It isn’t hard to be a celebrity in a small country like Ireland.
All you have to do is elbow your way into the clueless world of Independent Newspapers. If you can tolerate the strong smell of armpit-sweat, they’ll be calling you a socialite before you can say “talentless hack”.
At a push, if you can walk and talk, the Independent will run features about your favourite brand of caffeine drink and your controversial views on poodle-naming. They’ll call you a socialite and print pictures of you drinking with your idea-free pals in some over-priced shit-hole of a night club . (By the way, in Ireland, a socialite is somebody who drinks with the collection of red-nosed builders and leathery old former models the Independent considers high society).
The Independent is owned by a pompous, self-important, puffed-up gobshite called Sir Anthony O Reilly, and staffed by cowering sycophants whose only survival instinct is to kiss O Reilly’s substantial arse whenever his ego demands it. There is nobody on its staff I could respect as a journalist. Remember the cynical spin put on the McElwee case by one of their hacks, Maeve Sheehan?
For years, the Independent struggled with its conscience. It was once an uneasy mixture of news and ingratiating “social diaries”. Reptiles like Charlie Haughey stalked its back pages, and a bunch of corrupt drunkards, bribed politicians and criminal property developers constituted “Irish social life”.
That was in its good days.
Today, as the demands of its owner grow more extreme, the Independent has become a comic, and its editor no longer has the distinction of running a paper. He’d have more credibility running the Beano. Instead, the Independent is a massage service to O Reilly’s ego, and its staff are the masseurs. It recently adopted Bertie Ahern as a hero of moral probity after he joined the queue of politicians kissing O Reilly’s arse.
Running a close second to the Independent for sycophancy and mediocrity is our government-funded broadcasting company, RTE. It possibly shades the Independent for smugness, and primarily exists as a career outlet for a small bunch of anointed ones and their children. Even though it’s funded by all of us, it addresses itself almost exclusively to a small section of South Dublin, and is unaware that the rest of the tax-paying country exists. It shares with the Independent a tendency to create artificial celebrities, and often provides this service for its own staff through its magazine, the RTE Guide.
Katy French wandered into this world and was instantly adopted by the Independent and RTE as a celebrity. Katy was a model, reasonably presentable, moderately intelligent, not very offensive. High-grade material, in other words, for the drones of the Independent and RTE. I never heard of Katy French until recently, and I gained the impression of a girl driven by the need for publicity, and somebody who believed the media puff about her.
Katy was never off the pages of the Independent, and never far from an RTE camera.
They loved Katy and Katy loved the attention.
Katy died yesterday at the age of 24, after taking cocaine and falling ill at a party. RTE carries the story under Entertainment on its website.
The Independent couldn’t be more heartbroken at the poor girl’s death and has already devoted thousands of words to it. It’s so heartbroken that it felt the need to publish an untrue story about an Irish web-site, headed “Stars flock to Katy’s Bebo tribute”.
The Independent is so heartbroken that I expect almost the entire Sunday edition to be devoted to the story, and of course the ensuing boost in sales will be an entirely incidental and unintended consequence.
Meanwhile, the National Drugs Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation have both sent teams of officers to investigate the death of Katy French. This doesn’t surprise me. I imagine this is exactly what they also do every single time an obscure, working-class person is suspected of dying from a drugs overdose.
Wouldn’t you think?