Subscriber OnlyIreland

IT Sunday: social revolution of the last 30 years made life better for most people but not less fretful

Among the articles selected this week are pieces from Fintan O’Toole, Jennifer O’Connell and Shelia Wayman


Welcome to this week’s IT Sunday, your weekly selection of some of the best Irish Times journalism for subscribers.

In a week the the census confirmed the growth of the Irish population to its highest level in 171 years, Fintan O’Toole in his column this weekend looks at year’s B&A Sign of the Times report which reminds us of how radically altered Irish life has been since 1991.

“Mass emigration, established as a norm since the early 19th century, remained as an overwhelming fact of life. The economy became, after partition removed the Northern industrial powerhouses, even more agrarian, and therefore even more dependent on the British food market. And the institutional power of the Catholic church was, if anything, intensified.

“All three of these forces have been completely reversed over the last 30 years. Perhaps, then, the real Irish revolution is the one that has taken place since the early 1990s.”

The political week was also marked by a bitter, personalised row in the Dáil between Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman. Collins writes that “there was a predictable outbreak of tut-tutting in the media at the Tánaiste’s robust response to Pearse Doherty – but it was long overdue. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been far too timid for the past two years in the face of an unrelenting onslaught from Sinn Féin in the Dáil, social media and every public forum . . . If the parties in Government are not prepared to defend their record, the public will rightly conclude that they are not fit to run the country for another term.”

Earlier this week, Ken Early addressed the theory of “sportswashing” in relation to participation in high-profile Saudi-backed sporting events. But does it really sportswashing, if those buying the world’s attention aren’t trying to hide their guilt? As Early puts it: “It seems more likely they are not embarrassed at all - that the mass executions and the sporting spectaculars are manifestations of the same will that serve the same ultimate end: to bathe their commissioners in reflected glory.”

Sheila Wayman looked at dyslexia – a learning difference experienced by about one in 10 people. Common signs include difficulties with reading, writing and spelling – and while it can be difficult to detect milder dyslexia at younger ages, early identification and intervention are crucial. Wayman spoke to the chief executive of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland for this article which seeks to help parents spot the signs.

The reopening of society brings with it the chance to socialise again. But for some, the return to the treadmill of activity that had paused for so long presents a challenge. In her Tell Me About It column this week, Trish Murphy responds to a reader feeling stressed about the return to a previous way of life, who says: “Now that Covid is over, the merry-go-round of social events is starting up again and I feel under huge pressure to participate and my excuses not to go are wearing thin. I’m getting some suspicious questions and comments.”

What’s the use of hidebound rules if there is no one left to abide by them? That was Kathy Sheridan’s question for the Catholic Church, as she recalled an attempt to deliver a eulogy for a family member, which was blocked by the officiating priest. There’s no point in poking an already-weary faithful, said Sheridan: “For those wobbling on the margins, neither in nor quite out, it’s the silly own goals that come to mind.”

Road racing, where public roads are closed off to allow bikes to compete against nature and infrastructure as much as each other, is unique to Ireland and the Isle of Man. For all glories the sport brings, there is always the flipside of tragedy. This year at the Isle of Man TT, no fewer than five competitors died. The inevitable calls for banning, or at least neutering, of the sport were raised. Neil Briscoe writes that it’s tempting to suggest that racing bikes is an obsession of youth, of people who have not yet learned about their own mortality, their own fragility. “But then how do we explain the lengthy career of 50-year-old John McGuinness, who holds 23 wins in various classes at the TT. Even Hailwood was 38 when he made his great comeback. It’s not just about youth.”

Danielle O’Neill is a north Belfast woman who “went from having a great job and about to start a family to someone on 35 pills a day and housebound”. She spoke to our Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham about Michael Watt, the former neurologist at centre of Northern Ireland’s biggest patient recall scandal who says completely destroyed her life. “He was charming. He was complimentary. He referred to my illness as a fascinating mystery,” she says.

And finally, in her column, Roe McDermott advises a 25-year-old woman who flirts, texts and talks about personal things a lot with a man from work. They’ve slept together a few times and when she asked him if he ever sees them together, he said they “have such a unique relationship already”, which the reader found confusing. Roe says this is “one of those situations where the adage ‘actions speak louder than words’ is going to destroy you, because it’s just not true”.

As always there is much more on irishtimes.com, including extensive coverage of the weekend’s sport featuring extensive coverage of the football quarter finals, rundowns of all the latest movies in our film reviews, and tips for restaurants to suit all tastes in our food section. You can always check out more articles exclusively available for Irish Times subscribers here.

We hope you enjoy reading these articles. We value your views, so please feel free to send comments, feedback or any suggestions for topics you would like to see covered to feedback@irishtimes.com.

READ MORE