Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everybody enjoys. It is the lifeblood of every conversation. There is nothing juicier than the prospect of being told gossip that you can then trade for some more at a later stage. Gossip is the unedited bit of conversation.
Condemn gossip all you like, but there are few of us who would turn away from it, who would refuse to listen. There is a national appetite for hearing the scéal about yer man and all the money he stole and how what really happened was that his wife ran off with his brother and sure where would they leave it, and wasn’t the father as bad as them, hop up on anything passing so he would, sure isn’ that why he lost the job below, for taking the money, and then the drinking and the (makes a snort impression ), the drugs like, sure they say he was high most of the time.
And when you’re passing on gossip, you always look around before adding “and here’s the best bit…” and you make a funny shape with the side of your mouth so that the scurrilous gossip just spills out one side of it, for fear you’d speak too loud and someone would hear ya talking. Because, the biggest fear of giving gossip is that one day you might be asked to verify it, because you know you won’t. And can’t.
And those who hear gossip react as if you’d passed them a pound of Semtex and asked them to hold it. They look around after you’ve gone and they seek out the first person who might be interested to hear this gossip and pass it on. And they’ll add a bit to it. “Sure didn’t I hear it from the feckin horse’s mouth, so I did. Now, I can’t say anymore, and ya didn’t hear it from me. Right?”
And so gossip flies. It is the telephone of nature.
Especially in Ireland where everyone knows someone who knows someone else. And so it moves along like data on a fibre optic cable.
If only we had broadband that travelled at the speed at which gossip does. Gossip, unlike broadband goes down every small country boreen, and into every house. Every cup of tea that is poured comes with a side order of ‘any sca?’
But it’s not funny. Gossip can be nasty. And malicious.
This week we have seen the danger of gossip. The horrendous allegations that eventually emerged about Maurice McCabe were fuelled around the country because they all seemed to come from “someone in the know”.
And because people hear it from a guard or a nurse or a journalist, they attach an extra level of credibilty to it. There’s a case of “sure they’d have to know’ because they’re at the coalface of conflict. Their daily routine is a vacuum for material that can create gossip and innuendo, but we place trust in our institutions that information gleaned as part of their duties will remain confidential.
It is this vast appetite for gossip that was used by those who have been trying to destroy Maurice McCabe and his family. If the speculation turns out to be true and official sources were used to discreetly destroy someone’s character, it is an appalling vista. It is bad enough that confidential information is used against you, but dissemination of false rumours of the most vile character, takes this saga to a new and horrifying level.
Trust has been eroded this week in a lot of our institutions — and this is not helped when that incompetence spreads to Government. Remembering meetings vividly and then saying they didn’t take place. Respected politicians calling each other out as liars. Maybe it is all a horrfying coincidence. But how many more people like Maurice McCabe have fallen prey to such methods or incompetence.
Both the gardai and Tusla have an enormously responsible task to carry out for the betterment of life in this country. They are needed to intervene in the aspects of life that most of us are reluctant to. They see the less desirable side of life and they, like all other institutions of trust, must have our backing and our faith.
It is to be hoped that whatever inquiry is eventually held will determine whether the week’s allegations were the result of incompetence or malice. Our politicians have not helped the situation by prevaricating. The sooner these inquiries get under way the better. The sooner we root out the badness, the madness, and the maliciousness from our institutions, the better.