Lovin’ The Gardai? A reply to Niall Harbison by Eoin Ó Faogáin


Niall Harbison. Founder of Lovin’Dublin and its longstanding Director of Bad Opinions. Purveyor extraordinaire of a Dublin divided based on its appetite for gentrification.

Ostensibly, the topic of Harbo’s latest opinion piece appeared somewhat agreeable. Its title? ‘Why the Guards should get whatever pay rise they ask for’. At face value, the argument is that they should be supported in their support of better pay and conditions. And I’d largely agree with that.

I agree because it’s consistent with my feeling that all ordinary workers have been pushed to their limit over the last decade as expectations upon them have soared, concurrent with plummeting pay, conditions and resources. LUAS workers, Dublin Bus workers, teachers, SNAs, nurses, junior doctors as a small sample of those affected.

There are two problems with this piece, however.

Firstly, the overwhelming inconsistency from its author. This is a man who has consistently utilised both his own public persona and that of his website to deride, belittle and ultimately drive public opinion against public sector workers in particular. His disdain for striking LUAS workers was ubiquitous. Readers were treated to memes characterising the drivers as overpaid buffoons by comparison with doctors, using exaggerated pay figures to highlight this apparent injustice. Soon afterwards came a “hilarious” piece of content depicting just how easy the job is – even a brick could do it. Oh, how we laughed.

The notion being peddled in Monday’s piece is that there are levels of professional acceptability – those who deserve respect and those who do not. It doesn’t matter if transport workers deal with abuse, or more broadly have found themselves adjusting to tougher demands as funding has waned. In Harbo’s eyes, you’re a Prole and you should know your place. Of course rank-and-file Guards deserve adequate pay and conditions and yes, their work is often dangerous, but that simply doesn’t justify belittling other workers.

The piece rapidly descends thereafter from well-meaning-albeit-hypocritical rhetoric to staggeringly shortsightedness presented as fact. “No guns. No over-excessive use of force. No overarching use of their power…with a smile on their face. All this done with the mutual respect they have with the general public”, he continues.

I’ll conclude from this paragraph that he managed to miss out on the decades-long phone tapping and ongoing whistleblower scandals, the appalling case of Mary Boyle, the audio recordings of Gardaí joking about threatening to rape a Shell to Sea activist, the death in police custody of Terence Wheelock, the relentless intimidation of working class communities and countless examples of overzealous policing (perhaps best evidenced in the infamous “RoboCop”, Donal Corcoran).

Ask Clare Daly for her opinion on ‘no overarching use of power’.

Ask journalist Gemma O’Doherty, dismissed from INM for her coverage of the Whistleblowing story, for her opinion on ‘no overarching use of power’.

Ask the 17-year old boy in Jobstown for his opinion on ‘no overarching use of power’.

The point I’m trying to make here is that there’s an important distinction between saying ‘ordinary guards deserve a pay rise’ – an agreeable perspective for most people – and ‘their work is entirely flawless and shouldn’t be questioned’. That’s an outlandish position to take, even for Harbo.

Of course, we’re talking about a personality who has managed in a few short years to polarise inner-city children (for having a swim), drug users (for interfering with his ideal aesthetic), the entire North Strand area (for resembling wartime Beirut, apparently), parents who take their kids to music festivals, people who drink in airports and local authority housing residents at large (for having the temerity to want to live in the city-centre with the TechBros).

It hasn’t affected business at LovinDublin, though. With 200,000 Facebook followers, their message is heavily consumed, no matter how divisive. The site is mostly food and culture orientated, but these opinion pieces and derisory satire takes reach very large numbers of people.

Perhaps one day, Harbo will decide to acknowledge Dublin as a diverse city with a large working-class population whose perspectives he and his website almost exclusively ignore. Broadcasting the view, however, that some workers are higher, mightier and so much more deserving of respect than others only continues the class-blind narrative.
As long as that narrative continues, I’ll challenge it. Even if it’s from a much lower pedestal.
Eoin Ó Faogáin is a regular columnist for The Bogmans Cannon

The Sudden Thaw & What It’s Doing To You, by Kevin Higgins


At the finish of the recent ice age, when
history suddenly wasn’t over anymore,
and another future began to be written;

you were the first daffodil to push its face
up through earth frozen twenty five years,
before those with stronger stems followed
to better face what the wind would bring.

