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Gerry O'Carroll: Why can't RTE do its job -- and cheer us all up?

RTE's new year programming schedule has done nothing to cheer me up.

MD of Television Noel Curran claimed it would provide for high quality home-produced content, but the line-up makes for depressing reading.

During the long cold nights ahead, all we have to look forward to is the same uninspiring, unadventurous, tired old recipes in the same old jaded format. The schedule looks worryingly as if it has been cobbled together in a low-budget style, reflecting the financial constraints of the national broadcaster.

Yet again, RTE will provide no competition for the slick international stations now available to most viewers.

I really can't understand its short-sighted policy. Why in God's name did they chop The Clinic, one of the success stories of the past few years and a soap opera to match its foreign counterparts? The star of that defunct programme -- Amy Huberman -- is now fronting a new comedy sketch show. I wish her well but I don't think even a star like Amy can save RTE from a dismal season.

Down through the years, RTE has failed utterly to produce decent, worthwhile comedy. The ones they have attempted looked amateurish, embarrassing, stilted, contrived and hopelessly unfunny.

So why should we expect the new presentations to be any different? It has been a hallmark of the broadcaster that it has been spectacularly unsuccessful in giving us comedy series like Only Fools And Horses or Rising Damp.

Compounding the misery of the weather, we'll have to watch Katherine Lynch and her new mockumentary as she impersonates a number of Irish female stereotypes. She's usually quite funny but knowing RTE I'm sceptical that it will be a success.

Then of course there's Ireland's answer to Have I Got News For You, starting this Thursday. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't RTE already try this format with The Panel? Throw in several dull-sounding fly-on-the-wall programmes about schools and music and it makes for grim TV viewing.

Once again, we'll get a serving of another unoriginal talent show, this time with a backstage spin-off.

Things got off to a terrible start with the cobbled-together talent show that rang in the New Year. And it will continue to get worse unless the station starts championing our many talented actors and writers.

When it shelled out big money for Strumpet City all those years ago, it was a leap of faith that paid off.

Since then, however, RTE has lost its nerve.

The 2010 season was billed as entertainment that would get the country energised. Alas, I'm afraid that's a hopelessly optimistic and brazen interpretation of the meagre fare on offer.

Somebody's slipped up badly in this icy scandal

One could be forgiven for believing we've been in the grip of some enormous dire emergency in the past three weeks.

Yet the hysteria and hype has been sparked not by volcanoes or earthquakes or tsunamis but by an almost laughably light dusting of snow just a few centimetres deep.

We must be a laughing stock. Our European neighbours are surely sniggering at our inability to cope when they routinely face down far more severe weather conditions.

True, this has been a prolonged icy spell, and temperatures have fallen to below 10 degrees, which is virtually unheard of in Ireland.

But that's no reason why the whole country should grind to a halt.

This weather "catastrophe" is simply an icy spell, and the only problem is that we have been so badly prepared for it.

At local government level, there has been an incredible failure in providing enough grit for the roads to ensure the safety of the travelling public.

Scandal

It is nothing short of a national scandal that this essential service has not been provided in some places. Realistically, we have 90,000 miles of minor roadways, and we can't expect county councils to provide a gritting service for these.

But when some major roadways are being ignored, it is an incomprehensible failure and symptomatic of the malaise, inertia and lack of leadership that lies at the very heart of this Government.

Bizarrely, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and Environment Minister John Gormley have not made a single public utterance about the problem.

As their silence continues, the hospital A&E departments fill up with hundreds of people suffering broken bones, sprains and fractures, thanks to our icy roads.

I believe the failure of county councils in this so-called emergency has been nothing short of a monumental cock-up. Really it's high time for Ministers Dempsey and Gormley to open their mouths and explain to the public their abject failure in handling this crisis.

We are lucky to have a man of the calibre of Brian Lenihan steering our economy

Last week I saluted the courage and resilience of our Finance Minister Brian Lenihan as he began his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Yet, after listening to him speaking so eloquently and openly on RTE's News at One, my admiration has increased tenfold.

He has shown extraordinary courage and his honesty in speaking out is truly inspirational to us all.

The man who is hopefully the architect of our economic resurgence has also become a beacon of hope for people suffering from that dreadful disease.

In his trademark pragmatic style, he echoed the spirit of his late father who battled liver cancer. And he showed us he is made of stern stuff when he pledged: "It's a growth I intend to defeat, or it will defeat me."

For any person, receiving a cancer diagnosis is a tough and trying time, but Minister Lenihan took it in his stride and coped excellently with the added trauma of discussing his health in the media.

He has said he believes he can continue his work as long as he has the vigour and strength and is intellectually unimpaired.

This is welcome news for the markets, and welcome news for the whole country.

We need a man like Brian in the finance hotseat, and I send him and his family my best wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery in the coming months .


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