the girls. First loves. Fist fights. Broken hearts. I hated home. But I loved that place. Mornings couldn’t come quick enough. Entering that building was like strolling into a John Hughes movie.

Every snobbish statement about the school proved to be horseshit. Our headmaster was the wisest, kindest, white-haired man a kid could ever hope to encounter. Same with most of the teachers. All the way to the janitor. We were too young to recognise just how remarkable our world was. It was rare as diamonds. And more valuable.

I had to leave the place at fifteen. Never got to finish school. Do the Leaving Cert. Go to the Graduation Dance. All the rituals. Big chip on the shoulder afterwards. For decades. But life went on. Stayed in touch with some. Lost contact with others. Yet always felt warm memories of all of them. Then a message came through. On Facebook. A Thirty Year Reunion.

It happened last Saturday. The night was long. The stimulants intoxicating. And the company sublime. The snap (top) of some of the many magnificent people who were there was taken before I snuck out the back door at about 3am. Hopped a taxi back to the hotel. Full to the brim with renewed love for these remarkable people.

Sometimes you just get lucky in life. Sometimes the Gods get together and decide to make magic in a rural town, in a shithole school, with the best folks a body could hope to meet.

And fuck the Christian Brothers.

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

Related: Christian Brother Stories

From top: Irish Film and Television (IFTA) 2018 actress nominees, from left: Sarah Bolger Saoirse Ronan and Ann Skelly; Terry McMahon

The elephant in the room is sitting on a woman.

Multiple people – women and men and possibly transgender – were nominated for this year’s Irish Film and Television Awards. Some folks are cynical about the IFTAs but huge kudos should be given to Áine Moriarty and Deirdre Hopkins for turning these awards into an increasingly impressive annual ceremony.

I have been nominated for a few IFTAs. I’ve presented a few of them. A film I made even won a few. But, this year, instead of celebrating the nominees, there has been a furious backlash to the announcement that only three women have been selected for the Lead Actress category.

Enraged pundits are demanding to know why there are so few central roles written for women. Demanding to know who precisely is stopping women writing and directing female-led films. Demanding to know whose heads will roll.

The Irish Film Board has created five different initiatives exclusively for female writers and directors. They did so because the uptake from female writers for an earlier gender defined initiative was far less than expected. The reason for this was put down to “unconscious bias.” Perhaps this is true. So let’s examine the conscious facts.

The Irish Film Board has 18 staff members. 15 women and three men.

The Irish Film Board has seven board members. Five are women. Two are men.

Screen Training Ireland – the educational arm of The Irish Film Board – has six staff members. Six women and no men.

There are films made without Film Board support but, in general, this means that the decision behind the funding and the development of Irish cinema is made by 26 women and five men.

(It’s difficult to ascertain precisely how many script editors the Film Board is facilitating but anecdotal evidence suggests the significant majority are women.)

We need to name the elephant in the room. The male elephant. We cannot move towards true equality until those five men are removed. And replaced by five women. It’s clear that those 5 men are the reason no scripts with central female roles are being written and directed by women. Shame on them. And shame on every man who idly allows this barbaric inequity to continue.

The evidence is clear. The answer is simple. Only when that ratio of 26 women to 5 men is addressed can we finally come clean about who is stopping women writing female-led scripts.

Only when a woman is finally able to sit down and write her female-led script without having five  men standing over her shoulder, dragging the pencil out of her fingers, or clogging up her keyboard with their male made muck, can we progress.

Only when that ratio of 26 women to 5 men becomes 31 women to zero men can we finally have the kind of equality that we all deserve.

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

The IFTas take place on Thursday, February 15.

Montage: IFTA

 

The Woodstock Film Festival, 2011, from left: Tim Palmer, Terry McMahon and Moe Dunford. Trailer for Charlie Casanova (2010)

This one is for you.

Facebook just reminded us that nine years ago a bunch of lunatics turned up during the worst winter on record to make a psychotic movie about the cancer of the controlling class.

Staring in panic at a blank page for a long time, before projectile vomiting a political script onto ninety of those pages, I was an unproduced hack, who had never directed a short film, much less a feature.

We had a budget of nine-hundred-quid, and our borrowed camera had to be back eleven days later, so that became our production schedule.

