Friday 16 November 2018

Taoiseach upset at Late Late ‘mugging’

RTE executive admits Tubridy did not give Taoiseach time to answer

JODY CORCORAN

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is deeply unhappy at the manner in which he was interviewed on Friday night by Ryan Tubridy, the new host of the Late Late Show.

A clearly upset Mr Cowen spoke exclusively to the Sunday Independent in the Green Room of RTE immediately after he came off the show.

Referring to a broadly similar interview he did with me three weeks ago, he said: “At least you gave me a chance to answer.”

The Taoiseach was anxious to play down any potential controversy which may arise from the interview. “What’s done is done,” he said, “I will just move on.”

It can be revealed, however, that several senior figures in RTE are said to be unhappy at the way in which Mr Tubridy conducted the set-piece interview.

An RTE executive told the Sunday Independent on Friday night: “Ryan’s questions were fine, but he didn’t give the Taoiseach enough time to answer. He probably should have given him a bit of space.

“But it was Ryan’s first programme. It was a big night for him. Maybe he was just a bit nervous. That’s the way it came across to me.”

Immediately after the show, Mr Tubridy said he “did not feel the need to prove anything” by his adopting a tough, some would say overly aggressive, line of questioning with the Taoiseach.

He said he had put a lot of preparation into the interview and felt it was appropriate that he should put his questions to Mr Cowen in the manner he chose.

“I thought about it a lot,” he said. “We are at a turning point in the country’s history. I felt I had a duty that the questions be difficult.”

When it was put to him that he had misrepresented a recent Sunday Independent interview with Mr Cowen, during which the subject of the Taoiseach’s drinking was raised, Mr Tubridy said: “I have no view on that, no, no.”

Mr Tubridy raised the issue with the Taoiseach by claiming: “The Sunday Independent talked about you drinking too much . . .” This claim was subsequently repeated by RTE News when it reported on Mr Tubridy’s first night as host of the Late Late Show.

Mr Cowen was alone when he met me immediately after his interview. The government press secretary had accompanied him to RTE, but was initially outside the room.

Sipping a glass of mineral water, and removing his own make-up, the Taoiseach said of the interview: “It was like a junior hurling match in Offaly.

The pulling was hard from the throw-in. All I could do was to stay in close and wait for my chance.”

Mr Cowen received several phone calls from friends and supporters while in the Green Room, many of whom were clearly upset at the manner in which Mr Tubridy had conducted the interview.

“Don’t worry about it,” he told several of them.

However, government sources later disclosed that a deep level of unhappiness exists with RTE. These sources also point to an interview Finance Minister Brian Lenihan gave to Prime Time last Thursday to discuss the Government’s Nama proposal.

Sources close to Mr Lenihan said he was upset at what he felt were too many interruptions by his interviewer, journalist Mark Little. Mr Lenihan is said to have protested to Mr Little after the programme.

Government sources say that Mr Cowen, as part of his strategy to make himself more available to the media, granted seven interviews to local radio stations around the country in recent weeks.

“At least he gets a fair hearing on local radio, unlike Friday night,” a government source said. He added: “I mean, he doesn’t mind what questions are asked of him. He will try to answer everything.

“But he should be allowed to answer at least, to give full and proper answers. That’s the point of an interview after all,” a government source said.

While the Taoiseach is keen to move on from any potential controversy, a source close to Mr Cowen yesterday told the Sunday Independent: “Look, I don’t know what it is with the media in Ireland these days.

It’s not about Brian, it’s about the office he holds. He is the Taoiseach, after all. To be treated like that on the Late Late Show is outrageous.”

A Sunday Independent telephone poll, conducted yesterday morning, asked respondents if their opinion of Mr Cowen had altered after his Late Late interview: 41 per cent said the Taoiseach had gone up in their estimation; just 17 per cent said he had gone down; and 42 per cent said their view of Mr Cowen was unchanged.

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