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Declan Lynch: Paddy partakes in his own deception

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At the time I noted it, but didn't think much of it. Micheal Martin, in the course of his otherwise excellent attack on Gerry Adams during the leaders' debate, had attempted to use one of the oldest and most tired lines in Irish showbusiness: "there'll be one for everyone in the audience".

Except he got it wrong, emerging with "something for the audience every Friday night" under an Adams regime.

Which perhaps in itself is not a war crime, but which might have merited some media comment on the grounds that a man who could make such a basic error must have been living in some faraway land for a long time now. And one might also have expected to hear some harsh words about the handlers and their brain-storming sessions which can't produce anything better than this, a line so old it should never be used by any thinking person in any circumstances, let alone in a national emergency.

But the commentators, in their hundreds, let it pass. Again we will not get too excited about this, because we are well aware by now that it is beyond them to ascribe any importance to the use of the same old cliches, or to suggest at least that a new range of cliches might be more appropriate for these desperate times.

But then it got really strange, when it was widely reported the following morning that Martin had said there'd be "one for everyone in the audience". They'd actually corrected it for him.

Now it had shades of the Financial Regulator giving a free pass to the lads at Anglo over some minor "technical" issue, the nod and the wink, the little indulgences that seem so small at the time, but which tell us much about a culture in which they are all in it together.

I was alerted to this by a friend who has emigrated to England, and who is monitoring the election with a wintry eye. "Not only are they misleading the people, by failing to point out the fact that Martin fluffed his big line, and it was a piss-poor line in the first place . . . they are conspiring to maintain the shoddiness of Irish public life, the mediocrity of it all, the sense that, 'Ah, sure it'll do,'" he raged.

And then I told him that there would be a debate in Irish.

There was a silence on the line for a few seconds, as he struggled to absorb what I had just said. Then he spoke, with a terrible clarity.

"The f****ng c***s," he said.

And then, when he had gathered his thoughts, he analysed it thus: "It is just another form of insidious bullshit . . . it is Paddy again being a willing participant in his own deception, deep in denial, congratulating himself on this phony debate with the subtitles, which means it will actually be ignored in two languages."

Sure enough, even Ivan Yates, by his own admission a political "rain man", an election junkie who is very far gone, confessed that he opted for the Champions League instead.

Indeed, it was most revealing that one commentator tipped Enda Kenny to win the debate because "he has the best

Irish". As if a proper debate would be won by the leader with "the best English". As if when the IMF rolled into town, there was a great plea from the people: will somebody please explain this to us in Irish?

And as if we weren't fooling ourselves enough, we make this the one debate that isn't "live", because we know that the viewing figures would be embarrassing, so we delay showing it until the subtitles have been added.

And, again, for my friend the emigrant there is nothing new about us codding ourselves in this way, it's just that at a time like this, "it is f****ing obscene".

As for the real debate last Monday night, the next morning the PR man Jim Glennon could be heard denouncing it as an exercise in "showbusiness".

If only . . .

If only we were hearing anything of the standard of the comedy series The Savage Eye, which could be seen on RTE2 during this exercise in "showbusiness". If only the intelligence and the creativity and the hard work and attention to detail of David McSavage and his talented crew were more common in public life, then perhaps we wouldn't have 1,000 people a week leaving the country, not even tempted to stay by the prospect of a leader who has "the best Irish".

Sunday Independent