Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One hundred not out

The other day, an A4 sheet of paper bearing what can only be described as a royal crest was hurriedly slid beneath the door of the Community Voice offices. As the sound of yelping corgis retreated down the street, my editor picked up the paper and read it out loud.
“My husband and I,” he read, “are delighted to offer congratulations on the occasion of one’s hundredth birthday / issue / international cap (please delete as necessary) Signed E.R.”
Of course it is unlikely that we will ever discover the identity of the semi-anonymous well-wisher but her sentiments are typical of the thousands of letters and cards that have been pouring in from around the world on the occasion of the 100th issue of Community Voice.
There is something magical about the number 100 that sparks the imagination. It is like a long thin rasher with two fried eggs by the side of it. It is often referred to as a round number, though not as round as 800, which is a veritable feast of circular shapes.
For many, the newspaper is like a favourite jacket, though without the rolled up tissue and sticky sweet in the inside pocket. Together with Phoenix FM, it provides the only real source of information about what is happening in the local community and, in an age when a sense of community often comes a long way down the list of people’s priorities, this service cannot be underestimated.
Of course, it has other uses too. It is great for spreading out on the kitchen floor when the wife cuts your hair because, unlike the Northside People, it doesn’t have any staples in it. It is also great for swatting flies and wasps and even otters when they become too inquisitive and one enterprising sculptress in Porterstown takes multiple issues from her supermarket every fortnight because “they make great papier mâché” as she later told the jury.
But it is for its well-written local news coverage that the paper is held in high esteem throughout the western world, as just a sample of the well-wishing letters show.
“I always read the Community Voice from cover to cover, and sometimes the inside bits too,” writes a world-famous trapeze artist from Vaduz.
“It is full of good reading, especially the articles,” says a V. Putin from Moscow.
“It has everything a good newspaper should have – pages and writing and pictures and things,” applauds R. Murdoch from Australia.
“It is great for spreading on the kitchen floor when my wife is cutting my hair,” writes a ghost-writer for a D. Beckham from Los Angeles.
Believe it or not, the Community Voice is not the first newspaper to reach one hundred issues but it is the first one to do so without straying outside of its Dublin 15 catchment area. The Times of London may be in its 3,000th year but events in Ongar and Littlepace often do not make it into the news section, let alone the front page. Pravda, too, occasionally eschews bringing its readers up to date information on Draiocht in favour of armed conflicts, nuclear disarmament and global warming, much to the dismay of the cultural Muscovite population.
Of course we have all passed a lot of water under Clonsilla Bridge since “The Voice,” (as it is affectionately known to those who know it and view it with affection) first hit the streets many many years ago. In those days, Blanchardstown consisted of a couple of farm dwellings and several outhouses, overwritten with “Here be dragons” on the Ordnance Survey maps of the time. Horse-drawn barges traversed the territory by way of the Royal Canal on their way to exotic and far-fabled destinations like Mullingar and Longford. The Blanchardstown Centre, yet to be built, was a thick impenetrable forest inhabited by wild boar and wolves and houses made out of gingerbread.
Into this wilderness strode a man with a typewriter in one hand and a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus in the other. Fergus Lynch was that man’s name, though many people simply called him Fergus, especially members of his own family. He was determined to put Dublin 15 on the map and he did so in a size 11 Tahoma font.
He had all the attributes of a great editor – he championed the poor and downtrodden; he fought corruption wherever it reared its evil head; he refused to reproduce press releases verbatim to the public; and most importantly, boy, could he spell! Even words like “minuscule,” “marmalade” and “Tyrrelstown” wouldn’t faze him. “Show me a word I can’t spell,” he used to bark at the copy boy, “and I bet you it’s Polish. Or maybe Welsh.”
He has been courted by the rich and famous though he refuses to let power turn his head. “That’s what neck muscles are for,” he tells puzzled undergraduates. Many an aspiring and indeed established politician has felt the venom of his scathing pen if they try to hoodwink him with bluff and bluster. He has sources in every corner of Dublin 15, even the circular bits, and it is well known that he has a pair of eyes and ears in the James Connolly Memorial Hospital, which are often used for medical research.
Throughout these hundred issues, he has consistently championed the cause of the poor, especially those without much money. “The pen is mightier than the sword,” he is often heard to say, though friends admit that he is reluctant to put it to the test. “It is easier for a rich camel to enter the kingdom of heaven, than for the eye of a needle to,” is another of his cryptic sayings.
The Community Voice has become a beacon of hope for many of the oppressed and underprivileged in the world today. As they lie in their beds in Charnwood and Diswellstown, they feel comforted by the fact that there is a newspaper out there that gives them a say, gives them a voice. Let us raise a glass, preferably containing some kind of drinkable liquid, and pray that the Community Voice may continue fighting tyranny as well as bringing heartwarming good news stories to Dublin 15 for another hundred issues.

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