John Boland: Mansergh loses war of words and votes
IT was early on Saturday and although Fianna Fail's Martin Mansergh was heading towards electoral oblivion, he still found time to lecture the media. Ever the stickler for semantical accuracy, Martin said on RTE Radio 1 that he "would caution" journalists not to be using words like "wipeout" in regard to Fianna Fail.
His preferred terms were "setback" and "rebuff" -- though no one seemed to agree with him.
Over on RTE1, political editor David Davin-Power was declaring that the Soldiers of Destiny had "fallen off a cliff", presenter Richard Crowley was insisting the party was "on the floor", while Jerry Beades of Fianna Fail's National Executive was deeming the outcome so calamitous that he called for the purging of party headquarters.
Martin, though, had a linguistic ally in his leader, who told RTE1's Miriam O'Callaghan yesterday morning that his party's performance had been merely "disappointing".
But Miriam was having none of it. "I'm sorry, Micheal Martin," she retorted, "it's devastatingly catastrophic", while fellow presenter John Bowman helpfully chipped in with "disastrous".
But if it was a bad time for Fianna Failers in the polls, it was even worse for them in the studios, Pat Kenny asking a startled Brian Cowen how, after the fate that had befallen his party comrades, he felt when he looked at himself in the mirror.
"Everything I did was for the good of the country," the former Taoiseach muttered.
Still, I'll miss Martin Mansergh from the airwaves, if only for the fascinatingly fusty pedantry he invariably brought to interviews -- not to mention the excitement of anticipation I've always felt as he took 17 minutes and utilised 53 subordinate clauses before reaching the conclusion of any sentence.
And I'll miss the irrepressible Mary O'Rourke, too, who told Richard Crowley on Saturday that she had decided to compete in the election so that she could "face the challenge rather than run away with a pot of money".
Even when she's a loser, Mary's a winner.
When it came to the weekend's coverage of the election, RTE was the undoubted winner.
Throughout the campaign, Newstalk had been very impressive -- indeed, generally both more incisive and more entertaining than RTE radio -- but cometh the crucial countdown cometh the comprehensive television coverage, and RTE had no competition here.
To be fair, TG4's extensive coverage seemed to be pretty good, though as it was through Irish I couldn't really tell.
But on TV3, Vincent Browne cut a rather forlorn figure, hampered by meagre outside resources.
The individual topplings -- Mary O'Rourke gone, John O'Donoghue and Mary Coughlan biting the dust, the relentless obliteration of the six Green TDs -- didn't shock or thrill as might have been expected.
Fine Gael's Simon Coveney, despite having tried to topple his leader, now saw in Enda Kenny "the most energy of any person, never mind politician, that I've even seen".
Or, as the cynical might translate it: please give me a ministry, Enda, I'll be a good boy, honest.
Not that ministries are important.
"This isn't about ministries at all," Labour leader Eamon Gilmore piously told Miriam O'Callaghan yesterday, "this is about what the country needs." Whatever you say, Eamon.
Enda Kenny, though, hadn't been in touch about forming a government. "So why don't you phone Enda," Miriam asked, "seeing as he hasn't bothered phoning you?"
Eamon thought about that. "Sure, who knows, I might," he said. And, do you know, I wouldn't be surprised.