Tuesday 22 August 2017

The morning after the election before

Stephen Nolan of BBC Radio Ulster
Stephen Nolan of BBC Radio Ulster

Eilis O'Hanlon

There's only one thing broadcasters love more than an election campaign, and that's the period after the votes have been (mostly) counted, when they get to discuss the implications of it all. What next? Where now? Whither Ireland?

Last week was no different, as they picked over the results, happier than pigs in… clover.

In the midst of a suffocating uniformity of opinion, Eoghan Harris's appearance on Newstalk's Lunchtime With Jonathan Healy was typically invigorating, as he pulled out the rug from under what he referred to as the "student analysis" that there's no difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, stressing the real class basis which still exists at the parties' grass roots, as well as outlining exactly why the Government's campaign strategy was so wrong.

The rest of the election coverage sounded rather tame and stilted by comparison.

Interestingly, the Irish election wasn't reported at all on Monday's Today programme on BBC Radio Four, nor did it make the cut on The World At One, PM or The World Tonight. Even taking into account the concentration right now on the impending referendum on Brexit, that was quite a snub.

Much closer to home, on The Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, the Irish election was also pushed into second place by a row over the reported £280,000 (€362,000) annual subsidy to provide cut-price food in the Stormont canteen.

The irrepressible Nolan made a bit of a meal of the story (pun intended), but it was hard to escape the suspicion that Dublin was being put mischievously in its place by being made to wait its turn.

When he did turn to the election, to be fair, Nolan posed some pertinent questions, asking the Sinn Fein representative why the party refuses to go into coalition with "right-wing" parties in the Dail when they're happy to share power with the DUP.

That is "completely different", said the man from SF.

Of course it is.

Back on Irish radio, there was more lazy "student analysis" of the continuing rise of US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, which continues to defeat Irish broadcasters' powers of understanding.

Guests on Marian Finucane seem determined to push the line that Trump's support comes only from "angry young white men", even as evidence floods in that his support base is widening far beyond that easily-caricatured group.

Tom Plank, of Republicans Abroad, on Wednesday's Late Debate popped that complacent bubble by explaining how Trump was appealing to voters who are "fed up with playing the typical game". We ought to understand that mood.

There needs to be much more of this if the American election isn't going to descend on air into an orgy of self- satisfied virtue signalling.

A question to end: Why do The Ryan Tubridy Show and The Ray D'Arcy Show still bother opening each day with a token song? It adds nothing. Just get on with it already.

Sunday Independent

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