Last night, as per usual, I was watching Channel 4 News when something quite striking happens. There was a little discussion of Pope Benny’s current visit to Africa. But that in itself wasn’t what interested me, or Jon Snow. What Snow wanted to talk about was Benny’s restatement of official Catholic doctrine on condom use. So, in the studio discussion, some Catholic woman whose name escapes me was brought in to be harangued. Cue Snow banging on about how millions of Africans were going to die of Aids, and it was all the Pope’s fault.
Then it got entertaining, as the Catholic woman, getting visibly more annoyed by the second, put in a vigorous defence of Catholic development policy as it’s operated in the Philippines, and made a spirited attack on condom-centric development programmes. So aggressive was she, in fact, that Snow was taken quite aback, and switched his interrogatory mode for one of trying to get the Catholic woman to calm down. Evidently she hadn’t understood that her function on the programme was to be shamefaced and apologetic.
But why should she be? And, more to the point, why should any experienced journalist feign shock and horror when Benny goes around defending the official positions of the Catholic Church? The guy is, after all, the head of the Catholic Church. And, though I don’t agree with Benny on this question, I am more than a little queasy at secular liberals, who aren’t under any obligation to pay the slightest attention to Catholic doctrine, campaigning for the Church to change its doctrine. It’s a bit like a football team campaigning to change the laws of cricket.
In other dog-bites-man news, yesterday was St Drunkard’s Day. I’ll get onto the local Paddy’s Day celebrations in a second, but it was striking how far the cringe towards the States has gone. Of course Biffo Cowen was in Washington, presenting his fellow Offaly man Barack O’Bama with the traditional bowl of shamrock, although what you’re supposed to do with a bowl of shamrock beats me. And of course our own Dynamic Duo, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, were also at the White House. Indeed, so many of our political class, from both sides of the border, were stateside begging for change, that it’s possible the government of Ireland might momentarily have devolved on a dog-catcher in Cavan, or worse still, Sammy Wilson.
Although there were lots of very sizeable parades around Ireland, for most of the day they took a poor second place on the news to New York and Chicago. One can understand the London media choosing to report Paddy’s Day celebrations from America rather than those from, er, Ireland. (Next year, expect Burns Night from Australia – and, incidentally, it happened in Scotland as well.) For our local news outlets to do the same, though, tells you something about priorities.
But hey, all that was changed by the Holylands riot. Again, totally predictable. In fact, the peelers had predicted trouble the day before. So why the shock-horror at something we all knew would happen? You know what the Holylands is like. Specifically, you know the behaviour patterns of the Tyrone farmboys. I’m sure that wheelie-bin races at two in the morning are deadly crack for the students, but they aren’t much fun for anybody who wants to get some sleep in.
And now the call goes up for Queens and the NUU to take action against their riotous students. To be honest, I think it would be better for the colleges to just use the occasion to declare half-term every spring. That might minimise the presence of drunken culchies, who would be enjoying their revels in the depopulated backwaters where they’re used to doing whatever they like. It’s called managing your environment.