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Gallons of ink have been shed about the recession. But few writers have managed to capture what life is like for people who have borne the brunt of the downturn. With his life-affirming debut novel Brian Finnegan has delivered a funny, profound portrait of the daily grind in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland.
Adrienne Murphy, 24 May 2012
Strangely, it was his novel’s gay character that Finnegan found the most challenging to develop.
“You’d think I’d have the gay character down pat, being a gay character myself,” he chuckles. “I found it difficult to go there, because I had to go into myself. At first I avoided it, because I have issues around ‘visibility’, even though I’m possibly the outest gay person working in the Irish media. I spent a good part of my life hiding who I was. There was fear, and there still is fear. I wouldn’t walk down the street holding hands with my boyfriend. There’s no person who comes of age as a gay person in this world without internalising some of the negative messages that we’re given. So I wanted to talk a little bit about internalised homophobia, and the idea of being afraid to be identified as gay.
“I also wanted to talk about something you maybe don’t hear that much about any more. There’s an idea now of gay people that we’re all out looking for marriage, and we want to be hetero-normative, and we want to be just like everyone else. And that’s true: it’s what I write about and talk about all the time. We want equality and we deserve equality. But I wanted to write about what happens when that equality actually comes along – when your partner asks you to marry him and it becomes a reality for you, but it’s, ‘Oh my god, I can get married… Oh Jesus, I don’t want to get married!’
“Also, the idea that gay men are incredibly happy and having great sex all the time, I wanted to challenge that. Jamie’s not having great sex all the time. In his relationship, there’s virtually no sex. He’s really worried about that, and very frustrated.”
At the start of The Forced Redundancy Film Club, Catherine chooses to turn off the news channel and listen to a nostalgia music channel instead.
“That’s symbolic,” says Finnegan. “Choosing sunshine and lollipops. I’ve chosen in this recession to turn off that wall-to-wall negativity – I call it recession porn – that radio is swallowed up by. I’ve chosen not to be a recession porn addict, and to live and be happy, and face the financial changes in my life. And there have been financial changes, although I’m lucky that I still have my job.