You’ve Made Your Pint!

I received this earlier in the week, but haven’t been able to put it up on the site proper. However, as the Rossport 5 walked out of the Four Courts today (though not by the front door) I thought I’d make the effort and post it here. I’ll move it to when I get my proper internet access restored.



A. L. Waller
(with acknowledgments to S. J. Perelman)

SCENE: The conservatory at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. A ministerial aide, an utterly lovely creature of twenty seven with an LLB degree from Cambridge University whose mouth has an intriguing ability to move over her features, apparently at will, sits lost in thought watching a cumulus formation in the afternoon sky. Out of sight, the usual tea and biscuit break is in progress and mingled laughter and music drift in. She softly hums the air the CD is playing, “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls???. Minister Dempsey enters followed by a civil servant of the government. The servant is a leader in his community and knows his way around the block, if no further. He has as the saying goes, a goatsworth of wit in his noddle. (Maybe the saying does not go this way, but it certainly describes the servant).

MINISTER: Oh, there you are Ms. X, I’ve been looking for you. We need to discuss the Taoiseach’s contribution to the Rossport 5 issue.
AIDE: If you mean his remark to the hacks, that the Rossport 5 had made their point, what’s to discuss?
SERVANT: Much to discuss! We have a new tone to the issues. We have direction!
AIDE: OO-OK; do you mean because he is reputedly the most cunning and devious of them all? If you are right and he has given direction, what are we to make of his signal? Perhaps he is too devious this time? Personally I don’t know what he was actually saying.
MINISTER: I believe the point.., the point the Taoiseach was making was this; the people of Rossport are entitled to speak. Nobody denies that. The Taoiseach understands what the Rossport 5 are saying, have said. He has brought home to me, however that, possibly, the people of Rossport have not had the fullest possible opportunity to speak their minds, express their anxieties, about the Shell upstream pipeline. I have an idea how to meet their needs. We will set up a public hearing in Mayo. Everybody will have an opportunity to have their say.
SERVANT: A great initiative! I believe the people of Rossport, of North Mayo are victims of “groupthink???.
SERVANT: Yes, a technical term from the field of psychology, It refers to the power of groups to inhibit independent thinking. The unconscious motive is objectively good; to minimize anxiety and to preserve self esteem. I have a quote here from the man who invented the term:

“Each individual in the group feels himself to be under an injunction to avoid making penetrating criticisms that might bring on a clash with fellow members and destroy the unity of the group… Each member avoids interfering with the emerging consensus by assuring himself that the opposing arguments he had in mind must be erroneous or that his misgivings are too unimportant to be worth mentioning.
The various devices to enhance self esteem require an illusion of unanimity about all important judgments. Without it, the sense of group unity would be lost, gnawing doubts, would start to grow, confidence in the group’s problem-solving capacity would shrink, and soon the full emotional impact of all the stresses generated by making a difficult decision would be aroused???

MINISTER: I can relate to that, I ..
AIDE: OK, assuming all that is germane to this Corrib Gas issue, if we go to North Mayo how will we escape the effects of groupthink when we open the public hearings?
SERVANT: Our mediator, our facilitator will ensure that each individual will have an opportunity to speak, to express genuine personal opinions, free, as far as it is possible, from the social constraints generated by the knowledge of the opinions of neighbours, to say what they really feel about the upstream gas pipeline, what they really feel about Shell.
MINISTER: The facilitator is very impressive, he..
SERVANT: They are unanimous in saying the issue is human health and safety. Mental health is part of that. An opportunity to have your say is cathartic, is good for mental health.
AIDE: What they may say is, why have Shell not received their just lumps from this office for not dissembling the three kilometres of pipeline the Minister ordered them to break up.
MINISTER: Good point, what about the Chief State…
AIDE: Sorry, I meant to say “dis-assemble???. (Her companions look at her. Her mouth is now, in a subtle way, not where it had been previously).
SERVANT: That’s an epiphany, as James Joyce would have said, but more importantly it was surely a Freudian slip? Psychology is the key to the solution here, the Taoiseach was surely saying so with his contribution. Groups can have the same features in their emotional life as individuals do. Even a quick look at the situation will show several elements that are seen in individual life. The people of Rossport are in denial. Denial is the refusal to accept things as they are, involving a re-alignment of facts to obscure the actual case.
MINISTER: The facts are not sufficiently settled…
AIDE: What facts have they re-aligned?
SERVANT: Their feelings, to start with. The case is classic denial and displacement. An anxiety-provoking feeling is denied, blockaded from awareness. Then the person displaces those feelings outward, onto someone else: one’s anger toward him evaporates, to be mysteriously replaced by his anger toward me. Once cast out onto someone else, the projected part of the self is encountered as though it were a complete stranger – though one that bears an uncanny similarity to the forgotten original.
MINISTER: Do you have more of this?
SERVANT: Certainly. I was about to mention rationalization, used to deny one’s true motives by covering over unpleasant impulses with a cloak of reasonableness. Attention stays with the facts in hand, but blockades the true impulse behind them, replacing it with a counterfeit.
MINISTER: Counterfeit! Why do you say that! I don’t want to hear that word.
SERVANT: Sorry, Minister.
AIDE: We seem to be losing something here. We want the gas to come ashore and we have to rely on Shell, unless they sell out to Esso or someone like that. So far, the Shell performance has not been impressive, what assurance do we have that they will win in court?
MINISTER: That’s your area of expertise, surely?
AIDE: I have expertise, sure, but what we may need is a crystal ball.
MINISTER: But Shell has the best of legal representation.
AIDE: What good did that do them when they breached your consent structure? Without authority from you they have no right to install the pipeline. Even now they claim they can’t comply with your instructions to break up the unauthorised work because the people of Rossport won’t let them. What use are the lawyers in that situation? You can’t be seen to permit such flouting of your directions and that means you and your lawyers may need to test to destruction the claim that the people of Rossport are the cause of the non-compliance by Shell. Anyway, I was not referring to court action like that, I was referring to the action by Shell against the Rossport 5. We need Shell to win that lawsuit. I mean need, in the political sense. If Shell loses, we will lose, again in the political sense.
MINISTER: That’s why we should give the people of Rossport what they want, a chance to express their opinions.
AIDE: I have been aware of a feeling of déjà vu about the public hearing proposal since I first heard of it.
MINISTER: What do you mean?
AIDE: When you get the results of the public hearing; when you find out that the people of Rossport do not want the upstream pipeline running underground, or any other way, near their houses or lands, what will you do to give them an alternative engineering solution?
AIDE: Yes, Shell. You need Shell to deliver. This is what was vaguely familiar about the situation. It reminds me of Christmas. The kids write down what they want Santa Claus to bring to them; they go to the big Dublin shops to meet Santa Claus himself, possibly they even fly to Lappland. They have all the excitement of that, but in the end it depends on what the parents are willing to spend that decides the issue. For these purposes Shell is big daddy. They have to foot the bill. (There is an awkward pause)
MINISTER: I don’t mean that we will give Rossport what it asks for. It’s a consultation process.
AIDE: But it looks like “Santa Clause meets Rossport???
(A fire alarm begins to ring in the offices above. The trio shift uneasily and begin to get up to leave)
SERVANT: The reference to daddy, is this a feminist point?
(The Minister looks at her and then backward at the Servant as they leave through the doorway)

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