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« Claire Fox targets public health in “rollicking speech” | Main | Libertarians, contrarians, barbarians ... the Golden Nanny Awards 2017 »
Thursday
Nov162017

Charm offensive

Further to my previous post the Irish Daily Star published this report about Forest's Golden Nanny Awards:

A top politician has been named Ireland's "nanny in chief" for her zealous campaigns to save the nation from itself.

Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone received the tongue-in-cheek accolade at a ceremony on Monday.

It was to honour her committed campaign to highlight the dangers of cheap booze, cigarette packaging, fast food outlets, cut-price chocolates biscuits, mixed martial arts and even ice cream van jingles.

The 41-year-old turned up to accept the gong at a dinner organised by a smokers' rights group where she was the guest of honour.

The rest of the article was based largely on our press release, Senator wins 'nanny-in-chief' award.

Several people – here and on Facebook – have queried why Noone would want to accept such an accolade, even a tongue-in-cheek one. One described her as "arrogant" for even showing up.

I don't agree at all. Far from being arrogant or calculating her response to our invitation was refreshingly artless:

"Thanks for your email. Didn't know this was a thing. Where is it on? Is it black tie? I'll see what I can do. Think it'd be a bit of craic to be honest – I'm not afraid!"

The worst that can be said is that it was a shrewd move by an intelligent politician. By turning up and entering into the spirit of the occasion she charmed everyone, including some of her fiercest critics. By the end of the evening they were queuing up to have their photo taken with her.

At the Forest table there was a particularly amusing moment when she suddenly realised that the man she was talking to was one of her bêtes noires, journalist Ian O'Doherty.

"Oh, it's you!" she exclaimed. To the rest of us she wailed, "He hates me!"

That may have been the case before but it's not true now. A professional curmudgeon, O'Doherty subsequently began his own speech by proposing a toast to Noone for having the balls to turn up.

He wasn't alone. Similar comments were posted by others on Twitter and Facebook.

A smidgeon of charm goes a very long way and I'm amazed so few people in the public health industry use it to their advantage. The truth, I suspect, is that most public health campaigners are self-righteous bores who don't have an ounce of charm in their bodies.

There are exceptions, of course. Linda Bauld, of Stirling University and Cancer Research fame, is one of them and I must confess that having been met with a smile rather than a sullen scowl I do find it harder to be as critical of her as I once was. (And I know others who feel the same way.)

It's human nature, I suppose. You can still disagree but if you like someone it's more difficult to put the boot in, metaphorically speaking. Thankfully it's not a problem I have with most tobacco control activists, the majority of whom make little or no attempt to engage or be friendly on any level.

Catherine Noone understands this, I'm sure, but I don't think her appearance at the Golden Nanny Awards was driven by any ulterior motive. I think she genuinely thought it might be a bit of laugh and her subsequent tweets, including the one below, suggest a sense of humour that should be welcomed not used as stick to beat her with.

Meanwhile, what did Forest and the groups supporting the event get out of it? Rob Duffy (Students for Liberty) hit the nail on the head when he tweeted a picture of himself and Noone and wrote, 'Myself and the great sport @senatornoone at The Golden Nannies award ceremony last night. Let's build bridges!'

Belittling, insulting and attacking the opposition will get you only so far. More often than not the animosity it generates will entrench people's positions to the point of no return.

Long-term it's important to build bridges and engage. On Monday night the Golden Nanny Awards did precisely that.

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Reader Comments (1)

Agreed but bridges go both ways. I've yet to see nannies like Ms noone or bullies like Deborah Arnott cross any bridge that meets smokers half way.

I won't cross their bridge to more bullying, bans or persecution via tax or removal of consumer rights with plain packaging.

Friday, November 17, 2017 at 11:06 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurses

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