If only getting Joan Burton 'reined in' was Cowen's main concern . . .
Supposedly 'sexist' remark by Taoiseach is small beer given state of the nation, writes John Boland
Published 25/11/2010 | 05:00
'Given the fragility of the Government, a four-day plan might be more realistic'
NEVER mind the four-year plan. Ponder instead the plight of a Dublin woman who was recovering yesterday from the trauma of being sexually harassed in a state-owned building by a man from Offaly.
The woman in question was Labour deputy leader Joan Burton, her tormentor had been Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the scene of the attack had been Leinster House, and she discussed her ordeal yesterday morning with presenter Ivan Yates on Newstalk.
"Try and rein her in now and again," Mr Cowen had audibly advised Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in the Dail the previous day, and Ivan wanted to know if Joan thought this a sexist remark. Yes, she said, she did -- adding that it was merely the latest in a series of "nasty exchanges" she'd had with the Fianna Fail leader down through the years.
Also in the studio was political journalist Michael O'Regan, who recalled that "Joan did irritate" Brian quite frequently but, nonetheless, Michael didn't think Brian had been sexist. That should have been the end of the matter, but Ivan wasn't about to let it go, reminding us that former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds had once exasperatedly declared "There's women for you!" and recalling that during his own time in politics, his Fine Gael colleague Avril Doyle had been "more formidable than any man I ever met" and that such women "don't need any protection".
Joan begged to disagree, poignantly protesting that "it doesn't mean we don't have feelings," but she did concede that the incident was "small beer" given the day that was in it and the parlous state of the country.
Indeed it was, though that didn't mean Pat Kenny ignored the incident on Radio One less than an hour later. But the RTE man was more intent on finding out how the country's economic future could be best secured, and he put that question to analyst David McWilliams.
"I'm sorry to say this on RTE," David apologised, "but we need a bollox to negotiate on our behalf", to which Pat replied, "I know you're thinking of Michael O'Leary." Which was no less than the truth, David having earlier advised that we abandon the old codology about the Irish being a smiling, friendly, eager-to-please people and instead adopt the hard-man bargaining tactics favoured by the Ryanair boss.
Earlier, RTE's John Murray had been up to his usual mischief, opening his show with Sean O Riada's stirringly patriotic main theme from 'Mise Eire', as John solemnly intoned the Coalition's current mantra about how everything we do -- from driving our car to sitting at home thinking -- must be in the "national interest".
John also felt that the scrawled protest on Noel Dempsey's office wall -- spelled "Tratiors -- was a "damning indictment of our educational policy", while noting in passing that, given the fragility of the Government, a four-day plan might be a more realistic objective than a four-year one.
No such ruminations were being offered on RTE 2fm, where Ryan Tubridy was preening himself on last Friday night's 'Late Late Show' ratings and donating some of his jumpers to lucky phone-in callers.
However, his decision to give the events of the day a wide berth endeared him to one woman caller, who praised him for being "an injection of positivity" in an Ireland otherwise dominated by a political "muppet show".
Finally, over on RTE One, came the moment for which we'd all been waiting -- the formal launching of the four-year plan, preceded by news anchor Bryan Dobson triumphantly holding the document aloft, as if it were an advance copy of the latest Harry Potter opus. Then the wizards themselves appeared, master magician Brian Cowen flanked by a sombre Brian Lenihan and an uneasy-looking John Gormley.
In the event, the Taoiseach was more fluent and communicative than usual, as if now that the damn thing was entirely out in the open and there was no more dissembling or prevaricating to be done, he could afford to relax a little.
Indeed, the way he told it he could have been launching a Celtic Tiger no-pain-all-gain bonanza. He used the words "hope" and "certainty" and "united" and such phrases as "strong economy" and "looking to the future with confidence" -- and for a second it seemed as if he was about to announce that the bailout crisis had been merely a bad dream, that the figures had been added up all wrong and that, in fact, there'd be a €100,000 bonus for everyone in the country, with a free holiday in the Cayman Islands thrown in.
Then, alas, it was back to reality, plug-pulling John Gormley trying to persuade a supposedly grateful nation of what his Green Party had done for education and the environment, and Brian Lenihan assuring us that, on our behalf, he and his colleagues had worked day and night, even at weekends, to save us from perdition -- thereby distancing himself from Maggie Smith's dowager in 'Downton Abbey', who asked in puzzlement "What's a weekend?" Brian and his heroic fellow toilers could tell her.
Do you know what? We don't deserve them.