Tuesday 19 November 2019

Images far more eloquent than any comment

FOR Moneygall it would prove to be "the greatest 45 minutes in its history", John Murray predicted on his RTE radio show yesterday morning.

In fact, the visit there lasted a lot longer than that and was so up close and personal that the entire village's inhabitants won't feel like washing their presidentially clasped hands until a public health edict is slapped on them.

On the same show, veteran New York columnist Maureen Dowd forecast that last week's royal visit would be "an incredibly hard act to follow".

And, indeed, President Barack Obama's first couple of engagements on Irish soil didn't provide the frisson felt by television viewers when the queen stepped off the plane last Tuesday and later visited the Garden of Remembrance.

Was this because, having already welcomed five other US presidents, we didn't feel this latest visit to be as momentous as that involving the British monarch, or had it to do with Mr Obama himself, a man whom we might find somewhat remote in comparison with frequent Irish visitor Bill Clinton?

TV3's morning panellists inclined to the latter view; journalist Marion McKeone deeming him "a cooler cat" than Clinton, communications guru Terry Prone noting that Obama didn't exhibit his predecessor's "love me, love me" traits and DCU journalism professor Stephen Knowlton agreeing that he was "not as needy".

That general view, though, changed spectacularly as the day progressed.

Television, rather than radio, was the medium with which to experience what was unfolding and for this second huge international event within a week, TV3 was once again the channel to watch, especially during the morning's occasional lulls, when RTE1's earnest panellists couldn't compete in quirkiness or liveliness or, indeed, provocativeness with those being interviewed by assured and relaxed morning host Colette Fitzpatrick -- not least former democratic delegate Vincent Lavery, who was eloquent in his anger at American foreign policy.

Alas, after an impressive four hours as anchor, Colette was replaced by Alan Cantwell, who attempted to fill in the visual longueurs -- when all we were gazing at was an airstrip or a field -- with verbal paragraphs so tortuously drawn out that Proust would have been proud of their insomnia-solving properties.

Soon afterwards, thankfully, commentary became redundant, the images in Moneygall speaking eloquently for themselves as the US president displayed a warmth and easy playfulness no one had quite expected.

His College Green speech, which was preceded by an enjoyable parade of sporting, cultural and musical talent (oh yes, and Jedward, too), was also extraordinary, evincing both a passion and a thrilling oratory that he seemed to have mislaid since entering the White House.

And if, when introducing the US president, Enda Kenny quite lost the run of himself with grandstanding rhetoric more suited to the parish pump at election time, well, he was probably just giddy at the fortuitous circumstances which have seen him as presiding local hero at two major historic events within the space of a few days.

He should be thanking Fianna Fail for making it all possible.

Irish Independent Supplement

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