“Every four or eight years, Ireland is forced to rally round young men from this class…”

I want to come back to the Olympic theme in more detail both here on Slugger and elsewhere. But this piece by Fintan O’Toole is worth flagging up for the pure politics of it, than anything to do with sport. The Ross O’Carroll-Kellys of elite Equestrianism failed to deliver, whilst the frequently maligned urban working classes once again provided the country with its only Olympic medal glory (boosted partly by the strange failure of the US and Cuba).

As so often in the past, national pride was salvaged by those of whom the nation generally feels least proud: young, working class men from marginalised communities. While the horsey set, with all their money and self-regard, were making a show of us yet again, the competitors who demonstrated honesty and discipline, pride and passion, were from the invisible Ireland that is represented only in court reports.

And:

Kenny Egan’s north Clondalkin, for example, is almost literally a non-place. It is the product, not of democratic planning, but of the shenanigans that are the subject of the Mahon tribunal. Its “town centre” is a shopping centre that most locals can’t afford to patronise. The struggle to turn it into a home has been harsh: a decade ago, when Egan was starting to box, an astonishing 57 per cent of those aged between 14 and 23 in north Clondalkin had experienced homelessness.

This is an Ireland largely bypassed by the glossy high-tech economy. Just 6 per cent of its men and 5 per cent of women have a third-level education. Even now, there’s a 30 per cent chance of a child leaving primary school with serious literacy problems and a 50-50 chance of even sitting a Leaving Certificate.

There are no silver medals for north Clondalkin in the deprivation stakes – it scores 10 out of 10 in the economist’s index. Yet, there’s more to this story than deprivation – there’s the struggle against it.

And he believes the dominant narrative in the Irish media about this ‘underclass’ is faintly somatic and comforting to the easy affluence of the chief beneficiaries of the Celtic Tiger years:

It finds it convenient when young men from the working class reservations live up to the stereotypes, when they wear hoodies and white socks and throw shapes and sip cans of Dutch Gold lager on the back seat of the bus. The threatening signals allow for the maintenance of a reassuring distance. These people are stupid and crude and potentially violent, and it’s best to stay out of their way.

But “every four or eight years, Ireland is forced to rally round young men from this class and adopt them as our great national hopes”:

We get to hear them speak in their guttural urban accents – and discover that they have something to say for themselves. We get to meet their families – oddly enough, they’re nice, decent people. The cameras are brought into their homes – which turn out to be strangely clean and bright and comfortably furnished. We find, rather disturbingly, that a place like north Clondalkin is full of people with the same aspirations and ambitions as everybody else and that some of its young men make far better representatives for the country than their supposed social betters.

Boxing matters to these young men because it creates a world in which hard things are expected of them. Violence is controlled, restrained and sublimated. Wildness is the ultimate sin and discipline the ultimate virtue. Bodily power is nothing without intelligence.

Manliness is asserted, not by bullying, but by behaving honourably and respectfully towards an opponent inside the ring and, outside it, by a stoical acceptance of defeat and even of unfairness. Above all, boxing is a fatherly culture. Older men – trainers and mentors – treat younger men like sons, giving them the benefit of their own experiences and receiving, in turn, the gift of being listened to. And the young men learn, in the process, not just how to box, but how to be fathers themselves. They learn about encouragement and discipline, about cajoling and warning, about the ways in which different generations can talk to each other.

Boxing does for these young men, in other words, what education and community and society ought to do but don’t. It treats them as people who can achieve very tough things, not just in sport but in learning to be a man. It gives them respect and demands in return that they respect themselves. It defines them as individuals – in few sports is the competitor quite so nakedly alone – but it also creates its own family and its own community. It has no time for self-indulgent victimhood. It both teaches and recognises the dignity that is won in struggling against unfavourable circumstances

.

If you had a tune you could sing to that. And yet, ironically, it would not be far from the one nation Tory revivalism of David Cameron. Yet, perhaps, if Irish Labour (or any of the opposition parties) is listening, that might be the route to go in a mixed economy which in its understandable dash towards prosperity has lost track of just who provides the bedrock of the industrious new Republic.

Reconnecting the bottom with the top may be an old Tory tactic, but it’s an obvious counterpunch to the semi-permanent and highly expedient governance of Fianna Fail & Co.

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  • Henry94

    The cameras are brought into their homes – which turn out to be strangely clean and bright and comfortably furnished.

    So what was he expecting? Dickensian hovels? Maybe Fintan’s view of the working class is the one that’s out of date.

    How clean is strangely clean?

  • Mick Fealty

    Welcome back Henry! I think he means ‘strange’ to the media accounts he mentions elsewhere in the text.

  • gram

    Strange article. It reads as though O’Toole is the one with the problem.

  • RG Cuan

    It reads as though O’Toole is the one with the problem.

    He often gives an insight into his own perceptions while trying to claim that this is what everybody (‘the social betters’) think. Something which I personally doubt.

    ‘Reconnecting with the bottom’ will be become a greater priority in the months and years ahead though…

  • BfB

    Great post..

    My part of Irish America is, and always has been, quite proud of these fine Irish Olympians. They are the hard working, expat lads we see every day! You’ll see when they eventually visit stateside. We’re already planning the celebrations!!

    This bit details the qualities that the liberal dems in this country want to marginalize, (look at our single parent stats) and feminize. Don’t let them slip out of Irelands’ hand.

    ‘Manliness is asserted, not by bullying, but by behaving honourably and respectfully towards an opponent inside the ring and, outside it, by a stoical acceptance of defeat and even of unfairness. Above all, boxing is a fatherly culture. Older men – trainers and mentors – treat younger men like sons, giving them the benefit of their own experiences and receiving, in turn, the gift of being listened to. And the young men learn, in the process, not just how to box, but how to be fathers themselves. They learn about encouragement and discipline, about cajoling and warning, about the ways in which different generations can talk to each other.

