The Irish Times opinion editor’s guide to Christmas lunchtime conversation

“So then I said, ‘the international rules-based system and the institutions that underpin it have never been under more threat’.”

“So then I said, ‘the international rules-based system and the institutions that underpin it have never been under more threat’.”

 

Christmas lunch can be a particularly tricky moment during what can be a very challenging few days conversation-wise. You don’t want to bore your guests, but neither is it right that they should be allowed leave the table without the benefit of your compelling insights into the momentous events of the decade gone by and the year to come.

As a service to readers, the opinion page is offering a few handy pointers that, deployed with judgment, will allow you strike the right balance.

We have put together a list of topics and a range of opening conversational gambits that, delivered with sufficient élan, should keep you going right through to the port and cigars. We offer three gambits for each topic. The first might be described as the “woke” option. It is best used carefully and sparingly and may put some guests to sleep. But it will at least ensure that you remain on the right side of your daughter’s hipster boyfriend.

The second option is more “centrist Dad” and should not offend anyone at the table, although by the same token may not be sufficiently engaging to stop your mother-in-law talking about her hip operation. However, if offers a “safe space” should options 1 or 3 backfire and you find the table turning against you.

Option 3 is the Fox News take. Like option 1 it is more high-risk. It needs to be used carefully and never whilst under the influence of alcohol, unless your guests have overstayed their welcome or the boredom has just got too much for you.

Climate change

Woke: I do wonder whether we really should be eating meat at all for Christmas lunch, given the carbon footprint of farming.

Centrist Dad: The coming decade will hopefully be the inflexion point in the fight against global warming

Fox News: What is up with Greta Thunberg? Does she really have to look so cross all the time?

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate march, in Turin, Italy, on December 13th. Photograph: AP Photo
Smiley smiles? Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate march, in Turin, Italy, on December 13th. Photograph: AP Photo

Brexit and the British

Woke: This is really an existential moment for Europe and the values of the enlightenment that it embodies. I can’t believe the British have done this to themselves.

Centrist Dad: I think Johnson will go for a soft Brexit in the end. I mean, really, what choice does he have. It’s all about realpolitik.

Fox News: What time is the Queen’s speech. It’s gonna be a doozy this year.

Irish politics and the coming election

Woke: This really could be a breakthrough year for the Greens. People are really beginning to get them.

Centrist Dad: It will be the same-old-same-old. Its Fianna Fáil’s turn to be in government and what harm?

Fox News: You would miss Mick Wallace and Clare Daly all the same, wouldn’t you?

Dublin’s urban landscape

Woke: I can’t believe we are going to build a €25 million white-water rafting course in the middle of the IFSC. It’s wrong on so many levels.

Centrist Dad: I don’t see a problem with taller buildings in central Dublin. It’s an answer to the housing crisis. But it must be properly planned.

Fox News: I never heard of the Bernard Shaw pub until they closed it. Looked like a bit of a dump to me.

The North and reunification

Woke: I think people are getting ahead of themselves with all this talk of a united Ireland. We need reconciliation before unity.

Centrist Dad: It’s time for a national conversation on what a united Ireland will look like. And I can tell you one thing. It won’t be a 32-county republic.

Fox News:Do we really want reunification? It’s going to cost a fortune and those northerners can be very needy.

Direct Provision

Woke: As we sit down to eat this fabulous meal we should spare a thought for all the people in direct provision this Christmas.

Centrist Dad: I accept the system has its flaws but it is the only viable solution for a country like Ireland.

Fox News: Oughterard is overrated. I much prefer Clifden.

Lisa Smith

Woke: She must face due process. We owe that to the victims of Isis.

Centrist Dad: She is an Irish citizen and has the same rights as the rest of us.

Fox News: I don’t know what is the better look for her; hijab or Air Corps uniform.

Social media and technology

Woke: Will you turn that alexa off. It’s making me feel uncomfortable.

Centrist Dad: This could be the year that we finally wake up to the dark side of big tech and the way these companies manipulate us using our own data.

Fox News: Look, look, I got an iPhone 11 Pro Max .

The rise of China

Woke: The US and China are clearly falling into the Thucydides trap like Sparta and Athens in the Peloponnesian War. Conflict in inevitable.

Centrist Dad: The Chinese are not entirely immune to international opprobrium. Look at the tolerance shown towards the protesters in Hong Kong and the closure of the Uighur detention camps in Xinjiang.

Fox News: Its spelt Uighur and pronounced “weegar”. That’s mad.

Donald Trump and America

Woke: I know impeachment is a lost cause but it is the morally correct course of action.

Centrist Dad: The democrats will rue the weaponisation of the US constitution. Impeachment will become just a regular feature of US politics.

Fox News: Oh look, Trump is tweeting.

US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on December 19th. Photograph: EPA
US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on December 19th. Photograph: EPA

International affairs

Woke: The international rules-based system and the institutions that underpin it have never been under more threat.

Centrist Dad: It’s a bit early to write off liberal democracy as the most sustainable form of Government. I agree with Churchill.

Fox News: I think we will go to Majorca again this year. I love Italy.

Sports

Woke: Really looking forward to seeing the Irish women’s hockey team smashing it in the Olympics next summer.

Centrist Dad: Maybe breaking up Dublin into two teams isn’t the worst idea in the world.

Fox News: John Delaney is the real victim in all of this FAI stuff.

Abbey Theatre

Woke: It’s shameful that the vision of WB Yeats and Lady Gregory should have descended to this.

Centrist Dad: I don’t see why the national theatre should not be paying its own way. These actors have no more right to a job than I do.

Fox News: What’s on Netflix?

Opinion editor’s guides to Christmas lunchtime conversation

Woke: We shouldn’t be poking fun at these serious issues.

Centrist Dad: Many a true word is spoken in jest, or as Joyce might say, in risu veritas.

Fox News: I don’t do irony.

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