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Because she's worth it

MARIAN Finucane's recent trip into Today FM was surely treated like the British Queen's visit to Ireland (possibly even featuring a red-carpet ceremony, the Corrigan Brothers and a charming attempt to speak Private Sector).

One way or another, her Marianship found herself across a studio table from Ray 'Mary McAleese' D'Arcy answering polite questions about a new book of her radio interviews.

This may have been a shock to the system for her. (RTE is situated in a magical flying castle piloted by dolphins and unicorns, while Today FM is headquartered in a burnt-out caravan under a flyover bridge. I usually find it by following the sound of weeping).

"Where is the lady who scratches my nose with a pearl-handled scratching device?" Marian must have cried in bewilderment, sitting on packing crates instead of a chair and wearing headphones made from an elastic band and two slices of bread. "Whither the lemonade fountain, the gold microphones, the marble effigy of Gerry Ryan and the warm glow of the tax-payer money fire?"

But Marian is a pro, and she recalled interviews with Mary Coughlan and her late friend Nuala O'Faolain.

The chat even touched briefly on her own attitudes to death and bereavement. And it was good radio, because Marian (despite being RTE royalty) is a smart woman who thinks deep thoughts and Ray (despite being a private sector serf) is a good interviewer.

That said, he was very polite initially and it was only towards the end that he asked about her ridiculous comedy-sized wages.

"You're universally respected and yet in any conversation I have where your name comes up it always ends up with your salary," said Ray.

Marian said she could understand this. She also mentioned the cuts she'd taken, a person who does her negotiating, attempts to poach her in the past and how much work goes into each episode of her show, despite it only filling four hours of weekly airtime.

"I'll use your favourite phrase," said Ray. "'Ah come on, Marian!' . . . whatever way you do the maths on it, it appears to most people out there that you are making too much money for what you do."

"Would you say to the editor of the Sunday Times, that he works one day a week?" she asked, which was a bit silly ("I've only seen Buzz Aldrin kicking around the moon once and he seems to be loaded!" she could have added).

I'd liked to have heard more of her reasoning, but sadly this was near the end of the programme. Then Pegasus, RTE's genetically engineered flying pony brought her back to Narnia . . . I mean Montrose.

Marian, to be fair, does deserve some of that wealth. On Saturday, amid the plush satin interiors and perfumed air of Radio 1, she hosted a great discussion on the history of Fianna Fail/the Irish people (once considered the same thing).

It featured Noel Whelan who wrote a book on the subject, Dessie O'Malley, a dissident Fianna Failer who started the PDs, and John Bowman, a multi-purpose brainbox who roams Montrose being wise. They also played audio of De Valera imagining the Irish as a "people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living . . . a people who, satisfied with frugal comforts, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit".


Even in 1943 that didn't sound like us. The next day the play, Accident and Emergency by Dermot Bolger (inspired by Sean O'Casey's Hall of Healing), tried a little too hard to get the measure of the post Celtic Tiger Irish.

Bookended by well-sketched, sometimes moving scenes in an overcrowded A&E, the sillier middle act features two middle-aged men from a ghost estate hiding the body of an uninsured workman.

Eamon is a weak, desperate classics graduate with a shovel. Simon is a self-consciously evil businessman with a poor grasp of what to say to an angry classics graduate with a shovel.

"You don't have the guts to use it," Simon sneers, before choosing that moment to confess to an affair with Eamon's wife.

Simon is hit on the head with a shovel . . . clearly what he wanted all along.