Monday 26 February 2018

Not the American way

TELEVISION We have our own method of dealing with scandal. We turn it into entertainment, writes Declan Lynch

Prime Time (RTE1): WHENEVER Ireland disgorges a new scandal, you always hear it said that in America it would be different. In America, they'd have it all sorted in the time it takes for the tribunal to decide on its choice of furniture and fittings, and the legal objections thereto.

But this is not America. If it was America, the name of the country would be America, and we would all be living somewhere else.

We'd have the death penalty, too, which might be just too much of a responsibility for us at this time.

So, perhaps we can let go of that line for a start, and just get used to the fact that this is Ireland and we don't do that sort of thing here.

What we do, when you boil it right down to its raw essence, is called entertainment.

So, when something like the Moriarty report appears, the main players take themselves out to RTE, and they put on a bit of a show.

They give us a piece of themselves, and they invite us to form our own opinions, just like we do when we are presented with an Eoghan Quigg or an Olly Murs. And we enjoy it.

We don't get anything amounting to a legal case out of it, but we still get quite a lot out of it, all the same -- a sense of occasion, a bit of excitement, those honest-to-God values of the showbusiness which give meaning to our lives.

In America, people go on TV to tell Oprah that they've done something terribly wrong, for which they must atone. In Ireland, they go on TV to insist that they've done nothing wrong, or at least, nothing that is worth 14 years of anyone's time.

Again, it is not the American way, but it is our way, and ideally there would be more of it, with the whole tribunal televised, in which case it would not last 14 years and would hardly last 14 days.

Moreover, we live in a culture in which all sorts of talented people -- musicians, dancers, fashion models -- now have their destinies decided by their performances on live television.

If it's all right for them, it's all right for Ben Dunne.

SO hungry was Ben for the truth, apparently he couldn't wait for the TV shows to start, and was "out of the traps", as they say, on Liveline.

As I understand it, Dunne's assertion is that he was not of sound mind during the Nineties. Indeed, when I think of Dunne, I am reminded of Kerouac, who wrote that "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who ... burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars ... "

And given that Dunne was also astoundingly rich during this lost decade of extreme madness, I guess we should all be so mad.

Others will think of Patrick Kavanagh, who was standing outside Mulligan's pub one day, watching a man observing a truck being unloaded, boasting that he had 17 men working under him. To which Kavanagh replied: "You are a highly insensitive fellow."

Perhaps with his wintry eye, Kavanagh saw the day coming in Ireland when a lot of other such highly insensitive fellows would be feted as national heroes.

THEN up stepped Denis O'Brien on the Six One News, a performance which has been exhaustively analysed without a single commentator mentioning the fact that O'Brien told Big Dobbo it was after the All-Ireland hurling final on a Sunday in mid-September that he met Michael Lowry for a pint, when it was actually the football final.

There was I thinking that every Irishman has it engraved on his soul that the hurling final is always on the first Sunday in September -- but evidently not.

Dobbo, to give him his due, was playing his role to the hilt. But these hard newsmen do not bother themselves with such sporting trivialities, so he let it pass -- and, in fairness, there are large sections of the RTE sports department where they don't greatly bother themselves with such pedantry either.

Their kindred spirits in the civil service could be seen later that night on Prime Time, a scene which was supposed to be no more than a cameo, but which lingers long in the mind.

It was just some old footage of these senior officials in Lowry's department, giving a press conference. All of them have been completely exonerated.

But something about these senior civil servants was so ... senior civil servant-like ... it told you much about the nature of power and about the human condition itself.

In 14 seconds. For free.

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