Snow bombarded the city but nobody backed out. Frost incapacitated the equipment but filming never stopped. Doubt crept in every second but nobody backed out. Eleven days later we got rat-assed drunk in the way that only a group which has been through hell together can. Awoke the next morning, aching to the bone, wondering if the footage we captured would get anywhere beyond the bottom of a drawer.

What chance did a messed-up little Irish film about a controlling class psychopath have on the world stage? Home-burned DVDs with the title hand-scrawled across them were submitted to film festivals, and we waited for Godot.

Then, Janet Pierson, head honcho of one of the world’s great film festivals, wanted our film to be the first Irish movie ever selected for the coveted SXSW Narrative Feature Competition. And we nearly shit ourselves.

‘Charlie Casanova’ ended up being picked up for distribution by Studio Canal and released in UK and Irish cinemas before being kicked to death by our critics.

We presumed we’d never make another film, particularly since we wanted to address the dehumanisation of people with mental illness; another subject nobody wanted to touch at the time; but five years later those same critics would pick our second film, ‘Patrick’s Day’, as Best Irish Film of the Year. Yet the more things change the more they remain the stagnant same.

Nearly a decade later it’s never been more difficult to make political cinema. Or political television.

The explosion in cheap technology in that decade should have opened the floodgates. But where are those films? Where is that cinematic rage? The controlling class, which we denied even existed a decade earlier, used austerity to relentlessly attack our most vulnerable. But perhaps they also succeeded in sidelining our artistic culture. Or are we just cowards?

Who the hell knows what our collective future holds. Nobody could have believed a decade ago that we’d become the country we are today. What we become in the next decade is wide open.

There are brilliant filmmakers out there. Some of them we already know. Men and women born to make magic. But maybe some of them are as yet unknown. Maybe some of them have yet to dive into the madness of their first movie, penned in panic and made for no money. Maybe some of them have yet to put pen to their first blank page.

Maybe one of them is you.

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

Yesterday

Filmmaker Terry McMahon raises and answers a pressing question at the ‘Home For All’ concert, outside Leinster House, Dublin 2 organised by Inner City Helping Homeless.

No swearing.

Yesterday: Bringing It All Back Home

Previously: Terry McMahon: Apollo House, Simon Coveney and Lying for a Living

Terry McMahon

Dedicated to the Broadsheet trolls, it’s that sacred time of year again when, being too broke to buy you a gift, you get the innocent true tale of Christmas Number Two… 


But…what if it’s a number two?’ I queried, determined to prevent my stammer getting in the way of the most important question I had ever asked. My mother and father were putting my brother, sister, and me to bed while explaining the necessity of Christmas Eve bladder control.

My mother reasoned I should perhaps focus more on simply not wetting the bed rather than worrying about that other specific bodily function. Santa, you see, didn’t look too kindly on children who couldn’t wait to get to the bathroom, children who, instead, did their number one under the bed covers.

My slightly older sister was generous and comforting and warm, inspiring the kind of confidence in my bowels that could make a child sleep in security. My brother? All that bastard had to do was glance at me.

But what if it’s not a number one?’ I persisted, ‘What if it really is a number two?’

My mother paused, and gently said, “Santa leaves you a bag of coal.”

Christmas in our house was the most exquisite time of year. Every dodgy and dubious event of the previous eleven months were wiped away and replaced by the greatest gifts man or boy could yearn for. In the darkness, lit only by the hand-held torch in my father’s fingers, we’d silently slip down the stairs, fearing to breathe in case Santa might still be here.

My father would slowly open the sitting-room door to reveal our own private toy store under the Christmas tree. We were allowed to request three gifts from Santa but every year there would be multiple surprises to accompany those three choices and the surprises often outdid the original requests.

We lived in Dalton Park in Mullingar, and a great place it was to live in too, with Christmas morning spilling out onto the streets, kids cycling new bikes, shooting bows and arrows and trading Santa stories.

This year, however, was going to be strange. This year there was going to be a different kind of surprise, a surprise not deposited by Santa under the tree, a surprise that was the result of indulgent overeating, youthful anxiety, and the merest hint of diarrhea; and, rather than lying under the Christmas tree, this particular surprise had been deposited by me into the nether regions of my Action Man underwear.