    Boxing does for these young men, in other words, what education and community and society ought to do but don’t. It treats them as people who can achieve very tough things, not just in sport but in learning to be a man. It gives them respect and demands in return that they respect themselves. It defines them as individuals – in few sports is the competitor quite so nakedly alone – but it also creates its own family and its own community. It has no time for self-indulgent victimhood. It both teaches and recognises the dignity that is won in struggling against unfavourable circumstances’

  • joeCanuck

    Shameful comment to say that the lad only won because of the “strange failure of the US and Cuba”.

    He won his medal fair and square.

  • Fintan O Toole writing about men and manliness.

    I hope he checked this with the sisterhood………..

  • Henry94 everything about Fintan is out of date lol

  • Boxing will not teach them that as young working class fathers (especially if they are not married to the mother) they have no right to be a father to their child.

    Still Fintan this is a baby step for you………..

  • jone

    “It reads as though O’Toole is the one with the problem.”

    Yes, I read the piece this morning and wondered how it would take someone to go on the interspazz and make that precise point.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news/local_idiot_to_post_comment_on

  • shane

    Ireland was cheated in the boxing out of good medals by the Chinese. To think that a chinese country can defeat Ireland in boxing is unthinkable we produce the best boxers in the planet. Ireland has bread a fighting race which defeated the English, yet we are powerless against a chinese olympics. It is about time we Irish started to fight once again.

  • Ireland was cheated in the boxing out of good medals by the Chinese.

    There was certainly a degree of home side bias in all the ‘judging’ sports – as well as boxing, things like diving and gymnastics. I can see the point as far as Kenny Egan goes but not others. Take Paddy Barnes. As Paddy is a real local to me, I obviously want to say Paddy is the best and we wuz robbed, and while he was certainly cheated out of a few points, with the greatest of respect to anyone, Paddy had the shite knocked out of him by the Chinese fella.

    To think that a chinese country can defeat Ireland in boxing is unthinkable we produce the best boxers in the planet.

    Well, there’s the minor detail that there are 220 of them for every 1 of us. That’s going to give them a certain built in advantage in finding people with the necessary raw talent.

  • Lamaria

    Shane,

    “Ireland has bread a fighting race which defeated the English, yet we are powerless against a chinese olympics.”

    Ignoring the historical inaccuracy of the first part of your statement I’m not sure that by reducing boxing to terms of militarism helps to prove your point that Ireland should be beating China!! Hasn’t China had the longest period of continuous development of military culture of any civilisation in world history??? Just a thought

  • Lamaria I think Shane was joking…………

  • Sammy Morse-apart from the demographic advantage it is the military operation of a totalitarian state which was their olympic effort.
    No contest really.

  • What Fintan wrote is nothing compared to the Marty Morrissey incident, for which I believe he should have at the very least never been allowed hold an RTE microphone again, where he asked Francie Barrett’s mother on television whether he ever hit her.

    I’m sure that similar stories to Fintan’s were written about Carruth, McCullough and others at the time. What he said is factually fairly true – boxing is the acceptable face of violence in many low-income parts of Ireland and one of the few paths to better oneself – and even then there’s no guarantee of prosperity beyond a post-amateur fights.

  • Paddy Matthews

    If you had a tune you could sing to that. And yet, ironically, it would not be far from the one nation Tory revivalism of David Cameron.

    I’ll bet Paddy Barnes little thought that he would one day be shoe-horned into being a poster-boy for the Tory party…

  • In Ardoyne, the speak of little other than David Willets’ Green Paper on extending opportunity…

  • Chris Donnelly

    LOL Sammy- you’d me near tears with that last one!

    This reads as a shockingly patronising attempt to chide the elites of Irish society for displaying the very snobbish tendencies to which O’Toole reveals himself in the piece.

    Mick
    The Yanks and Cubans were abysmal in the boxing this time round- I’d expect a different picture in London 2012 as both will have pride to restore (and with ample talent to deliver.)

    Having said that, the three Irish lads could only be expected to fight those put in front of them- three medals in the boxing is still a good return, even if it propagates the entirely bogus notion that this was a “successful” Olympics (tied 62nd and all that crap) to be declared by some in the media.

    When we’re left boasting, as an RTE presenter did live on radio, that at least our man [Paul Hession] “is the fastest white 200m sprinter” in the world after failing to make the final, then surely we’ve bottomed out…

  • BfB

    Old GBS speaks on Slugger regularly..

    “Put an Irishman on the spit and you can always get another Irishman to turn him.”

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    On the sporting end of things, I keep going back to that Tom Humphries quote about ‘Ole, ole, ole’ not adding up to a sporting culture.

    Boxing (Love it or hate it, and I confess some ambivalence on that score) does spring from a genuine sporting culture. There are others, but none quite seem to have serviced their athletes with the same attention and ambition as boxing.

    The observation that other countries with larger populations and stronger traditions across a broader range of sports than Ireland’s fared as badly if not worse this time out is a fair point.

    But what Britain has shown is that targeted investment in in strong sports over an eight to twelve year period pays off.

    I suspect Martin Cullen’s late conversion to targeting may come too late to significantly boost Ireland’s performance by 2012, which is a shame, because London is as close to a home venue as Irish athletes are ever likely to get on the Olympic level.

    Some in Northern Ireland may benefit from UK lottery schemes, but big infrastructure developments like the velodrome in Manchester (and later London) take levels of strategic capital investment which Irish governments seem to have been unable to manage heretofore.

    A decent sports strategy would take half a generation to show tangible long term improvements.

    Paddy,

    Your Mexican slip is showing again… Is Paddy B the intended target of Fintan’s polemic? Didn’t seem that way to me.

  • kensei

    Mick

    On the sporting end of things, I keep going back to that Tom Humphries quote about ‘Ole, ole, ole’ not adding up to a sporting culture.

    It was a bullshit comment the first time, and hasn’t improved since. Again, since your slow:

    Munster – European Champions
    Padraig Harrington – Double Major winner
    GAA sportsmen – incredibly committed and I doubt that’d be a phrase you wish to repeat in front of many of them.

    Moreover, the “Ole ole” culture really helped give a boost to Irish soccer as shown by the normally competitive international team in tough European groups and a noticeable improvement in the home game, if at the cost of some clubs struggling.

