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Thursday 22 February 2018

A crystal clear Yes made most coverage dull as dishwater

EXCEPT for anoraks, political campaigns are often dull and confusing. But at least the vote-count is exciting, right? Not this time, as the result was virtually guaranteed by 9.30am.

It didn't start like this. According to 'It Says in the Papers' on 'Morning Ireland', there was no press consensus on the people's verdict. A Libertas spokesperson said: "We're daring to dream." On 'Newstalk Breakfast', Lucinda Creighton didn't "want to jump the gun" but was confident. TV3's 'Ireland AM' got in on the act, with Aisling Ni Choisdealbha waiting at Dublin Castle for ballot boxes to open at nine. On Radio 1 Pat Kenny joked about a "seemingly interminable campaign" as he spearheaded RTE's day-long coverage.

Then, the early tallies: all Yes, which killed any potential for drama. A panel discussed what it meant, and No was let down by its advocates. Mary Lou was grandstanding, Luke Flanagan rabble-rousing with sentimental waffle.

Declan Ganley was by far the best. Unfairly portrayed as some sort of Bond villain when he first appeared, he's an impressive speaker.

On TV we had Miriam, Dobbo, and an oddly dreary discussion. Not much left to discuss at that point, possibly, though Joe Higgins doughtily attempted to hoist the red flag by claiming "the working-class" showed "strong resistance", and Yes votes were "resentful".

On 'Newstalk Lunchtime' Jonathan Healy was crunching the numbers, and Shane Coleman explained how this was important for the Government. But because the result was known, this show and 'News at One' felt flat. They discussed ramifications, but the vague future is no replacement for present-tense drama.

Still, Sean O'Rourke had one scary quote from journalist Martin Wolf: "The reward for pain today is pain tomorrow." Let's hope he's the boy who cried wolf.

Afternoon TV saw Miriam interview Gerry Adams: another disappointing No proponent. Good in times of war and peace, he seems out of his depth on economics.

Entrepreneur Norah Casey was much better as she explained why she campaigned for Yes. Tony Connolly gave Europe's reaction, while Fianna Failer Timmy Dooley made the excellent point that Opposition is about more than articulating people's unhappiness -- you must strive for actual solutions.

By now Dobbo was talking party politics with Pat Rabbitte -- it might interest them, but who cares? UCC academic Dr Theresa Reidy offered a welcome alternative: informative and lucid.

So we shuffled to the end of a strangely underwhelming day. On Today FM, Matt Cooper was doing what he's best at: making complicated events comprehensible.

Enda Kenny's valedictory speech on 'Drivetime' really hit the mark: impassioned and generous (he thanked Fianna Fail, for helping secure the vote). The guy has flaws but gives a good speech -- and sometimes, that can feel like almost enough.

Irish Independent Supplement

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