Byline Editorial #7 – By Fergal Smiddy
Working in a shop every Sunday evening – the quietest and most meandering of all evenings in the retail sector – has given me a fair bit of time to think.
You might say, and you’d probably be right, that time, thinking or anything of the like are not exactly diminishing resources in the world as we currently find it. The empty spaces of time once occupied by the passivity of a groggy morning commute, or the mindlessly engrossed study of a fissure seal pamphlet in a dentist’s waiting room, or the trivial wandering up and down of trawler-beanie-infested Topman aisles (RIP), have long been vacated. Gulfs of our lives once cruised through on autopilot have now returned with a vengeance, beating down our doors and demanding at last to be lived through painstakingly. In a way, there’s too much time to think, and if the last year or so has taught me anything, it’s that an excess of time doesn’t necessarily translate to an excess of anything productive, or even anything good.
What these Sunday evenings offer to me, then, is a time in which I can think and detach without being bashed on the head with the violent awareness that I am occupying idle time. Being ‘on the clock’ brings a sense of purpose which, however inconsequential, allows time to become that bit more significant, and me more inclined to stop and think.
Sunday also means Sunday newspapers, and I do get enjoyment each week from Brendan O’Connor’s short column in the Independent – always critical, but with an unmistakable Corkonian cheek jumping out from between the lines. A recent piece of his, ‘So, whose fault is it this week?’ , serves as a great satirical dig at the sort of Prendeville-esque finger wagging which has gripped the nation since the pandemic’s onset – as if the vestiges of generational trauma hadn’t made Irish people wary enough of each other already.
Another Independent piece which kept me ticking over through one sauntering Sunday shift was a blistering derision of Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary from the pen of Gene Kerrigan. If the title – ‘Moaning Mick full of dangerous hot air’ – isn’t piquing your interest already, Kerrigan’s brutal economy of words is sure to do so. The result is a sheer dismantling of a toddler/CEO hybrid so out of touch he believes Ryanair’s falling share prices to be the true tragedy of this pandemic.
Good journalism, good writing, seems to be one of the few remaining areas left unscathed by our world’s sudden change in course. At its best, it can make us smile, laugh, scoff, sigh, get up in arms, cry, vote, change things. And, even if its effects aren’t so profound, journalism still offers us a national platform through which one can offer up a chef’s-kiss-worthy roasting of Michael O’Leary, and that should be good enough for any of us.