    If you cannot generate enthusiasm, you cannot generate success. You should be ashamed to repeat that comment.

    Boxing (Love it or hate it, and I confess some ambivalence on that score) does spring from a genuine sporting culture. There are others, but none quite seem to have serviced their athletes with the same attention and ambition as boxing.

    Ireland do indeed have a “genuine sporting culture” in Boxing. It’s been 16 years between medals. We are limited by the amount of talent available, and the opportunity cost of potential Olympic Athletes taking other options is magnifified in a small country.

    A decent sports strategy would take half a generation to show tangible long term improvements.

    Ireland already have a High Performance programme. Only Boxing performed, and it should be looked at. But if you are going to pump more money in, put it at grassroots and schools level. It will do the country a power more good than sticking it in a vanity project. A poor medal haul is a disappointment, but not an existential crisis of decline as it is perceived in England. It’s not an idea we should be picking up, either.

  • George

    Mick,
    Nothing strange about the “failure” of Cuba.

    Four of their five gold-medallists from Athens 2004 defected or tried to defect in the interim and weren’t “available for selection”.

    That said the Cubans took a young team to Beijing and came away with a load of medals, just no gold. Lots of talent just lacking experience.

    As for the US, they went for central coaching I believe, not allowing each boxer to work with his own “father figure” as Fintan would call them, leading to the odd situation where six of the team were disciplined or tried to walk out on the US team in the year running up to Beijing 2008.

    It showed in the ring with the only guy winning a medal one who took up the sport three years ago.

    But even if the US and Cuba did not have as strong teams as usual, there were Chinese, Kazakhs, Mongolians, Thais, Russians, British, Italians etc etc, who all had top boxers in Beijing.

    The only disappointment for me was Sutherland, who appeared beaten and happy with bronze before he went into the ring.

    As for targeting sports, does Ireland really want to spend a couple of hundred million on a velodrome or some such like so we can have four top track cyclists?

    Put the money into the sports people are involved in and if we win something well and good. If not, who cares.

    I would much rather use elite sports money to see a scholarship type scheme set up where the top cyclist goes to the UK, top swimmers to the US/Australia, top archer to Korea etc. than spending it on the odd state of the art facility that will only be used by a tiny minority.

    As for Fintan’s article, it reads like it was written by someone who only thinks of places like Clondalkin ever four years himself. The time to write this article was two years ago, not now when the medals have been won and the media circus has camped down there.

  • Mick Fealty

    George,

    For the sake of clarity, I mentioned the Velodrome as a practical example of how targeting and resourcing was actually done in Britain, it was not intended to be read as a specific suggestion (or deficit) for Ireland.

    Your piggybacking idea has potential. The rise in Irish cricket comes partly from the ICC’s encouragement of minor international teams in recent years, and the use of foreign born players. But it also has benefited from the fact that more Irish players are getting English county experience.

  • sammaguire

    When we’re left boasting, as an RTE presenter did live on radio, that at least our man [Paul Hession] “is the fastest white 200m sprinter” in the world after failing to make the final, then surely we’ve bottomed out…

    Posted by Chris Donnelly on Aug 26, 2008 @ 09:24 PM

    “The fastest Caucasian in the world” I heard him described as by some twit on RTE radio.

    That’s up there with C4’s Phil Liggett claiming Stephen Roche as “the first Anglophone winner of the Tour de France”!

  • kingofmen

    Well we can all have the usual debate about class but who is brave enough to have a debate about race?

    I watched the Olympics and saw that black people completely dominated the sprinting. Jamaica has a population of 2.8 million, roughly half the population of Ireland, and won six GOLD medals on the track.

    Are we supposed to believe that this is down to better training methods?

    Writing about deprivation in working-class housing estates as a factor in medal counts, whilst ignoring the influence of race will cause no end of mirth for future generations of historians.

    If any of them read this, yes, some of us thought it strange.

    Like independent minds throughout the ages though, we felt it better to keep our heads down for fear of ridicule and persecution.

  • Harry Flashman

    Ah now, kingofmen, cough cough, er, jolly interesting point, but you know, well we just don’t talk about those things do we? No, not the done thing at all old chap, much better to completely ignore the evidence in front of your own two eyeballs, you’ll find life is a lot easier that way.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Your Mexican slip is showing again… Is Paddy B the intended target of Fintan’s polemic? Didn’t seem that way to me.

    Fintan was not the one who tried to make a (fairly ridiculous) connection to David Cameron and the Conservative Party…

  • Paddy Matthews

    And – although while it’s not strictly relevant to O’Toole’s point about stereotyping of working-class individuals areas – Kenny Egan isn’t actually from north Clondalkin.

  • Mick Fealty

    Paddy,

    Nice attempt to elide the tackle but Fintan was talking about the political situation in Dublin, not as you tried erroneously to suggest, north Belfast.

    If an intelligent and well read bloke like yourself cannot see the obvious parallels between the major theme’s Fintan’s piece and Tory paternalism, I’m not sure I should bust a gut trying to demonstrate such an obvious point.

    Here’s a couple of pieces though that I’ve written elsewhere:

    Cameron’s cunning plan: http://tinyurl.com/6k2684

    And this thread is worth a peruse, thoguht the link to Brian Crowe’s original piece on the YU blog no longer works:

    http://tinyurl.com/6hu27g

  • kensei

    HF

    Ah now, kingofmen, cough cough, er, jolly interesting point, but you know, well we just don’t talk about those things do we? No, not the done thing at all old chap, much better to completely ignore the evidence in front of your own two eyeballs, you’ll find life is a lot easier that way.

    Clearly, genetics plays a role in top level sprinting. Something like 70% of the Jamaican population have genes that encode for a lot of fast twitch fibres. But at Olympic sprinting level, everyone has been selected for having genes that encode for a lot of fast twitch fibres. Genetics is not enough on its own to explain why Jamaica is so successful. As it happens, Jamaica has an athletics culture, the schools competition, Champs, being a big deal there. Nature has to interact with nurture to produce any results.