It was my brother who woke me. The early morning scent in the small shared room made it difficult for him to sleep, difficult for him to breathe, so he did what any loving brother would do, he pulled back the bedcovers and laughed at my personal misery.

This was to be my Christmas, a bag of coal from Santa and a lifetime of ridicule from my brother.

I begged him to say nothing. He did what any loving brother would do, he made a deal. I’d give him half of all monies received from relatives this year plus take regular beatings, without retaliation, at his whim, for a month. I wanted to scream out at the injustice, rail against the gods for giving me spontaneous bowels and smash his brotherly face in, but, instead, I agreed.

So there we are, the whole family, on the top step, me at the back, peering at that downstairs doorway of delight, watching the round moon of light flickering from the brandished torch. Nobody knew anything and I was about to get away with it. My tiny problem had ceased to exist and we were poised for the greatest Christmas ever.

But midway down the stairs my father stopped in sudden surprised silence, and quietly asked, with a tenderness and kindness that was almost moving, ‘Did someone fart?’ I presumed that being last in the queue had secured my tenable position but I hadn’t considered that the upstairs window was open, allowing air to slip through, with my family all downwind of me – me and my cotton-covered catastrophe.

Everybody denied it, none more vociferously than I. To my overwhelming relief my father continued on down the stairs. But he breathed again, and he got it again – that peculiar scent you only get from the most damaged bowels – and it took all of two steps for him to stop again, him and his wolfhound nose, ‘Someone definitely farted…’

He followed that up with the two worst words in the English language, ‘…or worse.’

Under such pressure my brother did what any loving brother would do and ratted me out, “Terry did a number two in his undies!” My stammer returned in spades and as I tried to articulate my defecated devastation, all my parents could make out, through the snot-punctuated sobs, was the terrified phrase, ‘…bag of coal.’

As they calmed me down, then hosed me down, I realised how naive I had been to believe I could scam Santa, how arrogant it had been of me to think I could pull such a stunt on the coolest fat man there ever was and I reconciled myself to the reality that a bag of coal was indeed what it was going to be this year.

They brought me into the sitting-room, and of course instead of the bag of coal there was the most stunning array of gifts. As I jumped out of their arms and ploughed into that mountain of gifts, it may be true nobody wanted to stand too close to me, but I didn’t care, Santa had come through for me and the world was a beautiful place again.

And I never did do the number two under the covers again. Until I was thirty-two. But that’s a food poisoning story that, trust me, nobody needs to hear on this festive occasion. 

Or any occasion.

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

    From top: an internet troll; Terry McMahon

If you want insight into the undertow of our poisoned culture then look no further than the comments section of Broadsheet.ie.

A fearless website, Broadsheet also seems to attract the ugliest kind of anonymous cowards.

Soon as the site posted a short personal piece celebrating the courage of [Medicinal cannabis campaigners] Vera Twomey, and her husband Paul, this was the first comment:

Wow man i’m like so real, I get to use bad language in my screeds
I’m the street, man, I’m the life itself
You better recognise

This was followed by the usual litany of insults and sneers from a long line of nameless faceless keyboard warriors waiting in the wings.

I can take their malignancy but is it not disturbing that when these people read about a heroic mother and father protecting their beautiful daughter, their immediate and only response is to ignore that heroism and attack the hack who penned the piece?

Who are you? On the streets, or in bars, or restaurants, or playgrounds, or in any aspect of day to day life, I never seem to meet you. The vast majority of the folks I meet are good people. Fighting to stay afloat. Looking after each other. Being brave. Being kind.

Where are you emotional, psychological, political, intellectual parasites? Where do you go during the day? Or at night? Are the innumerable good people I meet not part of the real word? The real Ireland? Am I just naive?

Are they just a bubble of decent people surrounded by you bilious bastards?

Where does your scorn come from? Your cowardly rage. Your articulate rabies. What might happen if you redirected the cancer of your collective cowardice into positive and pragmatic action?

What might happen if your keyboard-stained sticky-keyboard-stained-fingers were used to build something? What might happen if you used your privileged intelligence to attract rather than attack?

