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Darragh McManus on radio: Welcome back, political bickering. We've missed you


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Newly elected cabinet of the 33rd Dail (Julien Behal/PA)

Newly elected cabinet of the 33rd Dail (Julien Behal/PA)

PA

Newly elected cabinet of the 33rd Dail (Julien Behal/PA)

We've spent so long inside the "news cycle" of coronavirus that it comes as a pleasant surprise for radio to get back to humdrum coverage of politics. 

And by that, I don't mean "identity politics" or "sociocultural politics" or "the politics of this, that and the other". I mean straight-down-the-line: parties, portfolios, parliament. I mean new Taoiseach Micheál Martin's announcement of his first Cabinet.

As is standard operating procedure in these matters, it caused a bit of a ruckus, with plenty of disagreement and criticism, mostly to do with the Dublin- or east-centric nature of the ministerial first-team.

As Sarah McInerney (Radio 1, Mon-Fri, 10am) put it: "The Government has no full Cabinet minister west of the Shannon, and there's no Northern voice, even in the Seanad. But then Greystones has two senior ministers, and down there in Cork South-Central you have three. How is this representation for all of Ireland?"

Sligo-Leitrim TD Marian Harkin told The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 4pm): "You need to see balance in a government, and to think that from Donegal right down to Limerick, no Cabinet minister has been appointed. There's a lot of anger and annoyance over what's happened, and I can understand that. Balanced regional development means just that - balance of all the regions."

Meanwhile, Mayo Fianna Fáil man Matt Farrell spoke on News at One (Radio 1, Mon-Fri) of "widespread anger" that deputy leader Dara Calleary had been passed over for anything more senior than Chief Whip - probably the most eye-opening decision Martin has made in his brief tenure, for a few different reasons.

In years gone by, I might have despaired at this kind of geographical point-scoring. After all, it's a small country, and surely to God a capable minister doesn't need to have been born and bred in Leitrim or Kerry to serve those people competently?

After almost half a year of Covid-19 coverage, however - with all its hysteria and melodrama, that sense of surreal frenzy - these political wrangles and rows are positively refreshing.

One man who was well used to them, and well used to smoothing things over, was Bertie Ahern: former taoiseach and the ultimate peacemaker, consensus-builder and negotiator.

He had some advice for Martin, Fine Gael chief Leo Varadkar and Green Eamon Ryan on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri, 9am): "From day one, trust will have to be developed between the three leaders. If it doesn't come from them, that ripples out very fast to the rest of the [Cabinet] table. There must be no surprises, no gamesmanship."

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