Doffing off for democracy
Over the next few days, people will be getting back to basics in several rural locations around Ireland; some will be respectably attired, and some will be starkers. The International Naturist Congress is taking place in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim. Delegates from 25 countries, wearing nothing but perhaps their reading glasses and a bit of bellybutton fluff, will subject the unfortunate staff in the Lough Allen Hotel to their unattractive body mass (if the photographs are anything to go by.)
But what is naturism? The International Naturalist Federation (INF) describes it as "a way of life ……. linked to self-respect, tolerance of differing views together with respect for the environment".
Let’s look at tolerance of different views. According to the INF, we are more tolerant of each other’s views if we are all in the nip. “Without clothes, people tend to rely on their personalities to make a statement and accept others for who they are, rather than what they might be wearing.”
So, rather than disagreeing with each other for the sake of a few minutes of publicity, wouldn’t it be grand if all of the members of Dáil Éireann sat in the nip next week? Viewing figures for Oireachtas TV would skyrocket. Dress codes would no longer matter. Indeed, Mick Wallace might for once look like the best dressed TD in the Dáil. There would be meaningful debate, loads of consensus, everybody would be pink and stuff would get done.
But then, could Dáil Éireann have ever been regarded as the home of eloquent debating? Wooden speakers reading from scraps of paper hardly count; neither does shouting until you are hoarse with the most limited vocabulary you can muster. If Edmund Burke witnessed what passes for enlightened discussion in the Irish parliament of 2014 he might wonder if Ireland had eschewed the English language for some hybrid babble or patois blather. Like many of us, he would probably need an interpreter to follow the proceedings.
If the INF is convinced that the personality comes into its own when the body is unencumbered with clothes, then “get them off,” I say. Before long, we will be looking at the true successors of Burke, Grattan, O’Connell and Parnell. Indeed, with all the main political parties having their think-ins this weekend prior to the new Dáil session next week, they could all have a practice run. Instead of putting out the usual PR pap and pointless sound bites they could cover their shame with genuine analysis, creative thinking and, with a bit of luck, an enhanced vocabulary.
For Fine Gael, Fota Island would seem like an extremely suitable practice ground. A spot of skinny dipping could get some balls rolling. Sinn Fein will be up in An Grianan in Termonfeckin, Co Louth, an Edwardian pile situated on 88 acres of park land with mature trees and “a gentle path to the nearby sandy beach”. What better place to unfurl your inhibitions? Fianna Fáil will be holding its think-in in Roscommom Town – yes, it has a town, on Monday. Before that though, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin will be in Leitrim canvassing with his party’s by election candidate, Ivan Connaghton. This opportunity should be eagerly grasped. Surely the word merchants in Fianna Fáil have much to learn from the delegates in the Lough Allen Hotel.
Copyright Berni Dwan 2014