    Interesting question: does Jamaicans dominating the sprinting events support the idea of a fairer playing field with less doping evening the field favouring smaller countries, or just the idea that it is completely widespread?

    Mick

    I note you find that comment indefensible.

  • Mick Fealty

    ken,

    I’m not sure I entirely understood it.

  • kensei

    Mick

    I’m not sure I entirely understood it.

    Then why repeat it then? Oh wait, I’ll assume you mean you didn’t understand me.

    The original comment was about confusing “an ole-ole-ole tradition with a sporting culture.”. It is a snide, nasty remark.

    Effectively, it suggests that

    (1) Ireland’s sporting culture is essentially superficial.

    – Given the immense popularity of the GAA in this country, for bugger all reward for most of the people involved, it’s a somewhat difficult charge to sustain. But even if the GAA didn’t exist – there is plenty of other sporting activity with very dedicated sportspeople, coaches and support it insults.

    (2) Such a sporting culture is incapable of producing success.

    Several recent Irish sporting successes say otherwise, most notably Munster Rugby and Harrington.

    (3) Such a culture produces expectations of failure.

    Ireland has always had realistic expectations for sporting success. Producing 1 gold, as Britain did in 1996, isn’t a cause for an existential crisis about national decline. It is a much healthier attitude to have, and where the time of high pressure expectation has crept with the national soccer game, there’s been absolutely no evidence that it has done anyone any good.

    Furthermore, Ireland is limited by the talent pool available. It does have pedigree and a “culture” of amateur boxing success. It has still been 16 years between medals. No amount of pressure on dedicated athletes who just might eb a bit short compared to the best from some of the bigger nations is going to help with that.

    There is a legitimate question to be asked with regards to how well the state should be supporting Irish Athletes, and whether it is letting them down. But it needs to be had with regard appropriate funding for a small nation, realistic expectations and the need to put money in less glamorous sports investments. But this comment doesn’t speak to the state, it speaks to society.

    (4) Such a culture is inherently negative

    There is just the merest whiff of “ach sure, don’t they just like a party” and the oblique suggestion of alcohol in that comment.

    Aside from anything, it is actually a positive in itself – the “Ole ole” culture stemmed out of early soccer successes in the late 80’s and helped give a boost to the Irish game, because it generated interest and enthusiasm. Which is helpful if you are looking to boost your sport.
    Success helps generate that response, of course, but they are self reinforcing.

    If you have got the Irish public interested enough to start with the “Ole ole”, then you are probably doing somethign right, because they are taking an interest in you.

    The comment is bullshit on every level I can think of. Clear enough?

  • Mick
    such a well read guy like youself can critique FOTs piece and not see the irony of this superanuated feminist praising manliness and contolled aggression……

  • kingofmen

    Well Ken I didnt know about “genes that encode for a lot of fast twitch fibres” until now.

    Thanks for that. As it happens, I think that folk who try to distinguish human worth on the basis of racial origin are sad and wrong individuals.

    But I have yet to come across a single Irish sports journalist has even alluded to the possibility of genetics playing a part in track success for black athletes.

    As Harry Flashman points out, you get no medals for it.

  • kensei

    kingofmen

    Well Ken I didnt know about “genes that encode for a lot of fast twitch fibres” until now.

    Typically, those of West African descent have genetic advantage when it comes to sprinting. There are a number of different types of fast twitch fibres, and they tend to have a lot. No known training can convert from slow twitch to fast twitch. As far as I’m aware, no white dude has done under 10 seconds for 100m.

    Typically those of East African origin have more slow twitch fibres that are better for distance running, though in this case it is possible to train to produce more of them.

    But I have yet to come across a single Irish sports journalist has even alluded to the possibility of genetics playing a part in track success for black athletes.

    All top level athletes have genetic advantages. That is why some people are faster than others. The research around this has been known for a long time, is well known and has been widely reported. There really is no reason to mention it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Phil,

    You’re playing the man (again). If you have a critique to share, then share it (I know you have done some work in this area). But if all you are interested in is grinding axes, then grind them somewhere else.

    Ken,

    Thanks for that uncustomary burst of industry. I love your capacity to co-opt straw men into the equation and then ascribe them to your opponents. You’re riffing here on a two clause phrase here and adding your own content.

    There was certainly disgruntlement that the government capped the allocation of funds to Olympic sports (ie, that High Performance programme you mentioned earlier) in the same year it boosted funding to the GAA. That’s not the GAA’s fault, their capacity to lobby government is admirable. But it does suggest that within government lip service was being paid to those Olympic sports.

    Cullen’s (not mine or Tom Humphries’, please note) belated plea for a medal strategy comes after the fact and is probably besides the point. The GAA is a sporting and cultural phenomenon and often is an early catalyst for players of other international codes. Niall Quinn’s most rigourous training before he headed to London was as a Dublin hurler. But so far as I understand it, there is no sports strategy in the Republic for the Olympics or anything else.

    Jackie Charlton had a strategy. It was to scour the English league for anyone of talent who had an Irish granny (and in Cascarino some who didn’t) to augment the home grown talent. Over an above that, he was a great tactician and a coach whose temperament perfectly matched the players he picked. Sadly, and for a basket of reasons not all to do with the man) that strategic oversight has not been sustained since his departure.

    Smart funding should be capable to building on innate talent where it is (rather than where it should be). Pushing sports where there is already substantial interest, committment and some chance of international success makes sense. I cannot see how the state can avoid getting involved in that process, but it certainly should not expect to have to pick up the whole bill.

  • kensei

    Mick

    I love your capacity to co-opt straw men into the equation and then ascribe them to your opponents. You’re riffing here on a two clause phrase here and adding your own content.

    Oh Mick, go annoy someone else. I once heard poetry described as “trying to say as much as possible in as few words as possible”. It’s as good a description for political soundbites. It may be a “two clause phrase”, but the whole point of phrases is to communicate ideas. And that manages to effectively communicate several. Perhaps you would care to elucidate what you think the point is it’s trying to get across? I’m simply speaking from what I got out of it. I have no grand motives or pressing need to label you as an “opponent”.

