Is Richard Bruton the most boring politician in Ireland?
Is Richard Bruton our most boring politician? That may seem unkind, especially when the competition is so intense, but his droningly defensive performance on RTÉ's The Frontline the other night confirmed him as a serious contender
Given Willie O'Dea's coma-inducing media performances on behalf of Fianna Fail down through the years, that's some achievement, but really all that separates Richard from Willie is an alarming moustache.
Not that Willie in his heyday lacked competition from his party colleagues, notably Brian Cowen, but also such connoisseurs of cliche as Pat Carey and Mary Hanafin.
But we expected more from the boys and girls in the current government. After all, Fine Gael is traditionally the party of the moneyed middle classes, with oratory supposedly in its genes, while Labour's firebrands were renowned for linguistically lethal retorts.
In the event, we'd expected too much. Fine Gael's much-vaunted oratory had always been illusory, except among gullible souls who mistook windbags for wits, while Labour has demonstrated what's always been true of politicians -- give them power and suddenly they've nothing inspirational to say.
And thus over the past 12 months Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte hasn't reminded us -- or, indeed, himself -- that he was once among the Dáil's virtuoso debating stars. His party leader, Eamon Gilmore, never had Rabbitte's speaking skills, yet he was always adept at spouting leftist rhetoric.
But now he's Tánaiste, he's plainly so happy with his exalted role that he parrots hollow platitudes he would have derided a year ago.
Joan Burton is still recognisably Joan Burton, retaining the passion for social justice that most of her Labour colleagues seem to have lost, even if social welfare cuts place her in a fix. Still, she's her party's most impressive media performer, persuading us she still keeps the faith.
On the Fine Gael side, poor performers abound. Health Minister James Reilly, afflicted with a Dickensian beard worse than Willie's hairy molly, sounds duller than ditchwater. Phil Hogan comes across as a Ballyragget bouncer; and Alan Shatter is both snippy and superior -- not a good combination.
On the plus side, Michael Noonan and Leo Varadkar are expert media performers, while Enda Kenny confounded sceptics by slipping so easily into his role that he seemed The Man Born to be Taoiseach. He also had the bright idea of addressing the nation and might be wise to continue with that canny Rooseveltian tactic of assuring us we're all in this together.