Thursday 22 March 2018

TV comics' stunt gives rude awakening on the power of gossip

People will believe almost anything if it is presented to them in the right format, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Long ago, in the good old days when we still had money and thought all bankers were Santa Claus -- you know, the Celtic Tiger era in whose comforting illusions we're now desperately trying to pretend we never really believed -- I turned on the radio one day to hear Charlie McCreevy, then Minister for Finance, announce his resignation live from the Cheltenham Festival.

Immediately, I began ringing colleagues ferverishly to find out the latest details, only to be told by those much less gullible than me that it was a spoof, and that the Charlie I'd heard was actually a comedian who made a living out of impersonating Irish politicians. At which point, a number of emotions passed through my brain. Embarrassment uppermost. Incredulity, too, that there was money to be made from passing yourself off as Charlie McCreevy. But nowhere do I remember feeling annoyed that someone had dared to make mischief out of the political situation of the time.

David McCullagh, RTE's venerated political correspondent (well, political correspondent anyway) didn't take it quite so well last week when a woman from RTE comedy show Republic of Telly doorstepped TDs and asked them for a comment on Mary Harney's resignation -- which hadn't happened at all, but rumours of which were soon flying round Leinster House.

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