    Does it speak to government strategy? No, it has nothing to say about it. Did any Government decision lead to the introduction of an “ole ole” culture? It speaks to the underlying culture and therefore to people, and it has a viciousness to it.

    There was certainly disgruntlement that the government capped the allocation of funds to Olympic sports in the same year it boosted funding to the GAA…

    Or, it does suggest that the Government thought that their money was better put into the GAA. It being a “cultural and sporting phenomenon” , you’d wonder where the fuck they’d get that idea from. This is simply a question of priorities, and Olympic sport should be way down the list in comparison to grassroots funding. And the GAA has the grassroots.

    This also nothing to do with that nasty little phrase.

    But so far as I understand it, there is no sports strategy in the Republic for the Olympics or anything else.

    What government decision promoted an “Ole ole” culture? What government decision will magically cause a “real” (whatever that is) sporting culture?

    I think if you go to the IFA, they’ll have plans for development. If you go to the GAA, they’ll have coaching schemes. And so on for other sports. Why are Olympic medals an issue for government?

    Jackie Charlton had a strategy…

    Correct: Jack Charlton had a plan. The government didn’t have a plan. The FAI sure as hell didn’t have a plan, over and above getting a talented coach. The government can legitimately ask questions about appropriate levels of public funding and whether it is getting a return from a particular body but I don’t see why it should be ministerial level priority to get Ireland more Olympic medals. Why, exactly?

    Perhaps the Irish bodies could strike a deal to have some of their best athletes train in the UK, or in other countries. But that kind of thing should be worked out by individual sporting bodies with their equivalents elsewhere.

    The Irish Amateur Boxing Association did a great job with the money they were given. The GAA does a brilliant job with the money it is given. Rugby and soccer do a decent job too. Others didn’t. Perhaps the answer is that didn’t get enough. But being a Tory, I know you don’t believe that is the whole story. And it is a question for the individual bodies involved.

    You are applying a monolithic philosophy to an area that is inherently fragmented.

    …Sadly, and for a basket of reasons not all to do with the man) that strategic oversight has not been sustained since his departure.

    Wrong. Ireland had some significant success at youth level after his era. There is no doubt that the league of Ireland has come on a lot in the past 15 years, with a few players even going directly to top level sides in Scotland and England.

    There have been screw ups, but we’ve been generally competitive even while sometimes short of talent and while the competition has got much tougher. I mean, it’s not like the FAI is the IFA, like.

    Pushing sports where there is already substantial interest, committment and some chance of international success makes sense.

    Like, wait, GAA, football, rugby, boxing….?

    Opportunity cost hits harder in small countries. Even if only 5% of potential athletes were interested in Olympic sport ahead of other sports, in the UK 5% of a big number is still a big number. In Ireland, it is a comparatively tiny figure. People going to GAA and soccer and Rugby hits much harder.

    I cannot see how the state can avoid getting involved in that process, but it certainly should not expect to have to pick up the whole bill.

    There’s the thing. I think there should be an appropriate level of public funding (backed by private sponsorship, where possible) and appropriate oversight but it is up to the individual sporting bodies to come up with a “medal plan” for themselves. It’s not the fault of the boxing association if the hockey team does badly.

  • Harry Flashman

    “All top level athletes have genetic advantages. That is why some people are faster than others. The research around this has been known for a long time, is well known and has been widely reported. There really is no reason to mention it.”

    The reason we don’t mention it is for rather obvious reasons, actually quite understandable reasons. If we concede that “genetics” is the reason men from west Africa make good sprinters and men from east Africa make good long distance athletes then may we use “genetics” for other discussions? You know like why do a disproportionate number of the highest achievers in university Physics and Mathematics departments in the UK today have Chinese and Indian sounding names?

    Why are people who can trace their genealogy back to a tiny tribe originally from the eastern end of the Mediterranean so heavily involved in the financial and media sectors of western economies?

    And then we come to the awkward questions; is there any “genealogical” reason why Englishmen are interested in steam engines or Irish people are fond of a wee drink? Or does ‘genetics’ have any part in explaining why people with dark melanoma pigmentation are over represented in prisons in western societies?

    That’s why I said it’s best not to discuss the issue.

  • kensei

    Harry

    The reason we don’t mention it is for rather obvious reasons, actually quite understandable reasons. If we concede that “genetics” is the reason men from west Africa make good sprinters and men from east Africa make good long distance athletes then may we use “genetics” for other discussions? You know like why do a disproportionate number of the highest achievers in university Physics and Mathematics departments in the UK today have Chinese and Indian sounding names?

    Running speed is a somewhat straightforward thing to measure, and fairly easy to hold for other variables, especially given a big natural experiment like the Olympics.

    You start to move into increasingly complex areas where it is harder and harder to hold for other factors. In terms of Indian and Chinese graduates, statistics are going to help there, because you are talking about something like a third of the world’s population between them. But in case, the answer is the same. It is a combination of nature and nurture and its interaction, and it is poor to base judgments on either in isolation. Sometimes, environmental factors can help compensate for poorer genetics. A prime example would be screening for cancer.

  • Mick Fealty

    ken,

    Not sure what I can add to your sage observations on the nature of poetry. Except that the rest of your extemporising post is clearly well informed by your Samurai friend who said [I paraphrase obviously] “we all just make it up as we go along”.

    Take this, for instance:

    “…it does suggest that the Government thought that their money was better put into the GAA.”

    Maybe so. But Patsy McGonagle of Athletics Ireland was far from impressed by the corrolly of that decision last December:

    “My understanding is that athletics will only get the same as last year — maybe marginally less — because the grants to GAA players will come out of the same ‘high performance’ pool.

    “We are not the only ones going to be affected. The whole international dimension is going to be affected by the grants to GAA players.”

    For me, that doesn’t raise so many questions about the GAA (although there have to be smarter commercial means to stem the flow of players to Aussie Rules than government hand outs?), as much as whether there is a government strategy viz a viz the development of sport in the Republic. Especially since nine months later, Martin Cullen now appears to be plumping for the British model, after having gone the opposite way in the lead up to Bejing.

