Tuesday 25 June 2019

Twink sketch causes a stir after all these years

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

YOUNG people must sometimes feel like they missed all the good stuff. Like how the hell did claims arise that Twink apparently managed to destroy the Fine Gael party by performing a short sketch at their mini Ard Fheis? The whole issue rose again when the sketch was featured in Fine Gael - A Family at War.

As it happens, I've been researching the incident for Play The Game, my forthcoming unauthorised biography of Twink, so here goes with a brief history lesson:

Twink did indeed perform a sketch at the mini FG Ard Fheis. And some of it did indeed revolve around FF's Ned O'Keeffe allegedly copping a feel off Una Claffey in the Dail bar. Even with the benefit of hindsight, historians still don't understand Ned'smotivations for that one. While conventional wisdom now dictates that the sketch was tasteless, Liam Collins's report on the incident in this newspaper at the time in fact reveals that "Mary Banotti and Alan Dukes were laughing and actually applauded sections of the sketch, Nora Owen was also smiling." But later the party would later get indignant about the sketch and its alleged sexism.

And then we come to the most bizarre bit, the involvement of Eoghan Harris, who allegedly wrote Twink's script. How, you may ask, did Eoghan Harris manage to involve himself in such a fiasco? Harris was hot at the time, coming off orchestrating two against-all-odds election victories for Frank Ross and Mary Robbo. Furthermore, Harris had mainly written Niall Toibin's TV series Time Now Mr T and If The Cap Fits as well as the Sharpe series for British TV. So how the hell did a man who was apparently such a master of spin and comedy manage to create something that was such a disaster in terms of both spin and comedy? It just doesn't make sense.

Reading the newspapers of the time help you to understand two things. Factually, Eoghan Harris didn't write the sketch that Twink performed. He wrote about half of it, with Twink "expertly" improvising the other half, stuff like jokes about Ned O'Keeffe being hugely endowed. This was shown in the Sunday Independent at the time - which ran the sketch, italicising Twink's ad libs, and we run it again below.

Secondly, with the benefit of hindsight, we historians can also see that much of the fuss about the sketch, a fuss which centred around Harris, was to do with Harris's unfashionable, new, post-left post-Republican political position and his general smugness at the time. Harris might have been regarded by some as needing to take a fall.

The epilogue to all this is that Twink went on to enjoy success in areas other than on TV, Eoghan Harris went on to work for Fine Gael again in numerous capacities and most of those Fine Gaelers who bitched about the sketch subsequently lost their seats with varying degrees of ignominy. The incident also gave us one of the great newspaper headlines of the modern era: 'FG Think Tank After Twink Stink'.

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