Prone to ignoring the ghosts

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If we were really good friends, colleagues, we would be able to sit down with each other and talk out the miseries.

Maybe it’s the time of the year.

If you looked closely, the ghost flitted in the background, but not a word was said.

“Look happy, even when you’re not” – Terry Prone’s advice for a successful life.

The millions watching could see it, but not the two on the TV set.

Interviewer and author, they talked and they talked, about the book, and about life coaching and how to be happy, and it was darkly comical.

Seemingly unwittingly, they mentioned all the things that created the ghost – work, pressure, depression, suicide – but the ghost’s name was never mentioned.

Maybe they’d agreed beforehand that the book – with its ten case studies designed to help people help themselves – would be the subject of the interview.

The eleventh case study – the one that turned the ghost from a girl into a ghost – is not mentioned.

Nor is the ghost herself.

Because mentioning the ghost might detract from the book, so the ghost would not be mentioned.

Maybe they realized that any mention of the ghost would cause the façade to fall, that it would wash away the final vestiges of the illusion of credibility, that it would tear the cloak of respectability inherited from an emperor later found to be naked.

But as the interview went on, the ghost grew bigger and bigger, and by the time the author was dispensing her folksy snippets of wisdom it was screaming silently in the background.

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Seemingly unhearing, blithely unaware once more of the ghost’s presence, the author pontificated about optimism, and about having an interest in other people, and being able to look happy even when you’re not.

The ghost laughed bitterly, but the show went on.

They talked about a golfer and his girlfriend and whether or not she was still his girlfriend, and the author wouldn’t say and nobody laughed.

By then, the time had passed. We had moved on to the golfer. The ghost would not be mentioned.

At least not on TV. But she will be here.

The ghost’s name is Kate Fitzgerald, and she died by suicide.

Her last anonymous testament was published by the Irish Times, and then hacked to pieces when it became known that she had worked for Terry Prone – the author – at the Communications Clinic.

The Irish Times issued a craven apology to the Communications Clinic – effectively calling the ghost a liar.

Her case provoked a debate about depression and work and pressure and suicide and journalism and censorship that faded away quickly as threats emanated from an IP address related to a prominent legal firm.

Terry Prone has never commented publicly on Kate Fitzgerald or the article in the Irish Times. Instead, she wrote a book telling the rest of us how to live.

No wonder the ghost laughs bitterly. The ghost doesn’t even need to read the book.


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