Sunday 18 August 2019

Why Kenny is wise to avoid too many media stints

Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

Last week, Fine Gael got a bounce in the polls. And a kick in the backside from the Fiscal Advisory Council.

But at least Enda Kenny threw the abortion grenade out of the bunker before it blew the Coalition to bits.

By doing so he saved Labour from total liquidation. Because abortion is not like divorce or same-sex marriage.

Abortion worries people of all persuasions. It will take two years of debate before a majority is ready to back major change.


Last week, a metropolitan gossip magazine claimed I "advise" Micheal Martin and that he's a commercial "client" of mine.

Rubbish. I never took a penny from Proinsias De Rossa, Mary Robinson and David Trimble. Ditto Micheal Martin.

So I did not advise Martin to castigate Kenny for his slipshod responses to parliamentary questions - but I agreed with him.

But I certainly did not agree with Martin criticising Kenny for failing to go on the Vincent Browne show.

Basically, I would advise any Taoiseach to stay away from chat shows. You don't see David Cameron deferring to pompous presenters.

Last Tuesday, Browne started keening about all the times he had called Kenny without response.

Naturally, he was backed by the panel - although Justine McCarthy stressed Kenny's first duty was to answer in Dail Eireann.

It was generous of Justine to overlook Browne's gormless performance on a recent Ray D'Arcy show when asked to list the journalists he respected.

Browne did not mention even one woman. So much for Dearbhail McDonald, Kathy Sheridan, Alison O'Connor and Eilis O'Hanlon.

The more Browne moans, the more he comes across like some needy character in Sex and the City, fretting by the phone.

Time a kind friend told him: "He's just not that into you."


Taking my own advice. I severely ration broadcast media appearances. RTE helps by never asking me on a show.

But that is not why I turned down George Hook's invitation to debate Muslim immigration on The Right Hook.

Being interviewed by Hook is not the same as being interviewed by Pat Kenny or Shane Coleman.

Hook models himself on Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. He uses his show to editorialise, what Americans call a "bully pulpit".

So he reserves the right to run interference on his guests, interrupting and arguing as he pleases.

By and large Hook uses his bully pulpit benignly. But not, to my mind, on Muslim immigration.

In his editorial of November 16, he said refugees should be held in camps if necessary for decades while being checked out. The after-image left behind was that of an impending apocalypse.

Hook is entitled to his views on Muslim immigration. But not to pretending that bawling out Muslim immigration is not popular.

Offered a choice, I believe most Irish people would call a halt to Muslim immigration given the relatively slow rate of integration in Europe.

Hook got some hate mail from the headbangers. But I bet that bourgeois Cork will pump his hand warmly as he makes his way down Pana at Christmas.

He will be even more popular after telling the Evening Echo, "I'd like to see Irish people in houses first before we start taking people in".

Call me cynical but I bet that went down well, too. As did his rejection of the report of the European Network Against Racism.

Hook dismissed allegations that persons of African descent were subjected to over 200 reported incidences of racism in Ireland.

Like Hook, I would question that, too. Based on my conversations with black Irish citizens, the figures are far too low.

Most black taxi drivers can't be bothered to report the daily slurs and insults.

But sadly when I get into a taxi with a black driver the radio is usually tuned to Newstalk and the plummy Cork tones of George Hook.


Although I am no admirer of Liam Doran, who is so coy about his salary, I strongly support the proposed nurses strike against the appalling conditions in A&E units.

Three times in the past year I found myself in St Vincent's A&E amid scenes that resembled the bloody shambles of the surgeon's cabin during a battle in Master and Commander.

A few weeks ago, making a sandwich in a fit of the midnight munchies, I cut my index finger so deeply I could not staunch the flow and sought help in St Vincent's A&E.

Thanks to triage, which rightly puts a minor wound well down the list, it was over five hours before I broke and begged a tired doctor to stitch me up swiftly before I passed out.

Two weeks later the wound had closed, but the index finger could not. Although I had no real pain, the finger seemed dark beside the others.

Finally some primitive fear prompted me to go to the emergency unit at Blackrock Clinic. There I paid €140, which turned out to be the best value I ever got in the health service.

Within 15 minutes an emergency trauma consultant was eyeballing my finger. He didn't like what he saw.

To my surprise he said he was calling in a plastic surgeon, which turned out to also mean a reconstructive surgeon.

Fuan Chan arrived within minutes. He looked like the handsome young cop in the film Internal Affairs and inspired the same instant confidence.

Although the wound had closed, Mr Chan had a hunch that all was not well within. He wanted to reopen the wound and look around.

Without hesitation, I gave him the go -ahead to administer a local anaesthetic.

Mr Chan's hunch was correct. Within the wound, my tendon was hanging on a thread.

He sewed it up on the spot. And saved my index finger, one of the two I use to type this column.

Every two days for the past fortnight Mr Chan has dressed the wound himself, a tedious job which another surgeon might have fobbed off on a nurse. As he applies the antibiotic bandages, he murmurs beneath his breath, "very important finger".

Mr Chan is from Malaya, speaks seven languages, and is totally on top of his complex profession, poised delicately between an art and a craft.

Luckily for me, and I suspect many more, Blackrock Clinic secured his services. Within a few weeks I shall be typing with two index fingers.


Finally, a fond farewell to Willie Kealy, Associate Editor of the Sunday Independent, who finishes up this weekend after 46 years in the frontline of Irish journalism.

Willie has a prodigious political memory, can write a column full of wisdom, and spot a defamation no matter how deeply buried.

He knows where all the illustrious political corpses are buried, should he wish to write a bestseller. But he is just as likely to write poetry.

Sage, mentor and guide, go maire se cead.

Sunday Independent

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