We need to talk about Kevin

This article is a response to Kevin Myers’ opinion piece on Friday, 5th October in The Irish Independent, titled: Why do we send money to nations that can spend millions on arms?

Screenshot from the Irish Independent website

It’s quite an achievement really. Sukhoi warplanes, Uganda, anti-gay laws, aid from Ireland, Eamon Gilmore, democracy, political correctness, alcoholism, African demography, fecundity, hell and China all rolled into one, less than 750 word, article (with Zimbabwean snowball fights and Saudi strip clubs also thrown in for ‘colour’).

This feat was achieved in the Irish Independent on Friday, October 5th by one of our ‘leading’ social and political commentators Kevin Myers.

As ever, Kevin is there to strip away the politically correct nonsense that characterises much of Irish public life and to reveal to the rest of us what the underlying realities are.  In this case, that underlying reality is how Irish tax-payers money is (possibly) being (mis)used, via international aid, to subsidise Chinese empire building in East Africa and the uncontrolled fecundity of (‘virtually’) every African country!

In an article full of ‘mights’, ‘possiblys’, ‘apparentlies’ and virtualies’, Kevin is concerned to ‘explain’ how aid from ‘little’ Ireland (with a population of 4.2m – the ‘M is very important here) is being (mis)used by ‘witless’ PC-ers (for PC read anyone who doesn’t agree with Kevin’s grand ‘world’ theories) to assist Uganda (with a 2058 population potential of 150,000,000 – the zeros rather than an ‘M’ are very important here – to emphasise the point you see!) buy warplanes with the ‘zillions’ (I have no ideas how many zeros would be in that one!) it spends on military hardware.  But worse, our aid ‘might’ be indirectly used to allow the ‘uncontrolled fecundity’ of Ugandans (and ‘virtually’ all ‘Africans’) to produce a demographic ‘explosion’ which would be a Malthusian ‘catastrophe’.  Not being as smart as Kevin, I had to look up ‘fecundity’ – it is the capacity in females to produce young ‘in great numbers’ – hence all the zeros).  If one were French, one might exclaim ‘quelle catastrophe’, so this is what the Department of Foreign Affairs is at with our taxes (DFA PC – the mind boggles at the thought!!!).

Now, to be fair, Kevin makes a number of important and challenging points – why indeed does our Tánaiste apparently not have anything public to say about Uganda’s military purchases or its ‘democratic’ deficit in light of our aid programme (although the latter point might be a tad ‘sensitive’ given Ireland’s recent history).  And, Kevin raises the extremely important point about the administration of Irish aid funds in Uganda (but, unfortunately he doesn’t pursue this one).  He also provides us with a brief (albeit very partial) history of the demographic transition in Europe.  All good stuff!

Then, with a leap and a bound plus a stroke of his mighty pen, Kevin warns us of the impending ‘catastrophe’ that is Uganda’s (and ‘virtually’ all Africa’s) ‘uncontrolled fecundity’.  Did you know (as Kevin does) that, on average, every Ugandan mother gives birth to seven children!  Apparently, all Ugandan men and women (and ‘virtually’ all of the other 1.03 billion Africans – apologies, I don’t have room for all those zeros) cannot ‘control’ their ‘fecundity’ – this may come as a shocking surprise to many ‘Africans’ whose family sizes have dramatically reduced in recent decades and to the many African women who have struggled for reproductive rights in the same period – and, significantly succeeded. But why let such a minor footnote get in the way of a grand theory!

With the same leap and pen, Kevin also informs us that with the help of ‘western’ medicine and aid (and through no effort at all by Ugandans and ‘Africans’), the infant mortality rate has been reduced enabling Uganda to double its population every 22 years (but without doing anything about that ‘fecundity’ – tis a truly great word!) or, indeed about ‘African dependency’).  Presumably, the aid that was used for this purpose was the small change left over from the purchase of other military hardware in earlier times!  Apparently, this is the ‘path to hell’ that keeps Kevin awake at night (whilst also pondering their ‘fecundity’) while the rest of us ‘witless PCers’ care not a fig for such weighty matters.


Dear Kevin, a few points:

  • Buried (deep) inside your article are some very important points – important for Irish people and, more significantly, for Ugandans and for the citizens of the other 53 other African states.  They deserve considered discussion, not cheap titillating pot-shots and ‘colour’ remarks for the purposes of publicity and profile.
  • You are right to continue to highlight issues around Irish aid – there are many questions to be asked and to be answered; public transparency and accountability are important.  Not the least of these questions is the one you nod towards at the end of your piece – why indeed does little old Ireland have an aid programme and what values and principles does it (should it) seek to uphold?  But, please, do so seriously.
  • I realise this is but one small ‘opinion’ piece in a newspaper but why be so insulting to Ugandans and ‘virtually’ all Africans; your approach to their ‘fecundity’ is an old nineteenth century fascination with the sexuality of others and is calculated to insult very, very many women (and men!).

So, in conclusion Kevin, why have you given up journalism? 

Answers please to the Office of the Press Ombudsman, Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2 or to the Uganda National NGO Forum, PO Box 4636, Kampala.