Thursday 23 February 2017

Clouds gather on air for Brian's big moment

John Boland

A shopper in an electrical store stops to watch as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan delivers his Budget to the Dail yesterday
A shopper in an electrical store stops to watch as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan delivers his Budget to the Dail yesterday

WEATHERWISE, as Gerry Ryan noted yesterday morning, it was "a dark day", and he conceded that the outlook wasn't likely to get any brighter when Brian Lenihan announced the details of his Budget.

The country was in dire financial straits, Gerry conceded on his show, and "certainly there are people who are going to lose an awful lot of money".

Well, probably not Gerry himself, who, when asked last weekend what he thought of RTE's plans to impose salary cuts, told the Sunday Independent that he makes "many millions" more for his employers "than what they pay me" -- a mere €558,000 a year, if you must know. But you could sense his deeply felt compassion yesterday for those in financial difficulties.

Over on Radio 1, Ryan Tubridy was being his determinedly chirpy self, making light of the fact that, as he himself described it, "the reaper is at the door" and positively pleased that the cash-strapped 1980s had returned. In fact, the latter gave him the excuse to fill half his show with references to the 1980s, most of them being of the popular culture variety, that being young Ryan's Mastermind subject.


To this end, he dragged in a relic from the 1980s, if that's not too ungallant a way of describing Fine Gael's Gemma Hussey. The 1980s, Gemma recalled, were all doom and gloom and were "pretty bloody awful" for her and her coalition partners, though she hadn't much to add to that, beyond informing us that, given the day that was in it, she was going home to play Wagner's Gotterdammerung. A truly cultured woman, our Gemma.

Like Gerry Ryan, Pat Kenny had also noticed the inclement weather and this enabled him to pronounce that "the skies are suitably grey". (These guys must have teams of scriptwriters to come up with such gems). Then he talked to journos Fionnan Sheahan, Brendan Keenan and Harry McGee, all of whom spoke knowledgeably about such things as "liquidity", "solvency" and "capitalisation." Mind you, none of them knew what was going to be in the Budget, but you can't have everything -- though a texter did contact Pat, complaining about all the "hot air" being expended on the subject.

Then Pat abandoned the topic for a discussion on the relative cost of root canal work here and in the North, though he did return to the Budget when he asked pasta sauce-king Loyd Grossman to comment on how we've financially fallen from our Celtic Tiger glory.

"If it seems too good to be true," Loyd sagely observed, "then it is too good to be true". I couldn't have put it better myself.

TV3, of all channels, got in first with the television coverage, using its midday magazine show to solicit the budgetary views of Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper.

Actually, TV3 seemed to have hit on the human-interest tabloid-grabbing story of the day when, during its news bulletin, reporter Sarah Kelly told viewers that our finance minister had just posed for pictures without his family, and that this was "a possible sign of things to come."

Of what exactly, Sarah? Surely you don't mean ... no, of course you don't. But what did you mean?

We'll never know, because Newstalk beckoned with a joke from a texter that went: Jack Lynch sang The Banks, Charlie Haughey robbed the banks, Bertie Ahern couldn't find the banks and Brian Cowen saved the banks.

Very droll -- indeed, a lot more droll than anything George Hook's panel of experts could come up an hour later.

Back on Radio 1, Drivetime presenter Mary Wilson was wondering if Lenihan had "the bottle for the battle." Journo Alison O'Connor thought he had: "There's a very big brain in there."

RTE television finally got its act together and brought us its budget coverage 20 minutes before the minister got up to speak. Mark Little and Miriam O'Callaghan were looking very sombre, the latter dressed in mourning clothes. Could she not have defied convention and worn one of her girly Saturday night dresses? Apparently not. Killjoy. So full marks then to Mary Hanafin, who was dressed in a lime-green confection you couldn't miss, even if you wanted to.

The minister then galloped through his speech at such a rate that full stops vanished, commas went missing, sentences fused with each other and whole paragraphs sped by in a blur. It was like listening to Molly Bloom's soliloquy -- minus the sex, of course, unless you count the size of the Lenihan brain.

Then Fine Gael's Richard Bruton got up to tell the minister what he thought of his budget. Nobody does huffing and puffing and fuming better than Richard. He was followed by Labour's Joan Burton, who described the minister's disregard for the underprivileged as a Halloween horror movie -- a Nightmare on Merrion Street with mood music from Psycho, if you must know. For a left-wing politician, Joan seemed distressingly familiar with Hollywood schlock. I thought Ken Loach would have been her only man.

Back in the studio, Green TD Mary White invited viewers to "look at the positives". Where would we be without the Greens and their commitment to staying in office?

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