Mcma­hon show­ing true class

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - GUIDE -

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.


Duib­lin star Philly Mcma­hon out­side Moun­tjoy pri­son

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