Once upon a time in Wexford, there was a hero . . .
It was his height that gave him away, and to a lesser extent that thin-lipped smile that turned into a sneer. In the entire history of Irish politics, the only individual I can think of who went from being a Good Guy to a Bad Guy, was Bertie Ahern, but this demands a study all to itself.
Obviously, if Pee Flynn had ever defrauded the VAT man of a sum running into millions, there would have been widespread and immediate calls to hang him from the highest tree. Such was the obviousness of Pee’s orneriness that relatively inconsequential sums were sufficient to move the plot along. There was something deeply tragic about Pee and the way he would laugh at you. You oughta try it sometime, amigo.
But when a man with long blond hair appears on the Irish political landscape wearing a pink shirt, he does not need to ride a white charger for us to know he’s a Good Guy. Ain’t no call for reverbed whistles or twanging guitars. But, just in case, the newcomer helpfully mouths some sparse, ironic lines about the need to clean up this here town. We get the message, compadre.
Later, when the facts appear to go against him, we understand that the facts must have some hidden meaning that will yet become clear – this is just the kind of stuff the script throws up to test the hero in Act Two. The quantums involved don’t matter, and neither do what an observer from Mars might have naively interpreted as the underlying principles of previous onslaughts on some red-necked, laughing cowboys.
Just in case, though, the hero’s buddies in the media take the precaution of writing casuistic articles in which they scramble around for things worse than misdeclaring your VAT returns. Editorials speak of the “schadenfreude” and “unseemly pleasure” of those who, having been on the receiving end of the hero’s righteous denunciations, now seek to take advantage of his misfortune.
Our attention is drawn to the “candour” and matter-of-factness of the hero, who we are reminded – in case we missed the point of his steely gaze into the distance – is “not a cute hoor”. The facts don’t mean a hill of beans. If the Good Guy dies in the end, it will be the death of a flawed hero, brought down by men who laughed too loudly and too long.