Saturday 23 September 2017

Television review: May our Simon stay Forever Old

* Simon Harris (RTE1)
* Claire Byrne Live (RTE1)
* Prime Time (RTE1)
* The X Factor (TV3)

Illustration: Jim Cogan.
Illustration: Jim Cogan.
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

There was great laughing and joking when Minister Simon Harris was captioned by the RTE News as being attached to the Office of Pubic Works.

And I suppose the mirth was partly based on Harris' personal style which is so solemn, you can imagine his aides reporting the RTE gaffe to him in a jocular vein, and Harris not responding to the humour, declaring that it was simply a typographical error, that everyone knows it should have been public and not pubic, and now they need to move on with the formulation of policy in the light of our ongoing commitments in the area of climate change.

He is a deeply serious man, Simon Harris, and I suppose in a land which is inundated with eejitry at every level, we should not be complaining about that.

And yet though he is pathologically earnest, in a sense he may also be seen as a product of the very eejitry which he is resisting - he is not yet thirty, and yet so extreme is his lack of levity, it seems that he is over-compensating for every other eejit in Ireland, indeed for generations of eejits we have known, and for those as yet unborn.

As the X-Factor winner Louisa Johnson took out a lump hammer and battered Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" into the shape of a crude power-ballad, I thought that with a bit more beating it could end up as a tribute to Harris, entitled "Forever Old".

And if I may make a light-hearted digression, which I know is a lot to ask here, I should add that the X-Factor with its celebratory finale of "Forever Young", overran its allotted time on TV3 last Sunday, which led to the next programme, The Great Irish Bake Off, being truncated on the Sky Plus machine. Which in turn meant that I was watching the recorded version of the Bake Off all the way up until the moment that the three contestants were sitting there waiting for the final verdict, and Anna Nolan announced that "the winner of the...."

And there it ended, for me and no doubt for many other viewers who had been living only for this moment. Not that I'd mention this to Simon Harris, it might only sadden him further that people would be wasting their time on such foolishness.

So I admire his zeal, yet I fear that it may be too much of a burden for one man to bear. And I wonder if we will ever get these things right.

******

For example it still feels strange that members of Sinn Fein, exemplars of what is the most dangerous of all forms of eejitry, are now being "normalised" by RTE to such an extent that you'd almost completely forget where they're coming from. Almost.

On two of the main current affairs shows last week, Claire Byrne Live and Prime Time, the studio debate featured a Minister against a member of Sinn Fein - you had Alan Kelly versus Matt Carthy MEP on the flooding, and Paschal Donohoe versus Peadar Toibin TD on the congestion on the M50, and if you didn't know any better you'd think that Sinn Fein and the republican movement in general is devoted to these workaday concerns and to no grander vision.

It is not just strange in itself , it is strange that RTE doesn't seem to regard this as strange, that there is no asterisk or some other form of footnote attached to these proceedings, to remind the public that by the way, if these lads ever get into a position whereby they are able to realise their dreams for all of us, the flooding and the delays on the M50 will be among the least of our troubles.

Then again so degraded is our political life, the aforementioned Toibin was widely praised for his principled "pro-life" stance in opposing the Sinn Fein position on abortion, whatever that is. As if any principled stand is to be applauded, regardless of what that stand might be. As if all principles, including "pro-life" one, are inherently good.

But arguably this is not a good principle.

It is a bad principle.

And anyway he's back now, he's on Prime Time, and looking at him there you'd think his ambitions stretched no further than the M50, and issues of traffic management in general.

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