Today I’m jumping on a bandwagon. I don’t normally comment on matters that fall outside my own little world but this is a story that I just couldn’t let pass unremarked. I’m not the only person writing about this today and I won’t be the last.
If you’ve missed the saga of the guerrilla artist who managed to hang a two less than flattering portraits of our esteemed leader Brian Cowen in two separate art galleries then you could be forgiven. The story was just a bit of fun initially in the tradition of any good satirical stunt. It was a short item at the end of the 9 o’clock news on RTE, the state broadcaster on Monday. Something along the lines of the kind of “And Finally” stories they used to have on the ITN news just rather less cute.
What’s made things go a bit nuts is the reaction of Brian Cowen’s political party, Fianna Fail. Now if you’re not familiar with Irish politics Fianna Fail are the party that has been in power for the majority of Ireland’s existence as a republic. They’ve been in power in one coalition or another right the way through the Celtic Tiger years and are now presiding over the disaster area that is the Irish economy at the moment.
Since one party has been in power throughout the boom and now the bust the finger of blame has been pointed squarely in their direction by various commentators. Their popularity has plunged in the most recent polls. In February the Irish Labour Party passed them in the popularity stakes for the first time. The nation is decidedly pissed off.
So really it’s hardly surprising that this sort of thing happens and hanging a couple of pictures is hardly the same as taking to the street with burning torches…is it? Well, when the gardai turned up at the offices of Today FM radio station demanding to see emails between a researcher and the artist because he could be looking at various criminal charges including criminal damage and incitement to hatred. Apparently “the powers that be” wanted action taken.
And that’s not all. Yesterday RTE issued an apology after the 9 o’clock news for any offence they’d caused poor sensitive Mr Cowen. Since then the clip of the original segment has become harder to find on the website and captions have been changed.
The net result of all of this has been that picturegate has gone global. It’s made the London Times and the New York Times to name but two and the story looks set to run for quite some time especially since a 35-year-old teacher called Conor Casby has voluntarily turned up to talk to gardai. If it finds it’s way to court I will definitely write about it here.
Irish satire is generally a fairly toothless affair. During the years of prosperity the sharp jokes about politicians and politics that had always been such a feature of the Dublin sense of humour in particular became noticeably muted. People didn’t seem to want to rock the boat. Now that it’s rocking anyway that “fuck you” attitude has returned somewhat. The problem is that the politicians seem to have lost their sense of humour in the intervening years. Well, Fianna Fail’s po-faced attitude has made them look like the little tin gods they are. It was a well aimed pot shot that could have given people a chuckle but if the t-shirts available from Irishelections.net with the full frontal caricature from Allan Cavanagh are anything to go by, Biffo had better get used to seeing himself in the buff!