These are genuine questions. An attempt to understand you. To empathise with you. To rehumanise you.

Then again, you’ve probably been too busy composing your next contemptuous comment to have even gotten to the end of this piece.

Terry McMahon is a filmmaker. Twitter:@terrymcmahon69


From top: Vera Twomey; Terry McMahon

Yesterday, Minister for Health Simon Harris granted Ava Barry, age seven, a special licence to be prescribed medicinal cannabis at her home in Cork.

Ava suffers from Dravets Syndrome and her parents Vera and Paul say cannabis oil, prescribed in The Hague where the family moved in June, has helped preventtheir daughter from having seizures.

Before going to the Netherlands, Vera took a well-publicised trip to Spain to secure the oil and take it back to Cork.

Terry McMahon writes:

Got a text late one night. Someone was looking for my number. Was it okay to pass it on? Anybody who wants my number can have it. Couple of minutes later the phone vibrated. Rarely answer the thing at night but this was different. She introduced herself. Voice unmistakable. Softer than I’d heard it on television.

But those circumstances were different. I wasn’t trying to rob her daughter of life-saving medicine. That was the first time I spoke with Vera Twomey. Five hours later we were standing on a security line waiting to board a plane to Barcelona.

Sitting in the airport that morning with Vera and her husband Paul should have been uncomfortable. Should have felt awkward. Should have had some kind of logic to make the three of us feel like we knew what the hell we were doing. But we didn’t. We were going on instinct.

A little girl was in a fight for her life against the gigantic ego of a Minister For Health. Nothing else mattered. That Minister refused to believe in miracles. Refused to believe in any power other than his own. Refused to recognize he was being given a lesson on the power of love by the parents of the little girl that he was intent on ignoring. But you don’t ignore Vera Twomey.

Paul walked us to the security gates. Me and his wife. Two strangers. A brief holiday is all. The camera hanging against my chest with the lens exposed. A tourist cliché. Paul said look after her. Out of earshot. A whisper. Humbling to shake the hand of such a man.

We were being watched as we went through security. Vera had been arrested a short time ago. Her arrest made headlines around the world. A mother’s love etched on the front page. They didn’t try to hide the fact that we were being watched either. But they didn’t know they were being watched too. The camera lens was exposed for a reason. The red light recording sound and vision virtually invisible. Hiding in clear sight.

We arrived in Barcelona. Already getting to know each other on the plane. No time for pretense. Everything from the heart. Bullshit free. We were staying in Las Ramblas. Iconic hotel. Perfect rooms. Barcelona beauty. We had less than twenty-four hours.

And every minute would be used. Some of the most remarkably humane people a soul could yearn to connect with appeared. Courageous, inspiring and generous beyond measure, these people put everything on the line to help others. And were reviled for it. Mistrusted. Criminalised. While our Minister sat on a fat salary for doing nothing.

Sometimes all it takes is a simple plan. Do the right thing. We all know what the right thing is. Most of the time. But Vera and Paul, and their incredible daughter Ava, had been repeatedly lied to by the Minister and his coterie of cowards. Then maligned. Then ignored. Then politely dragged away by police.

Vera needed a new plan. And she hatched it in Barcelona. The food tasted incredible that night. As did the wine. As did the air. That’s how bravery affects the senses. The opposite of how our Minister’s cowardice dulls them.

Back in Dublin next morning security was waiting for us. More of them than usual. Ready. I held back. Separated. Not to conceal anything. The camera was in full view. Except for the tiny red recording light. They searched her. They searched me. They questioned us. They could have been bastards. But they weren’t. They did their job. Meticulously.

But you could tell their hearts weren’t in it. Their hearts were bigger than this bullshit charade. They were mothers and fathers. They were in awe of Vera Twomey. Almost as much as I was.

That’s the impact Vera Twomey has. The impact Paul has. They make you believe corrupt politicians can be exposed. Because they just did it. They make you believe in the impossible. Because they just made it happen. They make you believe love moves mountains. Because it fucking does.

Terry McMahon is a homelessness activist, acting coach and award-winning film director. Follow Terry on Twitter: @Terrymcmahon69

Previously: Vera Twomey on broadsheet