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Mary, queen of our hearts

On Tuesday Marc Coleman, of Coleman at Large, really was at large, as fill-in presenter Mick Clifford jokingly observed (this news made me instinctively check behind my chair for fear an unleashed Coleman might ambush me in my own home with a counter-intuitive right-wing argument).

The absence of the irascible and eponymous Coleman and the presence of the relaxed but pointed Clifford meant that the tone of the show was a bit more laid back than usual.

The convivial atmosphere was enhanced by Mary O'Rourke, a tame ex-Fianna Fail politician who has remodelled herself as Mammy Eireann, the pass-remarkable mother of us all. She is basically the architect of economic destruction it's okay to like and she's never off the airwaves. Someday I expect to flick between stations to find she's on two programmes at once.

She was there to discuss the leadership of Micheal Martin, the future of the Fianna Fail party, its general faffing about whether to field a presidential candidate and the presidential election in general.


It was an entertaining discussion, with journalist Deaglán de Bréadún recalling when Fianna Fail were the party of Christian Brothers boys with open-necked shirts, security analyst Declan Power cheekily adding Devil's Double Latif Yahia to our increasingly crazed list of presidential candidates (that list now reads like a verse from Christy Moore's Lisdoonvarna) and O'Rourke herself taking targeted potshots at everyone behind a shield of matronly delightfulness.

"There's no ideas; there's no great aspirations being put forward," she sighed of the presidential candidates.

"What ideas would you have?" said Clifford, hinting that she should run.

"It's they should have them. I'm not running!" said O'Rourke, guffawing like everyone's favourite aunt.

Later it was observed that Michael D Higgins might win because he managed to seem like an outsider and establishment politician at the same time. O'Rourke vigorously agreed with this assessment. And she's basically been doing the same thing.

Forget the presidential wannabes, it's O'Rourke who, despite being in the party that bankrupted us, has managed to become president of a place that really counts: our hearts.

On Tuesday, Monty Hall told Matt Cooper all about the six months he spent on the Connemara coast working with sea life for a television programme. It sounded lovely. With all the basking sharks that gather there, Hall told Cooper, we could easily create a site for eco-tourism. Cooper queried whether this would be good for the animals, and Hall responded that it would be fine if handled sensitively. It was sweet the way he thought ethics would override venality. Sadly, this is recessionary Ireland, so those poor basking sharks will be wearing saddles, name tags and giving fat children rides before the month is out.

On Wednesday in Glenamaddy, Valerie Cox reported for Today with Pat Kenny from a meeting of angry locals prohibited from turf cutting by EU environmental legislation. Passions ran high. Embattled turf cutters evoked the Land League and century-old family traditions and there was real sadness there. But perspective was soon lost. "It's deplorable," said Michael Fitzmaurice of the Turf Cutters' Association of forthcoming EU regulations. "It's dictatorship," he added, which seemed particularly ill-judged given that the previous report had been from Tripoli where people were overthrowing a real dictator.

All week, reports from Libya were putting Irish problems into perspective (there was a particularly scary report by Matthew Price from the besieged Rixos Hotel on Wednesday's Today programme). They seemed petty by comparison.

It took a marketing guru on Newstalk's Lunchtime to make the relative pettiness explicit with a tasteless analogy. Fianna Fail, said PR man Paul Allen, was like a soldier in Tripoli: "battle-scarred, fatigued and badly wounded". Distant African suffering, it turns out, is just another metaphor for Irish political underachievement.


On Wednesday's John Murray Show, an underachieving Rose of Tralee contestant went on an entertainingly unsisterly rant. "I wasn't here to make friends, John," said Siobhan, the Melbourne Rose. "I was here to get some Newbridge silverware and a sash and maybe a husband." Sadly, it was just a prank. There was no Melbourne Rose. Which was a shame, because sulky, embittered Siobhan was fast becoming the Rose of Tralee ... of our hearts.