‘I think the Men in Stripey Shirts are hugely important to this country’

In a way, I’m already too late. The ‘Matt LeBlanc From Friends Is Your Irish Uncle’ story may already be fading. His stripy shirt, black slacks, hand-in-pocket show-stealing performance at the Friends Reunion must be shelved now until Reeling In The Years gets to 2021 (Tuesday week). I had expected that would happen because of a Backlash. You’ll be familiar with the backlash cycle. A Thing Happens. Most people agree that it’s Generally A Good Thing. Then someone writes a column about Why The Good Thing Is Bad. Then there is a backlash to that backlash. Someone says ‘Be kind’ and we all move onto the next thing to be unkind about.

But at the time of writing, there are no articles about Why The Joey Uncle Meme is Actually An Example of Toxic Masculinity. No, what killed it was it became too official. The Gardaí used it in one tweet but worse Fine Gael used it in a tweet about canvassing at the Dublin South Posh bye-election. Which is funny in a way because thanks largely to Fine Gael policies, Joey Tribiani, a sometime actor without rich parents, could never have afforded to live anywhere in that constituency.

But let’s get back to why his lrish Dadness just triggered us all in a good way. We responded so naturally to it. And although everyone agreed he was their uncle, everyone saw something different in him. I saw a man with dockets in his slacks pockets, printed on the Seismograph printer you find in builder’s Suppliers and creameries for €3.45 worth of rawl plugs. A fella who only drove cars with hitches on them but at the same time would say it was a shame to put a hitch on ‘that grand car’. A capable man. Walking the site of the ploughing championships or a steam rally with his giant paw clamped around the little hand of his small child who is worried about where the next Taytos is going.

This is a man who has spare books of raffle tickets in the boot. A fella who can be relied on to do traffic control at a Big Funeral or a Blessing of the Graves or The Flaming Lips in Nowlan Park. He may be called Donie. He holds a mobile phone the normal way, with his hand to his ear and not ‘The Apprentice’ way, with the phone flat jutting out from his jaw like he’s scraping the cream off a custard cream. But he does like custard creams. And a crafty Rothmans clasped behind his back.

If he was a farmer I’d like to think he’d get out of a tractor while cutting silage to rescue a scared leveret. I’m putting him on a pedestal of course. Maybe he’d be ‘shteaming’ driving home or be a character witness in a court case for a bad bastard. But for now, let’s assume he’s a good guy.

Here comes the bit where I ruin it with overthinking bit: I think the Men in Stripey Shirts are hugely important to this country not just in what they do already but also what you could change if you have them on board. Imagine being at the barricades and turning around seeing a thousand slightly bashful uncles ready to give you a tow. You could have a peaceful revolution in Ireland if the Docket Men march. The logistics made so much easier by Men With Hitches. What impact on the Climate Change and Biodiversity crisis if the High-Vis volunteer parking attendant is lending his expertise with a shovel or cutting silage from the centre out. So if you’re planning on changing society any time soon and you’re wondering what other groups to ‘reach out’ to, give the Matty Báns a call.

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