Entertainment Radio

Monday 16 December 2019

Conduct unbecoming and a hoarse Taoiseach: the good, the bad and the ugly of unforgettable radio

Brian Cowen interviewed after his infamous interview on Morning Ireland.
Brian Cowen interviewed after his infamous interview on Morning Ireland.
David Davin-Power and David Hanly.
The Morning Ireland team.
Aine Lawlor, David Hanly and Richard Crowley.
John Meagher

John Meagher

Morning Ireland has helped shape the national conversation for 30 years and its long-held position as the country's most listened to radio programme is a testament to its compelling mix of news, interviews and opinion.

While it has enjoyed some significant scalps over the years, it has not been immune from embarrasing gaffes. And there have been several moments that certain politicians would rather forget.

The good

* David Hanly's lengthy interview with Des O'Malley in 1985 remains one of the great journalist-politican encounters of our time. The soon-to-be Progressive Democrats foudner was in a combative mood after his expulsion from Fianna Fail and Hanly's judicious questioning helped make O'Malley's criticism of party leader Charles Haughey the talk of both Leinster House and the country. O'Malley's description of Haughey's actions as "conduct unbecoming" became part of the vernacular of the day and is the title of his newly released autobiography.

* The Christmas Eve programme of 1999 featured several heavyweight contributors including Bill Clinton and Tony Blair while representatives of Northern Ireland's main parties read excerpt from the book, Lost Lives, which documented all those who had died in the Troubles. It demonstrated the Morning Ireland's ability to deliver 'bigger picture' journalism as well as breaking news and political discourse.

* Rachael English was in the presenter's chair in late 2010 when Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan phoned in with a bombshell: Ireland would indeed be bailed out to the tune of tens of billions by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Up to that point Taoiseach Brian Cowen and finance minister Brian Lenihan had insisted that a bailout would not be necessary, despite all the evidence. "You could almost sense the relief the wave of relief that the truth was out there at last," English's colleague, Cathal Mac Coille, says today. "Here, for the first time, was a straight answer to the question."

* In 2011, during the height of the fractious Presidential Election, candidate Senator David Norris was on the show to explain controversial comments that he had made in a magazine interview almost a decade previously. He told host Aine Lawlor that he wished to "invoke the symposium of Plato" to clarifity matters, to which she immediately quipped: "But you are not running for election in ancient Greece. You are running for election in modern Ireland."

The bad

* Within weeks of Morning Ireland going on air in the winter of 1984, a heavy snowfall hit the country. The team diligently gathered reports of snow drifts and traffic disruption in the hours before the programme went on air and then broadcast them on the show from 8am. Unfortunately, by that stage the sun had come out, the snow had melted and commuters were travelling without difficulty. It was an early lesson about the importance of using live reports and not relying on pre-recorded content.

* The programme landed itself in hot water in 1988 when it broadcast a clip of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in a report on the funerals of three IRA members shot in Gibraltar. Since the 1970s, under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, RTE had been ordered by the government not to broadcast the views of Sinn Fein leaders or representatives of paramilitary organisations. It wasn't until 1994, with the repeal of the act, that the views of McGuinness, Gerry Adams et al could be freely broadcast.

The ugly

* Embattled Taoiseach Brian Cowan give a bizarre interview to Morning Ireland at the height of recession in 2010. Mixing up the Croke Park agreement and the Good Friday Agreement, he was accused by Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney of sounding halfway between being drunk and hungover. Cowan vigorously denied that he was either drunk or hungover, but with the interview going viral on social media, rival politicians was quick to pounce. Opposition finance spokesman Michael Noonan questioned Cowan's leadership qualities. "There was a feeling this morning," he said, "that this can't continue, the game is up." It soon was: Fianna Fail imploded in the General Elections just months later.

Indo Review

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top