The political and the personal
Truth to tell, it was not economic reasons alone that concerned me. After living in England I found that life in the stifling social and cultural conditions of Ireland was hard to tolerate. I missed newspapers of the quality of the Guardian and although it had dropped the prefix Manchester in 1959 it had not lost its reputation as a quality read. For a weekend treat I had ordered the Sunday Observer from our local paper seller who delivered newspapers door to door. He informed me in tones of disapproval; ‘You’re the only one in the district who reads a paper like that’. In Ireland there were no weekend papers of the quality of the British Sunday paper The Observer at the time.
Throughout the week, of the three biggest Irish morning papers the Irish Times was streets ahead of the other two that were both subservient mouthpieces of the major political parties – The Irish Press to Fianna Fail and the Irish Independent to Fine Gael. On Monday mornings, Da would snort, ‘The Irish Press and the Independent vie with each other to see who can report and publish the most pictures of fawning politicians kissing the ring of some bishop or other’. And for the seven weeks of Lent they would publish verbatim, pages of the pastoral letters of every bishop in the country.
One Sunday morning the paper seller was delighted to tell me, ‘There’s no Observer this week. Banned because of an article on birth control. And rightly so’. This from a father of seven kids was both amusing and at the same time dismaying. I watched as he walked away pushing his small box-cart of newspapers before him and trying to protect them from the gusts of cold wind that was blowing. My father’s words ‘pissing against the wind,’ came to my mind. Christ! The paper seller is not the only one, I thought. He is pushing against the wind. While I am in effect pissing against the wind in this damned country. What chance for my daughters growing up in this bloody place? I asked myself.
True, winds of change were gradually blowing away the crud that had encrusted Irish society for so long and English television was slowly breaking through the customs barrier. But not fast enough for me.