Today, you’re outraged the resurrected
Allende didn’t consult you on his media strategy
while the coup plotters were bombing
the Presidential palace from the air, though all
the while you left your smart phone on
to take his call.

When the new round of mechanised killing
really gets going – somewhere near Calais,
or due south of Budapest – you’ll make
a latest video for The Guardian,
speak earnestly to camera
about the appalling roughness of some
of the lavatory paper there,
and post it on Twitter.

Can’t be easy
when no one but you gets;
we’ll only defeat great evil
by taking it out for coffee
and seeing its point of view.
Over the years you become its new
more persuasive face.

KEVIN HIGGINS is The Bogmans Cannon Satirist-In-Residence

This Saturday sees the launch of Dave Lordan’s Pirate Show on Dublin Digital Radio

img_6686I’ll be presenting the Pirate Show on Dublin Digital Radio this Saturday, & fortnightly thereafter, from 4-6pm. It’s an Alt.lit show with emphasis on the singing poet tradition then & now, live lit, performance, & spoken word/music crossovers in all their forms. For the first show on Saturday I will be briefly interviewing Ewan McColl’s proud ghost, & talking in more detail to rebel writer Sorcha Fox. Also featuring Conchúr Ó Ceallaigh, Olive Groove, Jinx Lennon, Sisterix, The Sons of Slum, Katie Freeney The King Blues, The Dubtones, Kate Tempest, Rafeef Ziadah, Adrian Mitchell, Natasha Helen Crudden, Daniel Wade, Captain Moonlight, Jinx Lennon & Paula Flynn. Tune in – great craic & inspiration guaranteed.

Dave Lordan

Diary of an Urban Bogman, day 18: On reading Ulysses, a Joycean non-analysis


“And what did you get up to on Saturday night?” the great smirking blue face beckons an answer out of me before my self respect or ego can catch up with it.

… “I sat at home and read Ulysses” I admit, though somewhat reluctantly.

“Ah!” launches Ferard casually, “I have to take another run at it once I finish college. Read the first 8 episodes for a class. It’s dense as fuck but so rewarding.” I concur, even though I secretly suspect he probably got some comic-book adaptation. Or maybe not… After all, who in their right mind would ever make such a thing?

Here, Billy interjects with his usual slur. “Heap of shite!”

Pregnant pause of intellectual pondering.

“Your time would have been better spent face down in speed giving yourself a reach-around.”

Everyone laughs. Mitzy jumps in with her usual Hepburn-esque* charm and sound advice; “Don’t listen to him! You don’t gotta choose…”

Everyone laughs some more. Here, a few drinks are spilled. There, a few more are poured. Life goes on.

“Another great health tip! Mind if I repost it?” interjects Dan Jordan enthusiastically. “Fucking great book, but what you are advising is also most inspiring. It’s about balance though, isn’t it? You could listen to Ulysses on audio whilst being free to perform auto-reacharound, and so on…”

That certainly would be a very Joycean thing to do.


* Audrey, not Catherine.

PRETENDING TO BE TAOISEACH – THE UNOFFICIAL Biography of Brian Cowen, by Dave Lordan


(poem commissioned in 2009 by Irish left Review to honour our then Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who has just released his official autobiography. This is the unofficial biography.)

Nearly all politicians are

dummies and mimics,

as are most junkies and drunks,

Just as in nature

victims & predators

learn off their roles

by long-settled rote

Dissent is a kind of seeing deformity

that shows a way out.

This much I’m used to and sure of.

Last night I strolled

the Liffeyside boardwalk

being reminded, as usual,

by every new scene of cackling debauch,

of the clear-sighted canvas upheld

to the hellish medieval grotesque,

(That triptych of self-mutiliation,

passed-on oppression, interior rot.)

by artists like Brueghel and Bosch.
I wasn’t all that affected

by the scores of drunk addicts,

some of them children,

reciprocally miming sewer-pipe mouths,

canine grimaces, anteater snouts.