    It’s as though the government is forever relying on the willing forgetfulness of people like yourself to get by in these matters.

    Last week the UK papers (my own included) were falling over themselves to give the credit for smart funding of UK Sports through the National Lottery to John Major. Yet the tweaks n favour of sport came under Labour. The racking up of investment came ahead of these games came from Labour too.

    The lesson: Governments can make a difference, if they possess the political will.

    If the government decides it’s not a priority, that’s fine. But I am not as keen as you seem to be to just take it as read that they are doing something more than just passively responding to the most powerful lobby groups.

    Oh yeah. Sporting culture? What does it mean? What was Humphries driving at? Wider active participation, I guess. And diversity of opportunity. And a sense that you can compete at the top.

    I love the fact that our slopping old Gaelic pitch is pristine, level with spanking new changing rooms. But it’s also important to be able to exercise choice, and be able to access sports you have a passion for, not just those that are big enough to game the best resources.

  • And then we come to the awkward questions; is there any “genealogical” reason why Englishmen are interested in steam engines or Irish people are fond of a wee drink? Or does ‘genetics’ have any part in explaining why people with dark melanoma pigmentation are over represented in prisons in western societies?

    Is there any coincidence that every time Harry brings up national stereotypes, it’s always a nice, positive if slightly eccentric and twee stereotype for the English and a nasty, negative stereotype for the Irish? Dude, you need to get over the self-loathing! To turn your question on its head, do genetics have anything to do with the fact that Irish people win a grossly disproportionate number of literary awards and sell a disproportionate number of books and the English like marching into other people’s countries and dropping bombs on people with more dark melanoma pigmentation than they have? Does genetics have anything to do with the fact that Australians are foul-mouthed, stingy and make arses of themselves any time they travel abroad in groups more than three?

    I would posit that genetics have sweet Fanny Adams to with any alleged difference between the English and the Irish, given the centuries of intermingling of the populations of both countries and the fact its difficult to find any strong genetic differences between them.

    I’d also posit that is difficult to argue that genetics plays a role in the fact that darker skinned people are more likely to be in prison in ‘Western societies’ (I presume you mean Britain, America and Australia by that) given the widely differing genetic heritage of the black population in different Western countries; the social disadvantages faced by darker skinned immigrants; and the fact that the rozzers are racist in most places. It’s also worth pointing out that Americans of African heritage (you know, as in actually from Africa relatively recently) now earn more than the average American.

    You’re right, though, the reason why people are very cautious talking about genetic heritage, is that the last time people wondered why ‘people who can trace their genealogy back to a tiny tribe originally from the eastern end of the Mediterranean so heavily involved in the financial and media sectors of western economies’, they ended up positing all sorts of odd theories and then murdered 6 million of them in cold blood. They also arrested contentedly married mixed race couples in their beds, barely 100 miles from the capital of what you would probably regard as the greatest democracy in the world, and other naughty things which you are as well aware of as I am.

    What worries me about the revival of genetic determinism (for it is enjoying a real revival at the moment) isn’t so much that things like this might happen again – although they might – but the threat they might pose to both liberty and democracy. Did anyone else read the recent New Scientist leading article about how political opinion might be genetically determined? It’s a short step from there to saying that democracy is a sham, people are only following genetic impulses and what we need instead is a sound committee of experts to run the country…

  • Harry Flashman

    Indeed Sammy, the usual spittle flecked response that my posts seem to elicit from you conveniently ignored the entire thrust of what I was getting at, you’re right, we mustn’t use genetics to explain certain seemingly obvious aspects of human society for precisely the reasons you state.

    Curiously you take four longwinded, eyeball popping paragraphs to restate what I already said much more concisely.

    Did we forget to take our medicine today Sammy dear?

  • kingofmen

    Well thanks for the informative replies Ken And Harry Flashman.

    Given that, what are the pasty-faced slow twitchers of this rain-drenched isle to do?

    Can we not determine the ‘nature’ part via the schools system? In other words, give everyone some tests for sprinting, hammer-throwing, long-jumping etc.

    Identified ‘naturals’ could then be nurtured if they wanted to.

    All this in the context of ‘sport for all’, particularly team sports.

    Folk generally enjoy what they are good at. John Hayes the rugby prop was flukily identified because of his strength, though he never played the game coming from a ‘hurling area’?

    How many more are out there?

    Are there no decent out-halves in the Ulster nationalist community?

    No potential spin bowlers from Connacht?

    No hurdlers from Dublin, the town of the hurdles?

    Let’s find out!

  • Paddy Matthews

    Paddy,

    Nice attempt to elide the tackle but Fintan was talking about the political situation in Dublin, not as you tried erroneously to suggest, north Belfast.

    If an intelligent and well read bloke like yourself cannot see the obvious parallels between the major theme’s Fintan’s piece and Tory paternalism, I’m not sure I should bust a gut trying to demonstrate such an obvious point.

    Here’s a couple of pieces though that I’ve written elsewhere:

    Cameron’s cunning plan: http://tinyurl.com/6k2684

    And this thread is worth a peruse, thoguht the link to Brian Crowe’s original piece on the YU blog no longer works:

    http://tinyurl.com/6hu27g

    Mick,

    What I was referring to – obviously I was being too circumspect about it for such a well-read individual as yourself to get the point – was the lengths that you will go to in order to be a shill for the Tory party.

    End of story.

  • Mick Fealty

    PM,

    Go on then. Let’s hear how you come to that conclusion? Or do you just have everyone (but yourself obviously) down as someone else’s shill?

  • kensei

    Mick

    Most of your post has nothing to do with the original point, which was I took issue with one of the quotes you get enamored with. Zip. At least my material is original, even if I do “make it up”.

    And you also misquote horribly. The quote is “we all make our logic according to what we like”. Subtly different.

    as much as whether there is a government strategy viz a viz the development of sport in the Republic.

