Tuesday 20 February 2018

It's better late than never as election begins

George Hook: Newstalk star heads off on the election trail Photo: Mark Condren
George Hook: Newstalk star heads off on the election trail Photo: Mark Condren

Eilis O'Hanlon

The panel on Today With Sean O'Rourke had obviously been assembled on Tuesday in the expectation that the election would be called.

Instead, the Taoiseach did not call the election until Wednesday, leaving Sean's guests to have the same conversation that they probably would have had anyway, but with less sense of occasion.

Tuesday's Right Hook on Newstalk also fired the starting gun a day early, with the first in a series called Hook On The Hustings, whose launch, one presumes, was meant to coincide with Enda Kenny's announcement.

George began by accompanying Renua leader Lucinda Creighton (whose name he insists on pronouncing as "Crichton", rather than to rhyme with "straighten") as she canvassed in Dublin's Ringsend. However, he drew the line at accompanying her to any door where a dog might be loose, continuing the cynophobic theme from the previous day's show.

On The Anton Savage Show, meanwhile, Today FM's political editor Gavan Reilly was killing time by recalling the most memorable moments of the 31st Dail, from Mick Wallace calling fellow TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor 'Miss Piggy' through Lapgate to the Ceann Comhairle's tussles with Sinn Fein's showboating queen Mary Lou McDonald.

"Have you ever had your ears pierced?" even Anton wondered idly. Gavan hadn't.

The election itself was finally called on Wedesday morning, foreshortening The Ryan Tubridy Show by half-an-hour. "Enjoy yourself today," Ryan declared in that sub-Woganesque manner he now adopts, as he handed over the airwaves to Sean O'Rourke, a vague trace of regret in his voice that he will be missing out on the action, as "It's all kicking off now."

O'Rourke's voice trilled with pure pleasure. One can't help feeling pleased for the newsmen and women that they now have three more weeks of immersion to go.

It's also one of the few times that broadcasters escape the confines of Dublin. Newstalk's battle bus was soon in Limerick and Drivetime's Mary Wilson headed to Mayo to host a candidates' debate.

Today With Sean O'Rourke remained in studio, with Thursday seeing the first of the leaders' interviews with Lucinda Crichton… sorry, I mean Creighton. (It's catching). There was also a report from the launch of Fine Gael's economic plan and a discussion about whether Fianna Fail should prop up Enda Kenny as head of a minority government, all of which felt a tad stiff and starchy in tone.

So far, Newstalk's coverage, especially on Breakfast and Lunchtime With Jonathan Healy, feels snappier, more fluid. Shane Coleman - who has a terrific turn of phrase, describing Labour's Joan Burton standing outside the Dail as the Taoiseach headed to the Aras "like a war widow waving her partner off to the front" - looks set to have a particularly impressive, if tiring, election as he pops up to offer analysis from morning till night. Elections are not for those who like too much sleep.

Sunday Independent

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