Sunday 11 December 2016

Television review: 40 post-election mornings after the night before

Published 11/04/2016 | 02:30

Claire Byrne. Picture: FusionShooters.
Claire Byrne. Picture: FusionShooters.

On the morning after the election, I wrote movingly of the great pain of the politics junkie waking up to the realisation that in the most extreme circumstances it could be another five years before he gets himself another shot of raw, uncut, proportional representation.

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And I suggested that these guys just couldn't take it, they'd be working on a solution already, something that probably couldn't involve another general election immediately but that would somehow keep the addiction going for them.

I have to say they have surpassed themselves this time, that not even I thought they'd find a way to keep filling the Claire Byrne Live and Prime Time with post-election discussion all through March and well into April. But they're still out there, still making noise about issues such as the difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

There is a difference by the way - part of the degeneracy of the political class is that they are so lazy-minded they can be "debating" things for years after it has become clear that there is no debate at all. So you will hear it said that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are essentially engaged in the same activity, which they are in the sense that football teams, such as, say Manchester United and Manchester City, are engaged in the same activity on all sorts of levels - but there is still a difference. The difference is, that like United and City, they hate one another. Is that not enough of a difference for us to leave this matter to one side now, in the hope that we will never, ever return to it?

A few weeks into this election racket I was struck down by a fever which lasted throughout the 1916 thing - make of that what you will. The fever took me out of things completely last week, so it would be wrong not to hereby declare the magnificence of A Fanatic Heart, Geldof's recent collaboration with Roy Foster on WB Yeats.

When Geldof started out, he was some sort of a journalist - one of his earliest public offerings was a piece for NME about some rock star gathering which may or may not have taken place at a Guinness mansion. And after all this time, the journalistic instinct is still strong in him.

Live Aid, after all, was put together using his skills as a rock critic, a current affairs analyst, and a guy who loves ligging around backstage - a journalist essentially. Of course he is not recognised to any extent for his journalistic leanings, probably because he doesn't want to be recognised as such, and has tried everything to get away from that calling, with some success. But he is so good at it, mainly because he has a true appreciation of the greatness of the artists whose work means something to him.

A lot of people think that they have this true appreciation, but they don't really. Probably the main mistake that they make, is that in their minds they have this pecking order, a kind of a Top 50 chart all the way through from the good to the very good to the best - but this is to misunderstand the fact that, say, The Beatles are not just a bit better than whoever is at Number 2 on this notional chart, they are not even on the chart in the first place. To hear Geldof grappling with the dimensions of the achievements of a Van Morrison, his sense of awe as he reads out the last lines of a Yeats poem, is to know that he understands these things deeply.

Indeed there was a recurring event in A Fanatic Heart, whereby Geldof and various well-known actors would get to the end of a Yeats poem, and find themselves flattened by the emotional impact of it. This is Yeats - I know of no other writer who can move the reader in this way, just by the breath-taking perfection of the words that he puts together, the mystery of how he does it. From Geldof I got a sense that perhaps Yeats didn't know how he did it either, that that was the key to everything. Then again Geldof himself hardly even knows that he is a journalist, though he is a brilliant one.

Prime Time (RTE1)

Claire Byrne Live (RTE1)

A Fanatic Heart: Geldof on Yeats (RTE1)

Sunday Independent

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