Ross O’Car­roll- Kelly

‘ Look­ing back, I have to say that my year in UCD was pos­si­bly the hap­pi­est three months of my life’

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS -

Oisinn rubs his two hands to­gether. “I’m look­ing for­ward to this,” he goes. And I tell him – yeah, no – I am, too? The an­nual Iron Stom­ach Con­test is as much a part of UCD life as wear­ing your schools rugby jersey for the first 10 weeks of first year and ex­per­i­ment­ing with your sex­u­al­ity by get­ting off with peo­ple who didn’t go to fee- pay­ing se­condary schools. The rules of the game are pretty straight­for­ward. Ten vol­un­teers sit in a line and eat course after course of the most dis­gust­ing com­bi­na­tions of food you can imag­ine. Weetabix with ketchup. Straw­berry ice cream with peas. Dog food on sour dough, slathered with tooth­paste.

Now, so- called food­ies who are read­ing this will no doubt be think­ing, ‘ We ate worse things than that when we or­dered the tast­ing menu at He­ston Blu­men­thal’s.’

But in this case, each course has to be de­voured within a strict, 60- sec­ond time limit, while washed down with beer that’s two years past its ex­piry date. Con­tes­tants are elim­i­nated as they spew. The one who holds ev­ery­thing down the long­est is de­clared the winner.

As a for­mer cham­pion, Oisinn is in­vited to at­tend ev­ery year – a bit like The X Fac­tor when they bring back the likes of Alexan­dra Burke to tell every­one how great things are go­ing for them to­day ( she’s do­ing Strictly now).

“As soon as the sum­mer ends,” Oisinn goes, “I stort think­ing about this day. It’s so ex­cit­ing to see all the new tal­ent com­ing through.”

I’m there, “Look­ing back, I have to say that my year in UCD was pos­si­bly the hap­pi­est three months of my life.”

But as we ap­proach the Orts Block, there’s a shock wait­ing for the Big O and me. The place is, like, de­serted. I’m like, “What the ba­sic-? Where is every­one?”

Oisinn goes, “We didn’t get the date wrong, did we?”

I’m like, “The 24th of Oc­to­ber. Yeah, no, I was talk­ing to Ro about it two nights ago,” and at the same time I whip out my phone to find out where he is. He an­swers by go­ing, “Rosser, I cad­dent thalk.” I’m like, “Dude, what’s the deal? It’s 11 o’clock in the morn­ing! Why aren’t there drunk peo­ple in front of the Orts block eat­ing sur­vival ra­tions for our amuse­ment?” “It’s off, Rosser.” I’m like, “Off?” and I watch a look of con­cern spread across Oisinn’s face. “The Iron Stom­ach Con­test has been held ev­ery year for the last 40 years.”

Ro­nan goes, “Come to Theatre L, Rosser, and I’ll ex­playun it to you.”

We end up hav­ing to ask for di­rec­tions, of course. The last time I was in a theatre, I was shout­ing, “Be­hind you!” at Mau­reen Pot­ter.

Theatre L turns out to be this, like, hu­mungous lec­ture hall and this morn­ing it’s ram­mers – we’re talk­ing stand­ing room only?

Ro­nan meets us at the door and tells us what’s hap­pen­ing. “They’re throy­ing to im­peach the Pres­i­dent of the Fresh­ers Soshid­dle and En­therthain­mint Commithee,” he goes. “A girl Ine sort of see­ing called Beal­taine Moor­phy.”

I’m like, “Beal­taine Mur­phy?” and I look down and see a girl in her late teens stand­ing at a podium, wear­ing gold chains of of­fice, sim­i­lar to the ones my old dear wore when she was the Lady Mayor of Foxrock. Stand­ing a few feet to her left is an­other girl at an­other podium. The at­mos­phere in the theatre is elec­tric.

Oisinn goes, “Why are they try­ing to im­peach her?”

Ro­nan’s there, “Well, Ine koyunt of in­volfed. Here, I bethor go. Ine ac­tu­ally a wit­ness.”

Me and Oisinn lean against the wall at the back of the theatre and we just watch. It ends be­ing some­thing sim­i­lar to a trial. It turns out that Beal­taine Mur­phy has been chorged with a thing called mi­croag­gres­sion, which – yeah, no – is a new one on me as well.

The stu­dent who’s do­ing the ac­tual im­peach­ing is called Lisa Sny­der and she storts ask­ing Beal­taine the hord ques­tions.

She goes, “One week ago, Madam Pres­i­dent, two wit­nesses, in the cor pork, over­heard you ask­ing a fel­low stu­dent from a so­cially dis­ad­van­taged area to tell you where he was from?”

I im­me­di­ately re­alise that she’s talk­ing about my son.

Beal­taine’s there, “Yes, that’s true, I did ask him where he lived.” Every­one storts boo­ing and hiss­ing. “Well,” Lisa goes, “is that not the dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion of mi­croag­gres­sion – the ca­sual degra­da­tion of a so­cially marginalised or eco­nom­i­cally op­pressed peo­ple through the care­less use of lan­guage by those of priv­i­lege?”

“You’re a fock­ing dis­grace,” some­one shouts and loud cheers fol­low.

“I’m say­ing it wasn’t mi­croag­gres­sion,” Beal­taine goes. “I of­fered him a lift home and it was in that con­text that I asked him where he lived.”

“That’s reet,” Ro­nan shouts. “She was go­ing howum to Port­meer­nock and Fin­glas was on her way in ad­dy­how.”

Lisa goes, “I would point out to the wit­ness that the op­pressed per­son is not al­ways the best judge of whether they’ve been op­pressed or not. That’s what makes mi­croag­gres­sion such a per­ni­cious form of in­jus­tice. I put it to you, Madam Pres­i­dent, that this slight – which caused deep of­fence to those who heard it and those who have heard it re­peated sub­se­quently – is part of a larger con­spir­acy of vic­tim­i­sa­tion against those whose voices are un­heard.”

Oisinn looks at me and just shakes his head. He’s there, “Are you telling me that this is what passes for stu­dent en­ter­tain­ment these days?”

I’m there, “What a waste. Could they not be, I don’t know, eat­ing stuff while they’re shite­ing on? Ear­wig sand­wiches. Bon­jella on a cream cracker. Blah, blah, blah.”

Ro­nan ends up sud­denly los­ing it. “This is all a load of ast- me- bleaten- bod­dicks,” he goes. “The geerl just op­pered me a lift howum is all.”

And that’s when Lisa sud­denly turns her anger on him. “A girl?” she goes. “Why are you re­fer­ring to her as a girl?”

Ro’s there, “Er, cos she is a geerl?” and he has a big stupid smile on his face, which tells me he’s def­i­nitely slept with her.

Lisa goes, “But why are you choos­ing to de­fine her in purely gen­der terms? Do you not think that’s a bit anti- in­ter­sec­tion­al­ist? Or should I say man- ti- sec­tion­al­ist?”

The boos ring out around the lec­ture hall.

Poor Oisinn’s hort is bro­ken. “Come on,” he goes. “We don’t be­long here any­more.”

IL­LUS­TRA­TION: ALAN CLARKE

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