In modern life, an invasion of privacy is just a click away...

Ailin Quinlan reflects on the debate surrounding invasion of privacy for public figures
In modern life, an invasion of privacy is just a click away...

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin was recently embroiled in a row over a video of her dancing

“LOOK,” the man said, “it’s over, there’s no point going on about it. New year, new start, look ahead and march on.

“Enjoy the crocuses. Plant daffodil bulbs. Read Harry’s book. That fella! Boasting about how he killed 25 people in Afghanistan. Talking about how he took drugs and lost his virginity in a field! That’ll take your mind off things here, woman.”

The woman wasn’t having any of it.

“I’m in no rush to read a book by the offspring of tyrants who subjected us to 800 years of jackboot oppression,” she declared. “I’ll wait ’til it’s half-price, which won’t take long, I’d say. And anyway, it’s this country I’m worried about.”

What was agitating the women was actually a supposed video of Leo Varadkar filmed in a nightclub that surfaced last month, which raised questions about the privacy of our public figures.

The woman wasn’t happy about it.

“We’re going to the dogs. A man of that stature carrying on like that in public while he’s an incoming head of government. People like that have a responsibility to behave in public. It’s a terrible example to the young people of the country.”

A young person in the vicinity sniggered. “In fairness, now, everyone has a responsibility to behave themselves in public, no matter who they are,” he said. “And let’s face it, he’s no spring chicken; our lot wouldn’t be looking up to him or his age group for example.”

The older woman glared.

“That’s no way to be talking about your elders and betters,” she said.

There was a pause. Everyone looked down at their phones.

“Jaysus, woman, this country’s been going to the dogs for years,” the man said, “and look at us; we’re all still standing.

“These things happen - sure, just look across the water there. What they’ve had to put up with! Boris Johnson. Buckingham Palace. The Crown. Everywhere you look scandal and disgrace. That young Harry’s a national embarrassment, for one.”

None of this was the point, the woman argued, flushed with anger. She returned to the topic that was agitating her.

“A well-dressed, articulate, intelligent, handsome, popular leader in this country’s government carrying on like that in public just as he was about to become Taoiseach. What a start to 2023 when the country needed a strong role model at the helm.”

She nearly cried when she heard about it. “But we’re all supposed to ignore it and move on into the New Year and just forget it ever happened?”

“Oh”, said the man darkly, “the newspapers mentioned it plenty. There were millions of views of that video on social media platforms before it got taken down. You couldn’t avoid mentioning it. It wasn’t ignored and it won’t be forgotten, not for a long time. Not outside the Pale anyway. It might be considered no more than a storm in a teacup in the capital, but memories are longer outside the Dublin city limits.”

Imagine, the woman said angrily, him going around shaking hands with people like Christine Lagarde and King Charles of England. Donald Trump and so on. The embarrassment.

“Well,” somebody observed, “Ms Lagarde has more on her mind, with a global financial reset coming; and as for the other two, people in glass-houses shouldn’t throw stones.

“I don’t think there’ll be too many running up the steps of Mar-a-Lago to shake hands with Mr Has-Been Trump, and King Charles of England has plenty of scandal and embarrassment to keep him occupied.

“The Crown did him no favours either. I saw it on Netflix. God help them all, the British royal family’s been shaking out their own dirty laundry in public for years. Now that Harry’s book’s out, they’ll be lucky if they don’t fall apart at the seams altogether.”

“But look back at our proud history,” the woman urged, trying to return to the point that was taxing her. “Look at the great Irish men and Irish women, like de Valera and Padraig Pearse, Constance Markievicz. Maud Gonne. Grace O’Malley. Daniel O’Connell. Michael Collins. Charlie Haughey. To name a few.”

“Here, now,” said the man firmly, “no disrespect to the great and ancient dead of this country, but nobody was sneaking around taking secret videos of them on a big night out and circulating it on social media. Daniel O’Connell was supposed to be a right lad. Sure, didn’t they say he left a child in every parish. And worse.”

”What, worse?” the woman said, furious. “The filth you’re talking! What scurrilous rumour are you using to defile the name of one of the greatest figures in Irish history?”

The man harrumphed.

“I’m only saying. No offence like, but word was you couldn’t throw a stone over the workhouse wall without hitting one of Dan’s children.”

The woman went pale with fury.

“Relax,” the young person said calmly, putting a hand on her arm.

“Point being, nobody was out there taking pictures of Michael or Dan or Charlie or Grace or whoever, when they were out on the ran-tan.

“Nobody could take on-the-spot videos of them on a night out. But if they could, who knows? If there were mobile phones generations ago, who knows what they’d have been caught getting up to?

“But, see, those lads had real privacy. Nobody was sneaking around using camera phones and doing video surveillance on them when they weren’t looking.”

“Everybody’s entitled to privacy as long as they’re not committing an evil thing,” the older man observed. “Nobody’s perfect. And in fairness Leo did his job well and got plenty right when there were things that needed to be got right fast.

“Look at the job himself and Holohan and Glynn and that Nolan fella did on Covid. And the economy took a hit but I thought he and his crowd did well overall.”

Somebody mentioned the trouble over the leaked video of Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of Finland, dancing and drinking with friends at a private residence.

“Same problem,” the young man said.

“No,” the older woman argued, “there’s a big difference. That carry-on took place in a private house. Now that was a real invasion of privacy”

“Well,” the man said peaceably, “it’s all about invasions of privacy, isn’t it? I’m sure lessons have been learned. Point being the more high-profile a person is, the more that person’s perceived right to privacy diminishes.

“It’s not about fairness, it’s just the way things are. I read that in one of the newspapers.”

The woman got up to go.

“Well, I hope there’ll be no more of that carry-on or they’ll be losing my vote.”

“I’m sure it would be greatly missed,” the man said serenely.

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