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VOICES

Surrealing in the Years Well Simon, the jamboree period is over

Also this week: a TD speaks about guns.

OJ SIMPSON, WHOSE murder trial and subsequent public demise made for some of the most surreal events in modern history, died this week at the age of 76.

Back in 1990s, reports pertaining to Simpson’s trial for killing Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were a cornerstone of another weekly roundup – Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update – under Norm McDonald. To even touch upon the strange circumstance that led to Simpsons’ shocking acquittal would take a TV series produced by Ryan Murphy starring Courtney B Vance as Johnnie Cochrane, so Surrealing in the Years will not be touching the Juice with a ten-foot pole.

After all! There’s more than enough happening on Irish shores this week to fit the bill.

We don’t need to talk about OJ. Why, just look at some of these exciting tales — Patrick O’Donovan named Minister for Higher Education? Okay, admittedly, not very surreal. Ryan Tubridy is launching a book podcast called The Bookshelf? No, that’s just irritating. Ennis getting a brand new data centre? Okay, fine, you win. So, how did OJ die?

No, don’t worry. Weird stuff happened in Ireland this week. Weird stuff happens in Ireland every week. 

This week, for example, Hot Press published an interview with TD and leader of the new political party Independent Ireland Michael Collins, who told the publication that, among other things, he believes that former IRA member and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness is “not in hell” thanks to his part in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Now. Didn’t I tell you it would be weird?

The wide-ranging interview heard Collins sound off on a number of issues. The TD for Cork South-West proposed chemical castration for certain sex offenders, a three-strikes rule for serious crimes resulting in a 25-year jail term, and suggested that people should be free to use legally owned firearms to defend themselves. 

“I hate to think you’d shoot somebody dead, but certainly there’s plenty of room in the legs, or over the head, to frighten the living daylights out of them,” Collins said, immediately shoring up the the demographic of Irish voters who see Clint Eastwood when they look at themselves in the mirror.

In a later conversation with The Journal, Collins clarified that he does not support expanding access to guns in Ireland. As such, we must conclude that he was just being very descriptive about the way one might use a gun to protect oneself (the legs, he said, in case you missed that).

Collins did distance himself from Danny Healy-Rae’s 2016 statement that God is in charge of the weather. He did say that God minds us from the weather — though in fairness to Collins on this one, the belief in God “minding us” from things is very nearly the whole point of Christianity. On religion, however, Collins said he agreed with France’s decision to ban the burqa, and while he would not “call for” a ban here, he would support a ban if someone else called for one. 

Independent Ireland currently has two seats in Dáil Éireann, though former RTÉ broadcaster Ciarán Mullooly is running for European Parliament under the party’s banner. This is by way of saying that Collins, at least for now, is not the one setting the nation’s course. As of Tuesday afternoon, that distinction belongs to the new Taoiseach Simon Harris, who was voted in as Taoiseach by 88 votes to 69 in Dáil Éireann on Tuesday.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett (loudly, always so, so loudly) decried the entire ritual as a “jamboree”, forcing the Ceann Comhairle to step in and confirm that the procedure for appointing a new Taoiseach was serious business, and not a “jamboree”.

In the end, it would be fair to say that Harris’ confirmation to the office of Taoiseach had at least some elements consistent with a jamboree. The speech of Heather Humphreys, who nominated Harris, joked about how he looked like a Transition Year student when he first reported to Dáil Éireann. Many references were made to Harris’ young children watching from the balcony. It was clearly a day of celebration for those sitting on the government benches.  

Many speeches were given defending the government’s legacy, and at one point Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said of Ireland’s climate ambitions that “we are just warming up,” which is the kind of high-quality, sitcom-script gaffe that only Eamon Ryan can deliver.

Unfortunately for Harris, it doesn’t seem as though he will get much of a honeymoon in his new role. A poll conducted by Ireland Thinks in conjunction with The Journal this week said that Simon Harris’ leadership makes 15% of people less likely to vote for Fine Gael.

Perhaps voters were expecting a more explosive start from Ireland’s 37-year-old TikTok Taoiseach, but in fairness, the man made a lot of phone calls this week which, as the first millennial Taoiseach, cannot have been easy.

Harris’ mini-reshuffle of his Ministers, which was forced by the resignations of Simon Coveney, Josepha Madigan, and Leo Varadkar has made it clear that he has no intention of reinventing the wheel ahead of the next general election campaign. 

It would seem that Harris must do something to pull both his party’s popularity, and his own, out of the mud before the jamboree window slams shut. The pressure is on Simon Harris to carve out a future for Fine Gael. Has anyone asked him how he feels about guns?

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