Golden Nanny Awards 2018
Thursday, November 22, 2018 at 11:15
Simon Clark

I’ve been in Dublin this week for the Golden Nanny Awards.

We launched the awards last year in order to highlight Ireland’s burgeoning nanny state and the people and organisations behind it.

I was told that we’d struggle to fill a room let alone a restaurant but in November 2017, with the help of Students for Liberty Ireland and other groups, we attracted 60 guests for dinner followed by the inaugural awards.

To our surprise we were joined by Senator Catherine Noone, winner of our first ‘Nanny-In-Chief’ award, who began her acceptance speech with the words:

“Libertarians, contrarians, barbarians, thank you.”

This year there were almost 80 guests including Senator Noone and two TDs, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Noel Rock.

Ireland’s libertarian community was out in force with Students for Liberty and the Classical Liberal Society at Trinity College Dublin well represented.

The evening began with drinks on the heated smoking terrace. The weather was foul but guests remained warm, dry and immune to the driving rain.

(As it happens, the UK could learn from Ireland's more liberal approach to outdoor smoking areas, many of which are significantly enclosed.)

We sat down for dinner at 7.30 with the after dinner entertainment beginning at 9.15.

Introduced by Forest’s John Mallon, our MC for the evening was Cllr Keith Redmond, a dentist by day and one of Ireland’s more liberal voices.

Guest speaker was the familiar figure of Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs and editor of the Nanny State Index. He didn’t hold back:

“Nannies, killjoys, wowsers, curtain-twitching puritans, fun sponges, po-faced poobahs, puritanical prodnoses, lemon-sucking busybodies, meddlesome ratbags, hatchet-faced prohibitionists, health fascists, pocket dictators, little Hitlers, nicotine Nazis, gambling Gestapo, sugar Stasi, tobacco Taliban, interfering, hateful, miserable, little scumbags whose very existence is a curse on humanity, they suck the light out of the room, the grass withers beneath their feet.

“These are just some of the things people say about the nominees for this award just because they try to stamp out the small pleasures that make life bearable. I think this is unfair. What a lot of people forget is that interfering in other people’s lives is the only pleasure these people get. So in a way, it’s the libertarians who are the killjoys.”

On the challenge of toppling Finland from the top of the Nanny State Index (Ireland is currently third), Chris told guests:

“If anyone can do it, it is the people nominated for this prestigious award this evening. Although we are only trying to honour the biggest nanny statist in Ireland tonight, it’s difficult to imagine the list of nominees looking much different if it was a global award. We are talking creme de la creme.”

Wishing the nominees well, he added:

“It’s going to be tough to pick a winner and in a way it’s a shame there has to be winner. To me, they are all losers.”

Ignoring these barbs, the former minister of state for health promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy accepted her award as ‘Nanny-in-Chief 2018’ in the same spirit as her predecessor Catherine Noone (who presented it).

“Thank you for this amazing award, I feel really honoured.

“I’m going to put it on my mantlepiece and reflect on the outcome of having introduced sugar tax, the alcohol bill and plain packaging.

“I might even have a glass of wine to celebrate.”

Other winners included Trinity College Dublin for introducing a campus wide smoking ban, the Restaurants Association of Ireland for welcoming a possible ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas, and Alcohol Action Ireland for backing the alcohol bill.

Sadly, none of these august bodies were represented at the event so others had to accept the awards on their behalf.

This year, to counterbalance the ‘Nanny’ awards, we introduced a new category.

The Voices of Freedom awards will be familiar to those who attended the Forest Freedom Dinner in London in 2016 and 2017 but this was the first time we’ve taken the concept to Ireland.

The winners of the first Voices of Freedom awards in Ireland were Rob Duffy, coordinator of Students for Liberty Ireland, and journalist Ian O’Doherty (above) whose fearless and always entertaining columns can be found in the Irish Independent and Irish Daily Star.

In a short but typically droll acceptance speech, Ian told guests he won’t have anything to do with journalist awards “on the grounds that I refuse to be judged by my inferiors. This, on the other hand, is a genuine honour.”

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur but thanks to everyone who supported or attended the event - including Catherine Noone and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy whose presence was greatly appreciated.

I know some people feel we shouldn’t be giving our adversaries a platform to ‘celebrate’ their nanny state credentials.

It’s worth noting however that Senator Noone and Deputy Corcoran Kennedy have also been criticised (on Twitter) for consorting with a group (Forest) that receives donations from the tobacco industry.

The accusation is that the Golden Nanny awards and those who accept them are trivialising serious issues whether it be health or freedom of choice and personal responsibility.

I don’t see it that way.

One, you should be able to laugh at almost anything and shared humour brings people closer together.

Two, while I am under no illusion that a small event like this will change our opponents' views (which I’m sure are genuinely held), I hope it will give them some insight into our equally strong convictions.

At the very least, faced with a room full of people opposed to excessive government intervention in our lives, it may provide food for thought.

That aside, the awards allow us to engage directly with those who don't share our views and engage indirectly with many more.

You see, the Nannies haven’t gone unnoticed. Aside from the invitations we sent to other public health campaigners and journalists, the event was featured by The Times, RTE and Newstalk, the country’s leading independent radio station.

Guest speaker Chris Snowdon did two interviews - the first, on RTE1, with Professor Donal O’Shea of the HSE (Ireland’s health service); the second, on Newstalk, with Catherine Noone.

Forest's John Mallon also discussed the theme of the event on several local radio stations.

The report in The Times (Ex-minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy ‘proud’ to accept award for expanding the nanny state) finished with this quote:

John Mallon, a spokesman for Forest Ireland, said he was pleased that the winner stopped by to accept her award.

He said nanny staters strengthen their grip on the nation every year. “For years tobacco was in the firing line and now it’s alcohol and sugar,” he said.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to reassert a live-and-let-live culture that allows adults to make informed choices without being patronised or punished.”

In a largely hostile political and media environment - worse, in many ways, than the UK - I consider that to be a reasonable result.

But do watch the clips below ...

Update: Chris Snowdon has posted his speech in full here. Do read it.

Reigning champ @senatornoone got slightly emotional handing over the crown. pic.twitter.com/iAxRK4wPB8

— Catherine Sanz (@sanzscript) November 21, 2018

And here’s winner @MarcellaCK outlining why it means so much to her pic.twitter.com/gjkPGboJIR

— Catherine Sanz (@sanzscript) November 21, 2018
Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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