Monday 11 December 2017

Radio: At last we have a functioning government... probably

Eamon Dunphy
Eamon Dunphy
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Hallelujah - we have a Government! I think.

At time of writing, the Fine Gael minority hadn't officially been voted in. But by the time of you reading, they will have been. Or not, as the case may be.

Sorry, this is all getting a bit confusing, even by the standards of Irish politics. Essentially, it appears (time of writing etc etc) to be pretty much a done deal, once the t's are dotted and the i's are crossed.

The best bit of radio I heard on the whole matter was probably the hour-long discussion on Saturday with Claire Byrne (Radio 1, 1pm), which pulled off a hat-trick of: 1) explaining what was happening; 2) dissecting the broader context of Irish politics, present and future; and 3) showcasing Byrne's strengths as a broadcaster.

The greatest of these, in my opinion, is a quiet authority. Byrne is able to control and steer a large group, many of them on opposing sides, without seeming to raise her voice or lose her temper.

We saw it on telly during that second election debate, and we heard it here. The panel was large - RTÉ's Brian Dowling and this newspaper's Dan O'Brien, Fianna Fáiler John Lahart, Stephen Donnelly of the Social Democrats, Labour's Ciarán Lynch and Dara Murphy of Fine Gael.

But, steered by that firm authority, the conversation was informative and even civil. I was particularly taken by O'Brien's assertion that Ireland has the highest proportion of independent members of parliament in the world.

Good God. No wonder we're in this drawn-out mess.

Meanwhile Vincent Browne turned up midweek on Today with Sean O'Rourke (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 10am) to deliver a classic spiel/diatribe/rant about how this is "the worst possible outcome" for the country, excepting the re-election of the outgoing government or, God forbid, Fianna Fáil grabbing the reins of power.

Browne described himself as "without hope" after these "secret (sic) negotiations" between FG and FF to "fix things up", which sounds very alarming. The Dáil, he said, "will be rendered entirely irrelevant" - no change there, in fairness - and "nothing of substance will change".

Right. The problem with all of this is that Vincent Browne never says anything good about anything, ever, at all. Really, the guy could go to heaven and find things to complain about.

When someone always find the bad in everything - or, just as often, invents it, or imagines it - their analysis becomes meaningless. So Browne has little credibility as a commentator, as far as I'm concerned. He did once, sure, but not anymore.

So I do wonder why have him on at all? He's amusing, yes, in that "irascible uncle" sort of way. Personally, I got tired of it a good while back, but some people seem to love VB's "cranky old man" shtick, and good for them. For proper analysis of current affairs, though, it's all a bit pointless.

Sports broadcasters love terms like amazing and astonishing and historic and unprecedented, usually for events which are mildly unexpected, at best. But Leicester City winning the Premier League really was all of those things, and then some.

This is the most incredible sporting triumph in decades, maybe of all time. The closest I can think of, in an Irish context, is Clare winning the hurling All-Ireland in 1995, ending an 81-year wait and coming after two bad defeats the previous years.

Even this doesn't compare, though, because they only played four games that summer; Leicester won a league of almost 40, having barely escaped relegation the season before. It defies all logic.

So perhaps the best comment on this once-in-a-lifetime sporting came from Eamon Dunphy on Game On (2fm, Mon-Fri 7pm). I love Dunphy as a contributor, because he's smart, funny and very entertaining. I couldn't care less if he contradicts himself or says outlandish things - this is showbiz and Dunphy is always compelling.

Hugh Cahill teased his guest, first by replaying some old audio of Dunphy promising to treat the Game On team to a steak dinner if Leicester won the title.

Then the man himself captured what had happened just perfectly: "I was sitting here watching with a big smile on my face. I'm just so happy for football, for the people of Leicester, the fans… It's just a wonderful story - and a great tonic for football.

"A lot of what we see is gross: people misbehaving, idiots like Samir Nasri driving through a ghetto in a 350-grand car, Joleon Lescott putting up an Instagram of his new Jag the day they were relegated… It's a bloated game.

"And some of the people who were most prominent - Mourinho, Alex Ferguson - they have no grace about them, no class. But this is a real kick against everything that's bad in the game, and for everything that's good. If you have a team that's really a team, and a wise, classy guy (as manager), that kind of leadership…you can win the biggest prizes. It's a glorious story."

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