Friday, June 30, 2017

Poem: Irish Liberal Foresees Own Enduring Relevance

The false imprisonment of political rights in Ireland

In 2014, after six years of severe austerity in Ireland, the then Fine Gael-Labour coalition government attempted to impose additional charges for domestic water, and it was widely believed that this was a first step towards privatisation of the country’s water supply.

This provoked the biggest mass movement in recent Irish history, by far.

But in November that year, a group of protesters blocked the car of then Deputy Government leader and Labour Party leader Joan Burton for about three hours. The incident provoked both hysteria from the political establishment who accused the protesters of “false imprisonment” (illegal confinement of an individual against his or her will), as well as the media who, for the previous six years, had often commented that it was amazing there hadn’t been more serious protests against savage cuts to services. When the Irish did say “no” to the IMF/EU-imposed austerity, the liberal media was every bit as rabid in its condemnation as the country’s tabloids.

Following this furore, in our February 2016 General Election the pro-austerity Irish Labour Party, of which Joan Burton was leader, lost 80% of its seats.

The campaign against water charges has been successful and the charges are to be abolished. In this trial, the state is attempting to take some revenge.

My poem below satirises the reaction to the anti-water charges protests of the Irish pseudo-left.

Irish Liberal Foresees Own Enduring Relevance

My words are smoother than the essential oils
the Taoiseach last week
had his parliamentary assistant rub
into his badly traumatised buttocks.
My psychotherapist insists
half the people who’ve taken
shotguns to their own heads,
during this recession, would’ve reconsidered,
if only they’d heard me talk for an hour
each week about the dangers of Sinn Fein,
or how I live in the hope of a woman Pope.

I’m all for the good people of middle Ireland
making their point in a dignified manner
with china cups of nothing stronger than tea in their hands.
But when thugs from the far parts start burning vans
and generally acting as if they owned the place;
and gurriers from the depths begin picking up bricks
and tossing words so terrible,
they’re not even in the dictionary,
at the Minister for Poverty’s hair-style.
(How would you like your wife,
sister, great grandmother,
kidnapped in her car
for two and a half hours?)

The world will not be changed by fools
banging on the bonnet of a BMW.
But by the likes of me talking
against social exclusion in TV studios.
And fundraising concerts organised
by former pop-stars.
And the well-meaning priest
with whom I regularly have dinner;
between the two us we’ve enough
concern for the poor to construct a second
Fergal Keane of the BBC,
as a back-up in case
the existing one breaks.

Trust in us. Pay no heed
to the sweary-mouthed crowd,
who if they’re not put back where they belong
will soon be eating pot noodle from scooped out skulls
confiscated from their betters
in defiance of international law.
By the likes of them,
the world must not be changed.

Kevin Higgins
Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway. He teaches poetry workshops and is a poetry critic with The Galway Advertiser. Kevin has published four collections of poetry: The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), Frightening New Furniture (2010), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), and his best-selling first collection, The Boy With No Face (2005). The Stinging Fly magazine recently described Kevin as "likely the most read living poet in Ireland”. Follow him on Twitter @KevinHIpoet1967

This poem was also published on the UK site, The Platform

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