News Comment

Thursday 18 September 2014

A test of our endurance for oily eurowaffle

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 01/06/2014 | 02:30

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AUSTERITY: John Bruton. Photo: Tom Burke

Elections these days are endurance tests, for presenters and listeners alike. Last weekend's coverage of the local and European polls set new records for making a little information go a long way.

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By Monday, Today With Sean O'Rourke should've been looking forward to analysing the results. Instead RTE was still covering the counts. It was Thursday before Morning Ireland finally announced that all seats has been filled. By then, most of the media had moved on to pastures new, namely the Labour leadership, before really getting to grips with what the European results had all been about. Which suited some. Not least former Taoiseach John Bruton, who told Today that austerity wasn't ending any time soon, before praising the Government for decisions which had "earned tremendous credibility overseas". Very reassuring. 

Then it was the turn of Pat Cox, former European president, whose only response to the rise of eurosceptic sentiment was to blame it on domestic discontent in France and the UK and "other dynamics", before presenting europhiles as the "squeezed middle" (no, really), battling extremism in the name of all that is decent and good. O'Rourke let him get away with far too much of this oily eurowaffle.

There's an honourable mention at least for Late Debate which was solid all week, finishing on Thursday with a sobering examination of Sinn Fein's economic policies. Financial journalist Jill Kirby crunched the numbers and found that they just don't add up, and that SF policy would not raise anywhere near enough to pay for the party's wish list but would impact heavily on ordinary families. SF economic advisor Eoin O Brion put in a bullish performance in defence of his party, but the facts spoke for themselves.

Philip Boucher-Hayes, chairing Liveline all week, deserved credit too for highlighting the discovery of the bodies of 800 children in a septic tank in a Catholic home for unmarried mothers in Co Galway. There was some criticism of the show for going so strongly on the story in the absence of facts, but Liveline has always been about personal testimonies rather than dispassionate reportage, and listeners didn't need to know anything to feel for women describing how they were cornered into signing over their children for adoption after being abandoned by their families. "I was told to do my own dirty work," as Ursula described it. It made for harrowing, but essential, listening.

There was some light relief on Tuesday as Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell reported on Today With Sean O'Rourke on the latest of her jaunts around the country. Last week she was at the sheep shearing championship in Wexford, surrounded by shearers from as far afield as Australia, Argentina and ... er, Wales. There were even "black South Africans", apparently. "It's very interesting to watch them shear sheep, and the Chinamen shear sheep," Marie-Louise declared brightly.

To be fair, saying "sheep shearing" that many times without one slip of the tongue is some achievement, and it was entertaining. She even channelled the spirit of Beyonce by urging all the single ladies to get down to the next championship because "there's men from all over the world with arms like oak trees". You can't say fairer than that.

Sunday Independent

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