Saturday 25 January 2020

Logic kills yet another good idea

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

TELEVISION Common sense always loses out in the world of public enquiries, says Declan Lynch

The Frontline RTE1

Here's a good idea now. You know this enquiry into the Sean Gallagher Frontline scandal that they've been agonising about all week?

Here's the idea: put it on television.

And I don't necessarily mean a daily tribunal broadcast of several hours on TG4, though that would be better than nothing. Indeed there is no doubt that the tribunals of enquiry in general would have cost approximately half a billion less than they did, simply by putting them on television.

So when we're talking about an enquiry into an actual television programme, it would seem entirely appropriate to do the right thing for once, and to let us see what they are doing, how they are doing it, and how long it takes them to do it, when they know they are being watched.

But this particular enquiry should be better than that. It should be an actual TV programme, just like the programme that caused it in the first place. After all, if the seven people running for the most exalted position in the land were expected to endure the scrutiny of the public in the highly charged situation of a live TV studio, how could Pat Kenny and anyone else involved in this scandal argue that they are entitled to a more sedate arrangement?

Maybe I'm making too much sense here, but what the hell? Such a programme would be enormously interesting and informative and entertaining, the very essence of public-service broadcasting, and probably the epitome of natural justice.

It should be presented by Ivan Yates, to show that RTE is prepared to go beyond its own "campus" here, and because he would be excellent. Yates, who stood in for Vincent Browne last week, is the living embodiment of a theme I have been developing for some time. Being the owner of a well-rounded personality, with a genuine interest in real-world activities such as sport, he just out-grew Leinster House. Ivan may be the jovial type, but ultimately his mind is just too well-stocked for that place, too engaged with the important stuff of life.

And yet, to an extent, he doesn't realise this. He can still be heard describing some dreary old Leinster House lifer as a "big beast", as if Ivan himself has somehow taken the more light-hearted route by entering showbusiness.

But even if Ivan doesn't know that he is a far more serious human being than, say, Richard Bruton, it doesn't matter. All that matters, is that he is.

So Ivan would be the man to chair this excellent programme of enquiry, which would break all viewing records.

Then again I am aware that most enquiries tend to be set up when something very interesting happens, and there is an urgent need on the part of all concerned to make it as uninteresting as possible, to make it so boring indeed, that we eventually forget what it was all about, and we just want it to end.

That should not happen here. But, of course, it will.

So this idea of mine, though admirable in every way, will be rejected. In fact it will not even be considered.

And one of the reasons it will not be considered, is because it has appeared in this paper. I may have missed it, but I didn't hear many voices from these parts on RTE last week.

Now as we learned from the recently published league table of RTE's favourite pundits and panellists, there are many outstanding Irish Times journalists who can speak for all of us. But still, you'd have expected a bigger turnout from the paper which put the Gallagher story on the front page last Sunday.

These are "cultural" matters which are themselves deeply interesting and thus will be avoided by any enquiry. Indeed it was a "cultural" issue which started all the trouble, a deep-rooted attitude within RTE which places Fianna Fail on a somewhat lower moral plane than Sinn Fein.

Personally I would also place Fianna Fail on a low moral plane, but if I am faced with a Fianna Failer like, say, Sean Gallagher, up against a Sinn Feiner like, say Martin McGuinness and his friends on Twitter, 999 times out of a thousand I will go with the FFer. And the thousandth time... I will probably continue to go with the FFer.

I will also be fascinated to see if the Pat Kenny Show and RTE in general continues to regard Mr Roy Greenslade as a professorial voice on all matters relating to journalism and its ethics, now that it is known that Greenslade used to write under a false name for the IRA's in-house organ, An Phoblacht.

But let us not expect the impossible. This institutional malaise began for me in the sports department, which last Monday evening was avoiding the news-in-real-time frenzy of Twitter by reporting Tiger Woods' Achilles injury, some 24 hours after many of us first became aware of it.

It's another world out there, mate. Another world.

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