| 9.2°C Dublin

John Boland: Campaign fails to inspire, but at least we're not alone in slough of despond

LISTENING to Radio 1's John Bowman yesterday made me nostalgic for the political shenanigans of 1982.

Unlike the current election countdown, which has come up with nothing more exciting than Labour wrangling with Fine Gael, and Gerry Adams being asked to wrangle with his past, back in 1982 it was all happening, as Bowman's splendid archive show reminded listeners.

Fine Gael was dumped from office by Fianna Fail but were back in power within 12 months, Charlie Haughey was swatting off heaves by Des O'Malley and other upstarts, a killer was found lurking in the Attorney General's flat, Tony Gregory was holding the government to ransom, and Joan FitzGerald was pleading with husband Garret, "For God's sake, don't put VAT on clothes," while neglecting to notice that he'd left the house in two odd shoes.

Mind you, over on Newstalk yesterday, presenter Karen Coleman was trying to stir it up with the Irish MEPs, who were gathered around her in a Strasbourg studio.

"Excuse the language," Karen said before asking if their colleagues in Europe felt that the Irish "couldn't run a piss-up in a brewery".

Not a bit of it, apparently. "What I find here is sympathy," Labour's Proinsias De Rossa solemnly said, while Fine Gael's Sean Kelly revealed his intimacy with important EU officials by confiding that Jose Manuel Barroso -- the president of the commission, no less -- had stopped him in a corridor and solicitously enquired, "How are things in Ireland?"

Not too good, as it happens, though Newstalk's Eamon Dunphy was quick to point out that we're not alone in our slough of despond.

"Portugal's in the same hole as us," Eamon declared. "Portugal's gone!"

They were quaking in Lisbon when they heard that, but then Eamon forgot all about the Portuguese in favour of a lively discussion on our own ills involving Dearbhail McDonald, Constantin Gurdgiev, John Waters and ex-IMF man Donal Donovan.

Not a politician among them, thank God. However, over on Sam Smyth's Today FM show, there were two on the panel, including independent Dylan Haskins, who's apparently 23 although he looks about nine-and-a-half on his poster, which declares: "It starts here."

What does? (Still, it's better than fellow independent Carl J Haughton's poster slogan out in Dun Laoghaire, which reads "Nobody's candidate, but yours" -- that fatally delaying comma inviting undue attention to the first two words.)

Sam's panel also included poll analyst Stuart Kenny, who dryly observed of John Gormley's willingness to go into partnership with Fine Gael that "it's very hard to coalesce if you've got no seats". He was no more comforting to Sinn Fein, which had run "quite a good campaign, if they could disappear Gerry Adams".

And when it came to Labour, he proved himself a master of understatement, merely noting that "things haven't worked out as well as they hoped".

Things haven't worked out at all for Fianna Fail, whose leader, Micheal Martin, was quizzed by Gavin Jennings on Radio 1's lunchtime show.

Someone should tell Micheal that becoming increasingly cranky and snippy with interviewers is not the way to go.

"Just hear me out!" he snapped as Gavin tried to cut through the party-political waffle. "Don't try to restrict my right to speak!" Oh dear, Micheal.

Irish Independent