Nor was I more than expectedly saddened

that each had the same

or similiar names and nicknames,

like Chloe,

Ryan, Bonzer and Jayzee

and that each had these same or similar

names and nicknames

of dead infants

and partners and friends

scribbled in prisoner’s ink

among epidemical scabs and scars

torn out of their Hep-yellow flesh

by needles and blades

on their bellies and forearms.

I didn’t find it occasion

for chuck-up or freak-out to watch,

wriggling from all of their noses,

those short, pale, corpulent worms

that lead a suspended, blissful existence

at the bottom of bottles

of tequila and absinthe.
The thought that last night surprised me

was this:

round here the brown river

muddies the sky

and carries it off

and the sun only rises

out of corporate towers

so it’s joining the dots

and stating the obvious

to say that these terminal addicts

who rot on the boardwalk

like the trays of unsellable fruit

in the tips around Smithfield

are the bottom familiars

of the contagious filth

at the top.
Last night on the boardwalk

I watched one drunkjunky pimp

pretending to be Taoiseach.

He was your absolute image

sketching you out completely

on the very edge of the Liffey,

ten yards from O Connell Bridge

on Batchelor’s Quay.

This drug-addled lunatic

mimed so precisely

the unsteady condition

that everyone’s heard

you ever so occasionally

might get yourself into

at, to take only one out of many,

a sinister off-record networking soiree,

ending-up like Amy Winehouse’s birthday

at four in the morning

in your showbander bedroom

trying to satisfy the unsatisfiable

with the remains

of a very rare steak

carried away from the banquet

beneath your wine-spattered shirt.

Well, after only two minutes

in charge of the totterer’s nation,

faith swooped in like a wrecking ball

to crush this parroting citizen

(just as the gigantic wrecking ball of time

will be slamming down sooner or later

upon the culture of apartment blocks

and shopping centres)

and the poor demented animal crumbled

into the tarflow of the nightriver

and then straightaway another one-

there is always straightaway another one,

the aping of sovereigns unstoppable here-

struggled heroically paralytically out

from under a soiled duvet

and had a go at doing you when,

four or five hours later,

you’re stranded like your own amnesiac ghost

in the plasmic aftermath

of a blackout

naked and quaking

like the smartphone’s on vibrate

and you’ve downed it like a toad,

trying to whip into line

the chaotic neuronal gloop

a-whirl in your brain

and rev-up that unreliable throat

(praying then that the rest of you will follow)

by shouting half-recollected

ancient gaelic oaths

into a cloud of steam

in the bathroom mirror

inbetween repeating

another day’s scrip

for the war on the people.

Watch out though, look!

I bet you the Easter Rising

and raise you two-thirds of the future

that it’s your hobo doppelganger

forming up in the optical mist

in that mirror.

You simply do not know

in your twisted, tormented condition

if or how, going forward

-rather than your natural

sideways or backwards-

you’re going to get it together

to last

til the one or two little sips

your handlers allow

to settle you through

the mid-afternoon

or how you’ll keep a straight face

through another ten-thousand

delirious, farcical minutes

of counted-down lies

that you are going to spend,

whether you like it or not,

in the grip of an irrational

and eventually overwhelming

goo to get totally out-of-it

like the rest of the chronics

on the Liffeyside boardwalk

whom you poisonously envy

while signing orders to persecute.
Whenever you hear

the disposable gods

of interchangeable talk-shows

blunderbussing on the airwaves

for a round-up of the scumbags

your blood cells,

like a choir of slaves in a galley-boat,

cry out in instinctual sympathy

for a fix or a shot

and while your fellow shades

upon the boardwalk

are dropping

like the flies

that are


on them

and, in your imitation,

suppering on the national scapegoats

sure you’ll struggle on

towards your cosseted downfall

but all along you’ll be nowt

but a mime and a dummy

strung out and doomed

and vainly attempting

to clear the unclearable gravels and tars

that are clogging and sliming

in the sewer of your throat

in the wasted highways of your mind

in the empty estates of your soul

in the incinerated rubbish of your heart
and pretending, always pretending
always always pretending
because there never ever was
and there never ever could be
anymore than pretending
in this pastiche of a lush we call taoiseach.

