News Analysis

Saturday 20 September 2014

'yes' vote leaves no cliffhangers

Published 05/10/2009 | 05:00

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'By 11am all that remained to be discovered was who had won it for the Lisbonites and who had lost it for their opponents'

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"WE'RE a bit short of cliffhangers," polling expert Michael Gallagher ruefully told Radio 1's Rachael English at lunchtime on Saturday.

That was putting it mildly.

As early as 8am, newsreader Michael Murphy had been telling listeners that a Fine Gael exit poll was predicting a 60pc 'Yes' vote, and by the time Sean O'Rourke introduced Radio 1's blanket coverage of the results at 10am, the 'No' side had given up the ghost.

To be fair to him, Sean tried to pretend it was all very exciting as he quizzed RTE correspondents around the country on the likely outcome, but you felt his heart wasn't fully in it.

Indeed, by 11am all that remained to be discovered was who had won it for the Lisbonites and who had lost it for their opponents.

The 'No' people were in no doubt about the reason for their defeat. It was all down to the "abusive nature" of the Yes campaign, according to socialist TD Joe Higgins, though the media also had to shoulder a lot of the responsibility -- they were "major players," according to Joe, and had unleashed "a torrent of propaganda" in favour of the 'Yes' side.

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain put it down to the "fear" instilled in the plain people of Ireland by the 'Yes' men, a sentiment echoed by most of the other losing factions, including his own party's Mary Lou McDonald, who accused the 'yea-sayers' of peddling "a very depressing and negative message -- and a dishonourable one, too." It's always heartening to see Sinn Fein adopting the high moral ground.

So who won it for the 'Yes' side?

Fine Gael, that's who -- Lucinda Creighton informing Sean O'Rourke that her party had shown "tremendous leadership".

This view was later seconded on television by her colleague Alan Shatter, who declared the result not just "a good day for Ireland" but also "a tremendous day for Enda Kenny". The sainted Enda was nowhere to be seen, though I'm sure he was blushing.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore had a slightly different spin on it, arguing that the victory had been achieved "despite the Government" -- an argument contradicted by Libertas leader Declan Ganley, who magnanimously told Marian Finucane that the Government "had played an absolute blinder".

As for Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Declan doffed his hat to "the greatest politician in this country" who had "made glove puppets" of his compliant Opposition colleagues.

And the reason for Brian's success? "He never debated with me once, which was the best thing to do because he would have been destroyed." But that didn't dilute his praise for "a masterful campaign from a masterful politician."

Political correspondent Harry McGee thought this "one of the strangest compliments I've ever heard", while Marian asked Declan if he was "having fun this morning".

"Ah, you might as well," Declan cheerfully replied. Jaypers, if Declan had been one-tenth as engaging during the campaign, he might have swung it for the 'No' side.

By lunchtime it was all over, which left RTE in an embarrassing position as five more radio hours had been allocated to it and four more on television. What to do?

The sensible option would have been to shove in a few episodes of 'Jake and the Fat Man', 'Columbo' and 'Falcon Crest', but instead poor old Sean and Rachael, not to mention Bryan Dobson and Mark Little, had to soldier on, trying to convince listeners and viewers that a sow's ear might in the fullness of time -- or at least the duration of an afternoon -- come to resemble a silk purse.

It wasn't easy and it certainly wasn't successful, unless your idea of entertainment is to sit there meekly while the likes of Micheal Martin, Pat Cox, Aengus O Snodaigh, Patricia McKenna, Joe Higgins and Dick Roche drone on interminably about a conclusion not so much foregone as already ancient history.

In the middle of it all, Brian Cowen emerged to give a statement thanking the Irish people for doing the right thing, though I thought it somewhat churlish of him not to extend his gratitude to Declan Ganley -- not just for the admiration Declan had expressed earlier but also for Declan's own part in securing the overall outcome.

However, if it was a long, long day for the RTE presenters, spare a thought for Vincent Browne, whose two-hour TV3 coverage didn't start until 5pm, just when everyone was getting ready to head down to the local for the Munster-Leinster match.

It didn't help, though, that he'd inveigled into the studio a gaggle of pundits we'd already been hearing from ad nauseam on RTE all afternoon -- Alison O'Connor, Joe Higgins and DCU politics professor Gary Murphy. Was there no one else out there? Even the dog on the street?

Still, it produced one good moment when, after interviewing Mary Lou McDonald, who was at Dublin Castle, Vincent asked Pat Rabbitte about the possibility of Labour joining forces with Sinn Fein. There were some "very good young people in Sinn Fein", Pat conceded, and if they wished to join the Labour Party they'd be very welcome.

Wondering how that would be received by the Sinn Fein vice president, Vincent said: "I think Mary Lou's gone," only to be informed by the woman herself: "No, Mary Lou is still very much here."

Indeed you are, Mary Lou, indeed you are.

Irish Independent

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