Mcmahon showing true class
quid that occasionally came their way on drink. But in this age of the Man Booker Prize, it is broadly accepted that many writers of literary fiction will have some other source of income that will enable them to eat a few times a week at least, and perhaps even to pay the rent with some regularity.
Many of them will be academics, perhaps teachers of creative writing — and some of them will be coming from the upper end of the middle classes, graduates of the finest universities, the sort of people who will rarely have much meaningful contact with the run-down social welfare systems which confronted Anna Burns.
Indeed, in Britain they are run down to such an extent, there is now less chance than there has ever been, of a writer of good books emerging from what used to be known as the working class — and it is a malaise which seems to have spread across the various art forms, something that is most visible to anyone who watches the Graham Norton Show.
Actors in particular who appear on that show put in some of their most heroic performances trying to pass themselves off as ordinary folks, when in truth it is increasingly impossible for anyone to train to be an actor without, as they say, independent means.
And though they are talented, and their performances on the Norton couch are immaculate, you are left with this impression that despite their efforts to minimise all the advantages they have had, you are looking at members of an aristocracy, perhaps the only kind of aristocracy that matters any more.
Which brings us naturally to the most crucial programme of last week, The Hardest Hit, the story of how Gaelic Football was the salvation of Philly McMahon, his passport out of the ghetto, as it were. Growing up in Ballymun, his brother John was lost to drugs, whereas Philly found his escape in football, and was able somehow to cling to that vision of freedom.
But Philly is not presenting this as some kind of an inspirational “human interest” story, in this programme he was adamant that being from Ballymun meant that he had choices to make which a young person in, say, Foxrock, would most likely not have to make.
He went to Portugal to observe an enlightened policy whereby people addicted to drugs are treated as part of the health system, not the criminal justice system — it is working too, unlike the system we still have here, which results in a large section of a very small part of the population being criminalised. Which makes you wonder if that is the whole purpose of the exercise, in the absence of any other rational explanation.
It is important work that Mcmahon is doing here, reminding us that along with issues of race and gender, there is the daddy of them all – class.
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Duiblin star Philly Mcmahon outside Mountjoy prison