Crying game...Dobbo's your uncle
WHEN the going gets tough, ring up the RTE newsroom and summon Bryan Dobson.
Brian Lenihan: "Upon mature recollection" - RTE, 1990
Gerry Collins "Don't burst up the party Albert" - RTE, 1991.
Bertie Ahern: "There were no favours sought, no favours given" - RTE, 2006.
WHEN the going gets tough, what's a Fianna Fail chap to do but ring up the RTE newsroom and book a prime teardrop slot on the Six-One News?
Don't bother with that pesky Dail thingy where you're supposed to be held to account and stuff like that.
No, just summon Bryan Dobson, or Dobbo as he likes to call himself, and run him around to St Lukes for a cosy combo of crafted questions and sculpted answers.
Then get the onion skins going, triggering just a hint of a tear with a bit of cracked voice, and Dobbo's your uncle as the nation melts into Bertie's Teflon arms once again.
After telling us all to mind our own business, Bertie last night decided it was our business after all - namely, that he took a fair whack of money to fund a personal lifestyle choice.
There may have been no Charvet silk shirts or Michael Lowry kitchen refits, but there was the small matter of IR£39,000 (?50,000) handed over by 12 generous friends in 1993 and 1994.
It won't get you a broom cupboard now, but a decade ago 40 grand was the price of a house in Dublin. Never mind dat, said Bertie, there was no financial obligation placed on him as he struggled to pay debts incurred by his separation from wife Miriam.
And anyway, it wasn't like he had taken millions or anything, it was only thousands. "If I was to take several hundreds of thousands or several million . . . that would be totally, totally wrong," said the leader of our country without a wince.
Bertie was minister for finance at the time, one of the best-paid jobs in Ireland, complete with chauffeur-driven limo. He now earns almost quarter of a million euro a year. Yet he never paid back a red cent.
a bob in tax. His friends you see, just wouldn't hear of it. A debt of honour, you understand. Like Homer Simpson, he slowly kept repeating the phrase, drummed into him by his advisers until it stuck. Debt of honour, debt of honour . . . .debt of honour. The punters would buy that.
The Bertie donors include one of the country's wealthiest publicans, Charlie Chawke. Incredibly, another was unmasked as a bloke known as Paddy the Plasterer.
have come to a sorry pass when a plasterer is lending the poor old minister for finance a few quid to tide him over. "They were all personal friends, good friends," said Bertie.
He added: "No favours were sought by dem and none were given by me."
Laughable, really, that he chose RTE for his tear-jerker, considering the station virtually ignored the elephant in the room for the guts of a week. Yesterday, Labour leader Pat Rabbitte had the nerve on Radio One to suggest Bertie might have shared his pain in the the Dail first. Drivetime presenter Mary Wilson put silly Pat back in his box. "We're the nation's broadcaster," she cooed, apparently forgetting that the Dail is the nation's parliament.
No matter, RTE gratefully took the freebie and wrung it for every saccharine coated drop - each of the 24 minutes manna from heaven for a misty-eyed Bertie and his spinners.
This was better than 'Fair City' as Bertie heaved at the nation's heartstrings. "It was a very, dark period for me; a very sad period for me," said the Taoiseach, his voice choking.
For a moment, a tear threatened to drop as he paused for dramatic effect, his big lovely eyes darting around the room.
Then he was back at it, putting us all back in our place. A big fat bung to help him through his separation, not a penny paid back and it was not really anyone's business.
Was he happy to go into the Dail to answer questions today? "I'm quite frankly not sure what I'd have to answer (sic)," said Bertie.
Then it was time to do what he really wanted to do: shoot the messenger. Who was the leaker, he asked again, saying that he didn't want to take anyone's character, "but somebody took mine".
the end, there was a muttered few words of regret. "If I've caused offence to anyone, I think I have to a few people, I'm sorry."
Dobbo was fit to burst. "Taoiseach, thank you for talking to us."