    Why should there be one? The GAA has a strategy for the GAA. The FAI has a strategy for soccer. The IABA has a strategy for boxing. The Government needs to provide funding, and it could certainly come up with some sort of monitoring. But this is one area I think the Government should be simply paying others to develop a service.

    And you aren’t actually talking about developing sport. You’re talking about developing elite-level sport. That’s largely a vanity project.

    It’s as though the government is forever relying on the willing forgetfulness of people like yourself to get by in these matters.

    It’s not willing forgetfulness. There’s a recession. Government involvement beyond ponying up cash will do little good. Vanity projects like getting a pile of Olympic medals should not be indulged. If they are moving away from that I lament it.

    The lesson: Governments can make a difference, if they possess the political will.

    Lesson: government money makes a huge difference. Case in point: Australia reduced funding, and their performance has dropped significantly. But huge credit needs to go to the sporting bodies that used it effectively. If the NHS used its money as well, Labour would not be half as much trouble.

    If the government decides it’s not a priority, that’s fine. But I am not as keen as you seem to be to just take it as read that they are doing something more than just passively responding to the most powerful lobby groups.

    Why should Irish Athletics get more money at the expense of the GAA? Can they demonstrate demand? Higher cultural significance? Good outcomes from money already spent? I am not as keen as you to take it as read they should be getting any more money at the expense of anyone.

    Oh yeah. Sporting culture? What does it mean? What was Humphries driving at? Wider active participation, I guess. And diversity of opportunity. And a sense that you can compete at the top.

    And the GAA provides evidence of that. The rugby teams provide evidence of that. Irish Ryder Cup players provide evidence of that. Irish Premiership footballers provide evidence of it. Hell, last year the cricketers provided evidence of it. Is there anyone in Ireland, seriously, cannot find a choice of at least 4 sports to pick from if they put they have the will? It is simply wrong to dismiss the enthusiasm often shown by Irish crowds as an “ole ole” culture lacking merit. Success and enthusiasm are two sides of the same coin. It’s just a sneering comment.

    I love the fact that our slopping old Gaelic pitch is pristine, level with spanking new changing rooms. But it’s also important to be able to exercise choice, and be able to access sports you have a passion for, not just those that are big enough to game the best resources.

    It is not the governments job to ensure the success of the Irish Lacrosse Association, the Irish Extreme Snowboarding Federation or the Irish Man Boy Love Association is doing well.

    There can be benefits from sport and the government should certainly have a think about how to fund it and what it wants out of it. Olympic medals? Grassroots participation? but if there are succesful bodies doing a good job, best not to interfere too much.

  • Mick Fealty

    Who’s supposed to me the Tory here: you or me? I do wish you would make up your mind! :o)

    Your original point was simply putting words into other’s mouths. Original it may be, but it doesn’t give me a lot to respond to Ken.

    I see you ducked the issue raised by McGonagle last December. €3.5 Million is not a lot of public money, but it’s meant to preserve GAA’s amateur status in the face of an onslaught from Aussie Rules. According to McGonagle it was a case of robbing Olympic Peter to pay GAA Paul. Funding for AI went down in an Olympics year.

    Is it worth it? Maybe it will prove to be. But given the code is in a long term tussle with a larger commercial predator, I suspect it is only postponing the inevitable. It is not clear to me why the richest football code on the island cannot find a market solution to what boils down to a commercial problem.

    Public funds are often most effective in building capacity where there would otherwise be a market failure. By no stretch of the imagination can the GAA be seen as a market failure.

  • Mick you said:

    “You’re playing the man (again). If you have a critique to share, then share it (I know you have done some work in this area). But if all you are interested in is grinding axes, then grind them somewhere else.”

    What man was I playing?

  • Mick Fealty

    Phil, we’ve gone done this road a dozen times before. Confute what the man says. You presumably have enough research your bag to do that. Just spare us your thoughts on the man himself. Like ken and Paddy’s rough consensus on my status as a Tory/Tory shill (delete as appropriate), they are worthless assertions without any kind of a backing argument.

    I know this is de riguer in some of the more cynical parts of the of the ‘dead tree press’, but it doesn’t pass muster here! Give us the backing argument and let the rest of us come to our own conclusions.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Who’s supposed to me the Tory here: you or me? I do wish you would make up your mind! :o)

    Few people are ideologically pure. If the Government should be involved in an area, they should be in as deep as they need, even if it means Nationalisation. If they aren’t, they should stay the hell out of it. I just can’t see how for the life of me how this is an area appropriate for the government to be driving, unless you have some huge amount of national pride invested in it or are a Authoritarian regime looking for distraction.

    Plus, even if I sometimes hold right wing views, I know my heart is still beating and so can’t be a Tory.

    Your original point was simply putting words into other’s mouths. Original it may be, but it doesn’t give me a lot to respond to Ken.

    It really wasn’t. I stated exactly what I got off it. Words communicate ideas. I have been struggling to find the correct word to describe the sentiment, but it hit me on the way home: contempt.

    The state is amply summed up in Blink, extract here:

    http://www.enotalone.com/article/3938.html

    The dismissal of Irish sporting culture as simply “ole ole” is contemptuous. I never like it.

    I see you ducked the issue raised by McGonagle last December. €3.5 Million is not a lot of public money, but it’s meant to preserve GAA’s amateur status in the face of an onslaught from Aussie Rules. According to McGonagle it was a case of robbing Olympic Peter to pay GAA Paul. Funding for AI went down in an Olympics year.

    Haven’t realised I’d ducked the issue. The GAA is of much more long term value for Ireland than Olympic sport. It is embedded in communities and has links and facilities that would cost three fortunes to build up. If they need the money, give it to them ahead of anyone else.

    Is it worth it? Maybe it will prove to be. But given the code is in a long term tussle with a larger commercial predator, I suspect it is only postponing the inevitable. It is not clear to me why the richest football code on the island cannot find a market solution to what boils down to a commercial problem.

    I don’t know, a few successful transfers isn’t enough for a crisis. Yet. Australia is also a bigger move than the UK, and it isn’t the same game. Enough money will do the trick eventually, obviously but I think the GAA will be resistant for a while yet.

