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Bin Laden is dead -- and now to Reeling in the Years

They were just back from their long weekend, during which all RTE personnel would have read and digested that article of mine about the apparently endless errors of fact and errors of style and errors of judgement which characterise their sports department.

Yet at lunchtime on Tuesday, the one o'clock news had declared John Higgins, the newly crowned four-time World Snooker champion, to be the son of the late Alex "Hurricane" Higgins.

But then the mistake was chopped out of the website version, which at least offers some hope -- it means that someone out there actually noticed it was wrong.

We all know the odd mistake can occur, even in the best-run establishments. By a sort of evil magic, there was a "typo" in my article about all the errors on RTE, with the tennis player Del Potro appearing in print as De Potro. But mercifully, no one at RTE came back with a riposte.

Which could mean that they saw nothing wrong with it anyway -- easily the most likely explanation -- or that they were too busy trying to clean up the Higgins wreckage, wiping it from the record as though it had never happened.

Of course, along with this institutional malaise, naturally after the long weekend there would be a certain sluggishness.

And wouldn't ya just know it? On the Bank Holiday Monday, with the Six One News down to half-an-hour in keeping with ancient RTE custom, Bin Laden goes and gets himself shot.

These are the breaks, I guess, in the land of public service broadcasting. And with a skeleton staff, it can be a tough call to make -- are they mortified that they're doing a shorter programme than usual on the day of the biggest story in the world? Or do they see it as a stroke of luck that at least Bin Laden has given them something to fill all that space?

A bit of both, I guess, though, of course, there was another possibility out there. I know it sounds crazy, but the BBC did it, and they too are public service broadcasters, and they too were having a Bank Holiday -- what about breaking with custom and extending the news programme?

I think the word is "rescheduling". On the BBC, it meant that the Six O'Clock News was still hard at it, bringing us the latest from Pakistan, as late as 6.45pm, going 15 minutes over their usual time, as if to say: "To hell with it. We'll make a claim for overtime."

They didn't go for that on RTE. They would not be moved. But they had Richard Downes in Washington DC, which is the capital of the US. We know this, because Richard Downes told us.

As he sat there talking to us in Charlie Bird's old chair, he mentioned Washington DC, adding helpfully that it is the capital of the US.

This would be news to many of us who watch too much television, from which you might get the impression that the capital of the US is New York, or maybe Los Angeles. But no, it is Washington DC. Thanks for that, mate.

Back home in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, after all the excitement, things were returning to Bank Holiday normality at RTE.

It was 6.30pm, time to bang on Reeling in the Years. And maybe a swift nine holes at Elm Park.

Not that our great institutions of State were ever too hard on themselves. TG4 has been showing a very well-made series called Ceart Agus Coir, which examines various murders committed in days of yore, and usually leaves us with the impression that the authorities got the wrong guy -- even if they knew deep down it was the wrong guy, they would go after him anyway, because going after the right guy was too much trouble.

Which suggests a long-standing culture of studiously avoiding the tough option, as long as there's some poor unfortunate eejit out there to take the hit. Which may ring a few bells.

The professional classes did their bit, too, in the destruction of Ireland. Yet they still stand proudly, defiantly cheering on the Leinsters at the Aviva.

We rejoice as we watch Shaggy, Heaslip and the Dricmeister making the hard yards down on the park against Toulouse, yet something inside of us dies as the camera pans across the crowd, and we see a load of 50-year-old alickadoos wearing their blue Leinster shirts; Leinster in this case being a convenient name for South Dublin.

You can't help thinking some of those guys were there or thereabouts, too, when Aughrim was lost.

Sunday Indo Living