Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Olivia O'Leary, and other animals

Is there any wonder Melancholicus has ceased listening to the news and to current affairs programmes on the radio while driving home from work, when all that can be heard thereon are gloomy prophecies of impending economic catastrophe and similar woes?

However, out of curiosity he switched on Drivetime on RTÉ 1 yesterday evening, whereat he was confronted with Olivia O’Leary’s weekly radio diary.

This is not normally a trial; Melancholicus has no animus against Olivia O’Leary (at least he used not to have such), and not a little of what she says is sound common sense.

But that all changed yesterday evening, for Ms. O’Leary opened her broadcast with an entirely gratuitous attack on the Catholic religion—that’s right: not the institution of the Church, nor even the clergy—the Catholic religion itself was her target.

Those who wish to be scandalised may listen to her pomposity on the Drivetime podcast page here (at least when RTÉ get around to fixing the link, for if one clicks on the Olivia O’Leary 27 January podcast, one will, to one’s great annoyance, find Joe Duffy instead).

What does the reader think of her breathtaking statement that “other religions had, I think, a sense of justice, something to be worked out openly and rationally; we had dark confessionals and agonies of guilt”? This remark is so risible it hardly bears comment.

Her arrogant and profoundly ignorant denigration of our holy religion is all the more galling insofar as there was absolutely no need for her even to mention it, for the subject of her broadcast was not religion at all, but the economy, real estate, property tax and suchlike things.

Catholicism only made an appearance because Ms. O’Leary wanted to set the stage for all her later blather about “guilt” with regard to financial misfeasance by government, financial institutions and property speculators. Does she think it right and good to throw ugly slurs against the religion of the majority of this country’s population in order to make a point about the economy? Pleading that she is herself a Catholic is no excuse. If she is herself a Catholic, she ought to know better than to trot out such tired and shopworn stereotypes.

Of course RTÉ did not deign to edit Ms. O’Leary’s comments before they were aired yesterday evening; the editors of Drivetime either concur with her dismissive attitude or else reckon that alone among all religions, Catholicism is fair game for slander and abuse.

Now imagine she had chosen to attack not Catholicism, but the Islamic religion. What would have been the reaction? Of course RTÉ—a paragon of great cultural sensitivity—would never have permitted it to be broadcast in the first place, but let us just indulge in a little fantasy and imagine how that would have gone down.

There would have been a whirlwind of protest—but not from crazed fanatics seeking to cut off her head, for the ummah in Ireland is as yet too small to be so openly belligerent. The furious response would have come instead from the good people of Dublin Four, and from those who read The Irish Times as though it were scripture. Today Joe Duffy would be inundated with calls to Liveline by people horrified at Ms. O’Leary’s insensitive remarks; The Irish Times likewise would receive a flood of letters by decent citizens protesting against such outrageous cultural racism. The news would be reported abroad in Britain, and perhaps further afield, and Muslim groups there (the good old MCB, no doubt) would not be slow to voice their displeasure and to score political points. In the end, RTÉ (and not forgetting Ms. O’Leary herself) would be forced to make a humiliating and abject apology in order to abate the tempest.

But because Catholicism is the object of her venom, no-one shall so much as bat an eyelid.

UPDATE: RTÉ have now fixed the link. Listen to Ms. O’Leary’s ramblings here.

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