Mental Health Week, by Billy O Hanluain


For some, it is the vehicle that brings pensioners to the bingo, for others it might be the transport from the airport to the hotel or even that taxi that brings a group of six to a house party. I am talking about the “Mini Bus”; two words that still make me very uneasy many years after I was in one, being brought to places I didn’t want to go to.

You have seen them, those white mini buses that are stopped at traffic lights near the bus stop you are waiting at. The side of the bus, emblazoned with the letters HSE, Saint Ita’s, Saint Loman’s, Saint Brendan’s….my Saint was John of God. Lazily you catch a glance of the passengers, some with bucked teeth and rolling eyes, others staring into some private infinity, drooling, there was always a drooler, no mini bus would be complete without one.

And the rockers and the rollers, shaking in their seats and hey! That’s me, covering my face like somebody leaving court as the bus passes my secondary school hoping to god the mini bus wouldn’t be caught in traffic at the school bus stop and the girls in tartan green and the boys in navy blue might see me. The banal cruelty of a school bus stop.Fatso, faggot, knacker and if a mini bus passed by, a good chance for the heroes of the 46A to shout “Look at the Johniers!” and pull faces at them. Truth is, I may well have done that in the past, mocked them but now I was a passenger being brought to the Spring Show to collect brochures about combine harvesters and stickers for pesticide companies, how I wanted for some machine to mow the wild acres of my sadness. Maybe we were going bowling in Stillorgan where one girl was so thin she had to lift the lightest ball and it always fell in the side gulley and nobody ever got a strike. The bowling alley was no shelter from shame. Lads from my school sometimes came there after school to play video games. As I’d pick up the ball, a seal’s face pierced with three holes, the nurse would say “Go on Billy, a strike, aren’t ye great…”.I didn’t want my name spoken out loud. I didn’t want to be there. There was one boy who refused point blank to bowl and instead scratched words on his arms. I have an irrational hatred of bowling to this day. Many years ago I went bowling in Madrid and broke down completely, tore off the pathetic clown shoes you have to wear so as not to damage the surface, and beat my head to migraine with them, needless to say that date didn’t end well.

People who access mental health services aren’t others they are us, they are me. But the stigma stays like an unwanted tattoo. The memory of things I saw and people I met and the sound of doors being locked has never quite been erased. The many months I missed from school. The drugs. Seeing a lovely young man left mute after ECT. Having to do the Leaving Cert a year after all my former class mates. Meeting them, at a house party a month before they’d sit their leaving. I was out only a month, feeling good about myself. Me and another fella were trying to get the attention of a beautiful girl. He chatted her up and then I playfully stepped in….she was enjoying the attention and we all felt so adult in that back garden in Cabninteely, mid-May a month before their final school exams. A free gaff! Eventually she held my hand and my friend said under his breath “ye lucky bugger…” We kissed and I felt an almost unbearably beautiful release from the previous months. We came back into the kitchen where people were dancing. I was holding her hand and that’s when the nightmare started. Another fella, drunk, roared at her, “What are you doing with a Johnier? he’s just out of hospital, could be dangerous, could be psycho…he’s only here because….” Somebody gagged him but I was already smarting with dry tears. I understand now those headlines “Man Killed at house party”. It can happen that easy. An act of love though, that I will keep close to me like a winning hand of poker for the rest of my life, she squeezed my hand and said ” I don’t really know who you are but you’re the nicest guy here” She took me to a bed room and made me feel more alive than I’d felt in years,
Names are important. The Naval Ships of Ireland have the names of mythological Irish women, Aoife, Ethne, Orla, Ciara and even writers Beckett and Joyce. The patients inside the mini buses are given the wing and a prayer of a Saint, sympathy, whereas the sailors are given heroics and literature.

