AS I SEE IT
BY MARIANNE HERON
At first when I came to live in the South I used to think that the 26 counties were a class-free society. It didn’t matter where you went to school, how much money you had or what your accent was as long as you were good craic.
Naïve perhaps, maybe I was basing my social observations on the carry-on in pubs where humour was a great leveller. But having lived previously with sectarianism in the Six Counties and in England with its omnipresent class system might explain my innocence. In England accents were a giveaway, dividing working from middle class and these from the upper-class lot: the kind who inherited their furniture and their homes and the aspiring uppers who had to buy both.
In the North which foot you kicked with was the dividing factor and surnames and addresses were a giveaway. Having started life across the water I had the wrong accent for Unionists who may love the Union Jack but don’t love the English.
Coming to live here where I no longer had to worry about other folk’s accents or my own was relaxing. It took time before I got know about the nuanced divisions here. There’s always a them and us wherever you go. Here distinguishing factors like GAA versus rugby and cricket, the allegiances of pro and anti- Treaty, Dubs v culchies, are fading. But now in the time of Covid I think new variations of them and us have emerged.
There is the us who have obeyed the Covid regulations, going without social contact, celebrations and unable even to stay at the bedsides of departing loved ones and the them who flout the rules, often the very them who have set the rules for us.
It’s the inherent unfairness and the whiff of privilege which raise hackles and inflame opinion. It has given rise to a kind of Valley of the Squinting Windows where we judge rule breakers in the court of public opinion: be they broadcasters together for a maskless photograph, civil servants momentarily sharing a glass of fizzy wine or soldiers at an outdoor barbeque.
This month another them and us has been spotlighted courtesy of Judge Mary Fahy when she dismissed the charges against the organisers and hoteliers involved in Golfgate on the grounds that there was no evidence for the charges. Judge Fahy then commented on the fallout from Golfgate which cost some top people their jobs. About those attending, she said: “They were all responsible people who would not have gone to a dinner unless they felt comfortable and unless the organisers had not put in place all that was required to make it safe.”
And there we have it there is a class of person — Judge Fahy among them — lawyers, judges, politicians, broadcasters, EU Commissioners and the like who form an elite group of ‘responsible people’.
Funny that, thinking back over past scandals and known misdeeds I am not so sure that those high office are always shining examples of probity. And where does that leave the rest of us normal people?
Maybe there should be a another class for irresponsible folk like myself.
Is anyone else suffering from PCSD (Post Covid Stress Disorder) Although restrictions have been lifted I am finding it quite hard to return to the world after over two years of isolation. And I am not alone? I notice for instance that around 70 men’s sheds — the very places to prevent isolation — are in danger of not reopening. It’s time to start emerging from that isolation, wearing our masks of course and using our cop on.