Beyond the neon runes

1965

Okay, what’s next?

Having legalised gay marriage, and now abortion, the general consensus is that we’re one of Europe’s most liberal nations; a country where old, conservative ideals are being ripped up and replaced by new, secular doctrines, where common-sense and modernity are prevailing over staid traditionalism.

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And it’s probably true. We are evolving, we are shaking off the shackles of the past and moving forward, hopefully towards better times.

But what’s also true, what surely cannot be denied, is that we are stone cracked about referendums. We flipping love them. Ask us to vote in a general election, to have our say on how the country is governed, and we’ll respond with apathy, shrug our shoulders, announce “they’re all the same anyway” and conveniently forget to visit the polling station on the required date. But give us a choice of yes or no, good or bad, and we’ll be out in force. We’ll even come home from America if that’s what it takes.

Obviously I’m being a little facetious here, the turnout for both referendums had more to do with the issues being debated than the method of voting; these were matters of the heart, basic human rights which struck a chord with the electorate.

The fact does remain though: never are we as politically activated as when we’re asked to make a decision on behalf of the Government. And the good news is that Leo and the lads have plenty more where that came from.

There’s expected to be two more referendums by the year’s end, archaic laws on blasphemy and the duties of women in the home the next to be consigned to history. We’ll have two next year as well; one on lowering the voting age to 16 and another on allowing Irish citizens living abroad to vote in presidential elections.

But why stop there? We’re on a roll; thousands of students are on the register, our diaspora have shown they can get time off work, let’s strike while the iron is hot. Let’s get a few more thorny issues out in the open and see where it takes us.

A United Ireland

If there’s one thing we care more about than family, than equality and justice, it’s the six counties. The rights of same-sex couples and unborn babies are one thing but getting back what’s rightfully ours, what the British stole from us, is quite another. And you can guarantee that if this was put to the public tomorrow, the turnout would even exceed what we saw at the weekend.

Furthermore, the likelihood is that we’d vote overwhelmingly in favour of uniting the country, we’d let the hearts rule the heads, bawl our eyes out as we strode across the border to our brethren, a bag of Tayto in one hand, a mug of Barry’s tea in the other.

Of course, that would be where the fun would end, and the trouble would start.

Because while a lot of the northerners would welcome us with open arms, dipping their strange northern biscuits into our lovely Republican tea, not everyone would be so happy to see us. Not only would you have stoical unionists to contend with, but also a new generation of Northern Irish who view themselves as a separate state, neither Irish nor British, Catholic nor Protestant.

And then there’s the cost to the State, the cost of increasing our population by 40 per cent, of integrating health services, schools, and police forces into our reclaimed territory. If Mary Lou ever gets her way, I know how I’ll be voting.

Medicinal Marijuana

A bill to legalise cannabis for medicinal use was rejected by the Health Committee last year on grounds that it was “too loose to effectively guard against leakage of supply to recreational users, (and) overuse by patients.” Since then the issue has been bounced around the Dáil, argued over, debated, and forgotten about.

Yes, licenses for medicinal marijuana have been granted to seven people, Ava Twomey among them, but thousands more continue to go without, many forced to obtain the drug from the black market. Seeing as the Government are having such a difficult time figuring out whether to legalise it, why not put it to the public altogether?

A referendum would attract all the loonies though, on both sides. Pushing for a yes vote you’d have the beatniks, hippies, and Ming Flanagan, all advocating full access to the ‘erb, reminding everyone that “it’s just a plant, maaan,” while on the no you’d have hysterical naysayers prophesising the fall of the state, likening it to Sodom and Gomorrah as they pleaded for someone to think of the children.

However, the hope would be that, amid all the whooping and hollering, someone with a modicum of intelligence might be allowed to air their opinions, someone with an understanding of how the drug works, someone capable of explaining how it alleviates chronic pain and prevents seizures. Someone who might convince enough of us to make the thing legal for those who desperately need it.

 

Euthanasia

A couple of weeks ago Australian centenarian and renowned scientist, David Goodall, made the headlines when he travelled to Switzerland to take his own life. Unlike the majority who avail of this service, Mr Goodall wasn’t in any type of pain, he wasn’t even sick. He’d simply had enough. Having lived to the ripe-old age of 104, he wanted to go out on his terms. And he eventually did so, but not before a protracted battle with Australian lawmakers and a crowd-funding campaign which enabled him to fly halfway across the world to a Swiss hospital.

Before he went, Mr Goodall stated that everyone over the age of 60 should be given the option of euthanasia as and when they want it, and that it should be made available in all countries, not just a few liberal nations in western Europe.

How would it play out over here though, how would we vote on such a delicate issue?

Well, if we voted overwhelmingly in favour of abortion, of giving people the option to terminate an unborn child, it stands to reason that we’d afford the same choice to those who had already lived their lives. Imagine the debates though, David Quinn and The Iona Institute, having only just licked their wounds clean, wheeled out for round two, asked to justify their position knowing that, no matter how hard they argued, theirs was a lost cause.

Because we’d surely vote in favour of euthanasia. We’d ask that it be heavily regulated, that no one be allowed walk in off the street and ask for the injection, but ultimately we’d recognise the need to end the suffering, to die with dignity, in peace, surrounded by those you love.

 

Hello, is there anybody in there?

Recently, while on the phone to my mother, a few strange things have been happening. At random intervals, her voice has gone from being crystal clear to sounding as if she’s trapped inside a bin. This switch is always preceded by an odd ‘swooshing’ noise. It rarely affects the quality of our conversation, but it’s got me thinking.

I suspect someone might be listening in, that someone has figured out how to bypass this General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and is furiously scribbling down the details of all the people Mrs B met at the shop, all the things I had for dinner, and our collective musings on what the weather is currently doing.

The list of suspects is pretty lengthy, but, if pushed, I would point the finger of blame at either Kim Jong-Un or Facebook.

You might laugh, you might ask what they’d gain from eavesdropping on our chats, but you’d do well to exercise caution, to do what me and my mother have started doing and speak in code. If you need proof that I’m not being paranoid, look at the American couple who purchased an Alexa voice assistant from Amazon and found that it had been recording their conversations and sending them to their contacts.

Fortunately, there was nothing incriminating in the audio clips, no embarrassing disclosures about how much they hate Keith, or why Jean could do with losing a few pounds, but the mask had slipped. That friendly little device, the cool robot they’d used to order their shopping, create play-lists, was a spy, a government agent surreptitiously controlling their lives.

The time to act is now, people. Let’s ditch the technology, the smartphones, webcams, and PlayStations, let’s go off the grid. Or, failing that, let’s just go down the pub.

They’ll never find us there.