The discourse around mental health has changed a lot since the late 80’s and much of it for the better but much of it still makes me very uneasy. It is a good thing that people are encouraged to “tell their stories”, “to share”, that people can emerge from the shadows of shame and secrecy. I like when I visit secondary schools now that I see posters, painted by students promoting respect and tolerance.

We must ask ourselves though, is it the function of mental health services to help people and rehabilitate them so they can function again in a deeply dysfunctional society? In a society like ours that privatizes everything the bill invariably gets handed on to the individual. Everything becomes a private transaction. Health care, waste collection, education and even spiritual practice are all conducted privately and our sense of belonging to a sane and caring community is eroded in the supposed interests of efficiency, cost and individual rights. The onus is increasingly on the individual to pave his own way, regardless of his or her means.

Yes, it is a good thing that people are able to speak about depression, suicide, addiction and stress but the focus seems to be all the time on the individual being able to deal with these symptoms and get back into the race, if they manage this, the race has invariably become a lot crueler since they were last in it. I accept that some people may have a pre-disposition towards depression or that an addiction may run in a family but nowhere in the current discourse on mental health is anybody really challenging the societal factors that make people sick.

All around us we are surrounded by and compliant with madness and we know it. Whether it is the annihilation of our imaginations by advertising, our fear of being who we really are, the constant attacks launched on people’s self-esteem by marketers, class division, war, lives spent in meaningless jobs, show me a child in a playground who dreams of being a sub-prime lender? There are none. Somewhere along the line we co-opt and voluntarily sign up to servitude. We smother our own dreams before they even have a chance of crawling towards realization. So many of us live lives of bad faith being, untrue to ourselves, we don’t want to take responsibility, the burden is too much. People go to gyms, spend hours on thread mills, running to nowhere. A generation believes that food comes from a supermarket. We have outsourced thought to Google. We have few meaningful rituals or symbols. Our cities are clogged with corporate clutter. Wars are televised between ad breaks. We dance Gangnam style, we “like” cat videos, we eat whatever fad food is going, the burrito, sushi. We invent narratives around Nature, that it is a benign force, a mother, a giver, a carer, while raping her for resources. Look into the eyes of the Atlantic, it cares not a salt spray drop for you. We vote for clone singers on talent shows, while Aleppo is shelled, late night shopping on Thursdays and a new fad diet reviewed on a Saturday radio talk show while a million die out of sight from no food at all. We are overloaded with information; we fear eye contact. Casual violence,,porn, poverty, the suspicion of people who are not exactly like you. And Money, the new moral arbitrator, the new church…. how do you manage it? How much do you spend? How much do you save? How much do you earn? Where do you live? What school did you go to? What school do your children go to? You have three hundred Facebook friends but no one to call when none of the pieces of your rotten puzzle fit together….

And we are surprised that people are sick…

But of course it’s your problem because you can’t cope. There is a whole front line of Pharma-Soldiers there to prescribe medication for you and a lovely label to go with your prescription ADDH for the kids, Bipolar for you and Paranoia for the lady in red at the back of the audience, please read the label carefully and don’t exceed the daily dose, don’t ask too many questions, that’ll be 60 euro, thank you.

Tell your story…. sorry but sometimes one’s story is not strong enough to withstand all that other madness. Maybe it’s us who were in Mini Buses who are not sick at all…. the problem with “telling the story” is that we are all dreadfully unreliable narrators…it’s presumes that there is some epiphany lurking within us all, maybe there is but it is often soon crushed again once we step back into the race. The story doesn’t always heal us; we can become slave to it…it assumes that there is a purpose…. the imposition of purpose on our lives is another source of discontent…. the story is also always changing as the past is not a fixed or objective place, it is forever shifting, being informed and shaped by now, there is no simple returning with a key to unlock it….the trail of crumbs has been blown away by the wind…

I will leave you with these words by Henry Miller

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

Billy O Hanluain is a regular contributor to The Bogmans Cannon