Tuesday 21 October 2014

Expect to find me smiling in a serene and senatorial way

Published 19/08/2007 | 00:00

SATURDAY

Apart from Seo Beo and a stunning new TG4 talent show, called Glas Vegas, I mean to stay off the air in the near future, for two reasons.

First, the print media have given me enough publicity to last me a lifetime. Second, after a lifetime of being abrasive, I am going to take a break from being bad and walk around smiling in a serene senatorial way. For a while.

The beauty of being appointed, however, is that, if I do want to say something bad, I do not have to consult my constituents. But Willie O'Dea's huge majority means the same -- he could support Aer Lingus and survive. Time he used that vast voting surplus either to support tough decisions or bring in a third seat. Or both.

SUNDAY

Stephen Price in the Sunday Times profiles me without malice. But the photo of me at Seapoint will land me in serious trouble. Because it shows me with a dog.

So what's the problem? The problem is that the dog in the photo is not Posy. I left her at home that day so I would have a bit of peace. But a stray collie, a Lassie lookalike, wandered into the foreground, stood there looking noble, and suckered John Carlos into leaving him in the shot and leaving me looking like a sheep farmer. Posy is puce with rage. Phoenix will use it to say I am already planning a second term in the Seanad seat on the Agricultural panel. And Vincent Browne and Village will call for a tribunal of inquiry. And the public will go along with that.

Because, while most Irish people would forgive a man who for the sake of a Seanad seat changed his politics, only a complete opportunist would change his dog.

MONDAY

The day starts well with an affectionate portrait of me in the Irish Times by John Waters. Not being accustomed to reading anything good about myself, I am tempted to shed a manly tear. But an hour later I am crying buckets for Maureen Charlton.

Being human, my first selfish reaction to Maureen's death is to feel the loss to myself. Why Maureen, a woman who always seemed on the same wavelength as myself? And if I feel so flattened, what must her family feel?

Many of my readers may not recognise the name of Maureen Charlton. But listeners to Sunday Miscellany over the past 20 years will remember her vibrant voice. Behind that voice was a brain, and behind that brain was a beating heart full of humour and honesty, both appreciated by her greatest fan, her husband Hugh.

Better pens than mine will profile Maureen as a literary boulevardier. She was the second-last survivor of that dying Dublin breed of men and women of letters who are not also academics, and so immune to politico-literary fashions. Tony Cronin still holds their torch high.

Maureen's greatest virtue -- and Tony Cronin has it too -- was to never lose sight of TS Eliot's distinction between the mind which creates and the man who suffers. Maureen might not like a poem, might even lampoon the poet in one of her hilarious light verses, but she never lost sight of the man or woman behind the poetic mask, however pretentious.

In Maureen's view the only mortal sinners were those who sought out joy in others and tried to crush it. Her consoling heart always kept control of her critical head, and she hated political or literary puritans. Above all she lacked the wagging forefinger that seems the only de rigueur digit in some people who pronounce judgement.

Maureen's great heart still beats in her sons Edward and Julian. As I hugged Julian, whom I had not seen since the Mary Robinson campaign some 17 years ago, I recalled seeking him out -- he was a young film editor -- to help me make the three television films for Mary Robinson's election.

I had neither the money to pay Julian nor an editing machine. So every night for a week he laid his job on the line, opened up the UCD film department after dark, and worked with me until dawn. The result was the Robinson political broadcast, A Great Record, still considered a classic.

The reason I sought Julian's help was that he was Maureen Charlton's son. So I knew that his heart would rule his head, and that he would risk all to do the right thing. As his mother did all her brave life. God rest her joyful soul.

TUESDAY

My first reaction to the news that Professor John Horgan is to be made Press Ombudsman is somewhat sour. I hope he treats this paper a bit more fairly than he treated me in his book, Broadcasting and Public Life, which gave the impression that I spent most of my time as a producer in RTE giving grief to nationalists, when in fact I spent most of it winning Jacobs Awards.

But putting my own prejudice aside, and on mature reflection, I realise that Professor Horgan is by far the best man for the job. More especially when you think of some of the pious alternatives who would have simply used the position to promote their politically correct agendas against Independent Newspapers.

Thanks to the training he got in the glory days of the Irish Times, Horgan has a built-in sense of balance, a feeling for fair play lacking in most modern hacks. As a former journalist he knows that, provided there is no personal malice, politically barbed writing should not be blunted. And he also knows that people in the public eye are in the same class as footballers, that as a referee he must keep a jaundiced eye not just on journalists but on those who fling themselves to the ground crying foul.

WEDNESDAY/ THURSDAY/FRIDAY

You heard it here first. Having spent the past three days as a judge on Glas Vegas, RTE/TG 4's new talent show, and having spent 25 years as a television producer in RTE before that, I confidently predict that in spite of my soft performance -- I can't be as tough as my two fellow judges, Tom Brannigan and Molly Breathnach -- Adare Productions have a huge public hit on their hands.

I say public hit. In the case of two cranky television critics, I am going to predict their reactions, put them in a sealed envelope, lodge them with a solicitor and publish them in the second week of the show to prove that some television critics, like most political commentators, are now permanently out of touch with public opinion

Apart from the amazing acts on the show, Adare is also showcasing a sparkling new presenter, Gemma Ni Chionnaith. Speaking as someone who recruited Marion Finucane, Charlie Bird and Cynthia Ni Mhurchu to RTE, I believe Gemma will be as big a hit as Glas Vegas.

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