    Would a professional game command the same loyalty at all levels? Would those interested in the cash be more likely to take up soccer or rugby? Would it result in a concentration in cash that means the top grounds become better, but the grassroots clubs suffer? Or would a rising tide lift all boats? It’s hard to say.

    Public funds are often most effective in building capacity where there would otherwise be a market failure. By no stretch of the imagination can the GAA be seen as a market failure.

    This isn’t really about “market failure” though. What outcomes do you want? If you want more Olympic medals, you can get them. Is that really what you is desired though? I find it madness. The GAA have facilities and clubs throughout Ireland. Ensuring they are well funded ensures access. A national game also helps with tourism and the GAA is certainly a force for social cohesion in the South, at least. Investing in it also gives the Irish Government some leverage with the association that they really haven’t pressed that much. A smart move might be to predicate higher funding for some opening of facilities for wider access.

    Do you want to encourage grass roots level sports and try and get people more active? You’re better investing in schools and leisure centre facilities, or paying the independent sporting bodies to open their facilities up. You might never get a medal out of it, though.

    Money does go beyond the GAA too. The investment in rugby and soccer will produce another high quality stadium in Dublin, and improvements elsewhere. There is value added by it.

    I’m not against investing in top level sport per se. It certainly does help boost national morale for a bit, and probably has some effect in encouraging people to take up more sport, but I’d wonder how much. But if they want public money, I think the drive should be coming from them and not government – they should all be planning grassroots level programmes, high performance programmes, infrastructure development and demonstrating they are a public good. If they did they’d find a lot more political support for giving them more money.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Like ken and Paddy’s rough consensus on my status as a Tory/Tory shill (delete as appropriate), they are worthless assertions without any kind of a backing argument.

    If anyone wants evidence that you are black hearted Tory, then I simply refer them to Brassneck over the course of the last year. If you don’t think you’re a Tory your deluding yourself.

    But not a shill. Plenty of other examples of those on Brassneck too. It doesn’t materially change the necessity of finding solid argument. It simply disappoints me.

  • Indeed Sammy, the usual spittle flecked response that my posts seem to elicit from you

    Then learn to do sarcasm better… it doesn’t always come over on the internet. 🙄

  • …and there are people who suggest that Jewish success in finance and the media is due to genetically provided high intelligence. Richard Lynn, for example.

  • Mick Fealty

    ken,

    Two things before I close on this thread.

    Government in this specific case was not supporting sport, but participating in a scheme that allows the GAA to tell itself and its members that the code is still amateur from top to bottom. The elephant in the room is that government chose to intervene and make the Olympic sports in a competitive year pay for it. The willing forgetters, like yourself, only make it easier for government to do what they bloody well like, without ever having to explain what they what they’ve done with the state’s limited resources.

    Two. The Tory thing is a piece of imaginative (not to mention vituperative) nonsense (although I’ve not the least objection to being thought of as a Tory). Your assertion that I am not a shill is about as credible as Paddy’s lame assertion that I am. As you rightly say, “it doesn’t materially change the necessity of finding solid argument”. Ah, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! At least Paddy had the decency to do his usual disappearing trick when caught out pushing a fraudulent line.

  • Mick,
    I pointed out that FOT (an avowed feminist) had written a piece extolling the virtues of manliness,controlled agression,mentoring,fatherhood etc.

    To put this in a Northern context.
    it would not stretch things to describe this as Ian Paisely making a Tiocfaidh Ar La speech in Crossmaglen.

    My point was exactly WHO was making the point on masculintity etc.
    I fully agree with the main thrust of FOTs analysis of the benefits of a boxing lifestyle for a young man.
    It is precisely becuase,in the past, FOT has been so against propenets of such a view (eg John Waters) that was, for me, worthy of comment.

    That isnt playing the man imo.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Government in this specific case was not supporting sport, but participating in a scheme that allows the GAA to tell itself and its members that the code is still amateur from top to bottom.

    They intervened to help avert a crisis in the national sports that threatened the Championship, and for a change that was lobbied for by the GPA for over 5 years.

    The elephant in the room is that government chose to intervene and make the Olympic sports in a competitive year pay for it. The willing forgetters, like yourself, only make it easier for government to do what they bloody well like, without ever having to explain what they what they’ve done with the state’s limited resources.

    I imagine that in other years, they’d have found the extra cash from somewhere else. Here is the explanation given, by the by:

    Rationale

    Our Senior Inter-County players provide the window through which our National Games are viewed nationally and internationally. It is recognised that the successful teams prepare and train to the highest international standards for team sports and that the current scheme of tax relief for professional sports people cannot be applied to Gaelic players because of their amateur status. The Minister therefore, via the Irish Sports Council, in consultation with the GAA and the GPA, intends to introduce schemes to recognise the outstanding contribution of Gaelic Inter-County players to our indigenous sport, to meet additional costs associated with elite team performance and to encourage aspiring teams and players to reach the highest levels of sporting endeavour. These schemes will be based specifically on Championship participation, the GAA’s blue riband competitions, commencing at the end of the National Leagues, and will operate as follows:

    It’s hardly a hard sell unless you believe it fundamentally changes the amateur nature of the game. It could well be the thin edge of a wedge where the sport should really get it’s own money, but that as you point out, is not a great deal.

    Two. The Tory thing is a piece of imaginative (not to mention vituperative) nonsense (although I’ve not the least objection to being thought of as a Tory). Your assertion that I am not a shill is about as credible as Paddy’s lame assertion that I am.

    Wrong. If you are not a Tory, you do as good an impression on Brassneck as to make no difference. It is vituperative, though. I immensely dislike both the Tory and Republican parties. I know you know that, and I equally know you don’t care. Bit of light hearted windup, Mick.

    At least Paddy had the decency to do his usual disappearing trick when caught out pushing a fraudulent line.

    As I said, not fraudulent. And I don’t tend to run from a debate.

  • Mick Fealty

    Watching the DNC from Denver. I’m done here.