Oh look – they’re talking about us

I found myself in the middle of Europe for my holidays, without access to any Irish media or to the internet. I had to depend on English or American papers for a read and these have very little Irish news.

So I was delighted when I found the Financial Times had an Irish story as its lead. What could it possibly be? What had I missed? Love-in in Belfast? Drought? Death of Bono?

The news from Ireland is that it is now safe to discriminate against smokers in the workplace. Dublin firm DotCom Directories included a ‘No Smokers Need Apply’ caveat in their recruitment ad and the EU have given them the green light.

The firm’s director Philip Tobin was quoted as saying: “If people are smoking on a coffee break or in their own time they come back into the office and they stink. We have a small office here and it would make things unbearable for the other staff.

“If these people can ignore so many warnings and all that evidence then they haven’t got the level of intelligence that I am looking for. Smoking is idiotic.”

Well why stop there? What about divorced people? If you’re so idiotic that you can’t make a relationship work then you haven’t the intelligence to work here.

Or burglary victims? If you are so stupid not to fit decent locks…

Or fat people? If you are so stupid to keep eating…

All you need is imagination. There must be a huge number of categories where humans fail to exercise the intelligence needed to work in DotCom Directories. 

The Irish Taliban must be delighted with this. Puritanism is spreading. You can now deny a person a livelihood if you don’t like their lifestyle.

Over in Scotland, where they have imported Irish tightarsery with enthusiasm, they even put the fight against smoking ahead of things like free speech and freedom of assembly.

Comedian Mel Smith was playing Churchill in a performance on the Edinburgh festival fringe when the city council threatened to close the venue if Smith smoked a cigar on stage.

Of course, nobody asked the audience or staff of the the theatre whether they wished see Churchill’s famous cigar stubbed out. That’s not the way the new regime works. 

Smith suggested that the audience could be warned before the show: “A third of a Romeo y Julieta will be smoked during this performance. If you find that offensive, f*** off.”

What, Mel? Ask people to run their own lives? You’re Havana laugh! (Boom, boom)

The impression being created abroad in articles like that one in the FT is the Ireland is indulging in overkill. That we are a bunch of kids who have managed to get our hands on the levers of government and we can’t help pulling a few to see what happens.

We’re heading down the same road with drink, with a lecture in every ad (‘get pissed sensibly’). 

So much for all the crap about an inclusive and generous society. We are turning into a judgemental, mean-spirited and callous society in place of the judgemental, mean-spirited and callous society we were supposed to have left behind.

That’s the impression.