Thursday 22 February 2018

Gerry reminds us he was never in the IRA – for the 4,976th time!

This 'ordinary' life: Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald
This 'ordinary' life: Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald

John Boland on Television

In Sinn Féin: Who Are They? (TV3), Ursula Halligan became the 4,976th interviewer to be reminded by Gerry Adams that he was never in the IRA. "Were you ever a member of the IRA?" Ursula asked him. "No," Gerry said. "Never?" persisted Ursula. "No," Gerry repeated.

Well, that's plainly that, then, and shame on anyone for ever thinking otherwise – not least those commentators who, in Gerry's words, were merely "earning a crust, filling a 400-word column, spoofing and don't really know a thing about what they're talking about". That can't include me because this column runs to 1,000 words.

Gerry, who was being interviewed by Ursula in the pastoral peace of the Cooley mountains, where (as Ursula noted) the bodies of people who'd been "disappeared" by the IRA had been buried, was, by his own admission, just a "very ordinary" guy – much like Martin McGuinness, who assured Ursula that he leads "a normal life", and also like Mary Lou McDonald, who insisted that she leads a "very ordinary, regular life".

Probably helping her to stay normal and regular was the Cheerios breakfast cereal she was seeking while Ursula chatted to her in a Dublin supermarket – and she was full of amiable cheer herself, no doubt buoyed by the notion that TV3 was devoting a two-part, two-hour documentary to the party she'll probably be leading before long.

But the Sinn Féin/IRA past hasn't gone away, you know, and Mary Lou could hardly have been happy that for almost the entire length of this opening programme Ursula insisted on banging on about republican atrocities, lies and evasions, backed up by interviews with politicians, political analysts and former IRA members.

Among the latter were Anthony McIntyre, who, asked about Adams's relentless denials of IRA membership, replied that by the same token Charlie Haughey could have said that he was never in Fianna Fáil and Ian Paisley that he never belonged to the Free Presbyterian church.

There were many other arresting soundbites in a bracingly rigorous programme and I look forward to similarly hard-nosed journalism from Ursula when, in the concluding episode, she brings her attention to bear on Sinn Féin's current political set-up and its future prospects.

On the other end of the qualitative scale, political coverage at its least focused and most banal was to be found in TV3's other Monday night documentary, At Home with the Healy Raes, though the commercial channel was so thrilled by the "massive" audience it attracted that a series on the same Kerry dynasty was commissioned the following morning.

Does TV3 imagine it's found a reality show on the lines of The Osbournes? More like The Beverly Hillbillies from what I saw, though without the laughs and with presenter Ciara Doherty striving to be this year's answer to Lucy Kennedy – by which I mean that she was as much centre-stage as her supposed subjects.

In other programmes, you could perhaps blame the producer or director for such intrusive foregrounding of the presenter. But as she performed both of these functions, too, the viewer could only conclude that she's rather enamoured with herself. And thus she was clearly too busy filming herself in pink boots as she waded through mud to bother asking any hard, or even vaguely interesting, questions of any of the Healy Raes about their parish pump approach to politics.

RTÉ One's recent documentary, Looking After No 1, had already afforded Michael Healy Rae more coverage than some of us think he deserves, and now TV3 is threatening us with a whole series devoted to him and his dad and the rest of his family. Yikes.

The Irish Child Pageant Storm (RTÉ One) was just as unappealing and would have been positively repellent if it had focused more of its time on the creepy nature of its subject and less on Annette Hill, the Texan organiser who encountered lots of difficulties when trying to stage an Irish version of her freak show.

Charmlessness personified, she soon exhausted my patience and it didn't help that the makers of the documentary seemed unsure what tone to adopt – whether flip, sardonic, jaundiced or concerned – and ended up conveying none. "I don't know if I want to go through this again," Hill said towards the end. I know I don't.

Architect-presenter Dermot Bannon seemed to be thinking the same about halfway through this week's edition of Room to Improve (RTÉ One). That was because he was in constant confrontation with Eilín, who had bought a run-down pile near Clane and had hired Dermot to oversee its restoration.

Eilín's husband, David, was there, too, but he didn't get much of a look-in as Eilín constantly made her presence and her opinions felt, even though she frequently wasn't too clear about exactly what she wanted. "We're having a discussion," Dermot mildly protested at one point when Eilín refused to listen to what he was saying. "No, we're not!" she snapped back.

Personally, I felt like throttling her, but Dermot just took a deep breath and smiled benignly. And the house did look fabulous at the end of it all. Even she agreed on that. Still, these aren't easy times for architects.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment