Solace in soapbox politics

Patrick Freyne

Marc Coleman's attitude to RTE is a bit like Joe McCarthy's to communism. Everything is their fault. Someone ate all the cornflakes: "RTE!!" The bus is late: "Damn you RTE!!" It rains: "Why must you torment me RTE?!" (He falls to his knees shaking his fist at the heavens).

Even as Coleman defends his employer from allegations of interference by wayward colleague Eamon Dunphy, he manages to focus his argument on the liberal overpaid monopolists at RTE. "He [Denis O'Brien] has been hugely generous in making sure we have diversity and choice in media and if we didn't have people like him we would have a monopoly," he says, soon adding: "Maybe some people want to go back to a statist tax-payer funded monopoly?"

While it would be easy to see Coleman's defence of his boss as cynical ("I guess what I like best about Denis would be his eyes," he could have said) he makes a genuinely robust defence of his own show's even-handedness. And his assertion that RTE's right to both advertise and state sponsorship drains the private sector of funding . . . well, it's true.

Coleman's show is generally entertaining because he has fun on his soapbox. At the outset he announced the departure of Silvio Berlusconi from Italian politics, the appointment of Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors, and the travails of Dunphy to the strains of Johnny Paycheck's country classic: Take this Job and Shove it.

Later, when lambasting money-wasting and conformity at the Department of Finance, he plays audio of the Borg (evil cyborgs) from Star Trek.

Okay, he often forgets that he's moderating a debate in order to unleash his own idiosyncratic right-wing opinions, but once you detach yourself from the views expressed it's like watching a wild stallion rearing on a cliff-side.

On Wednesday's Breakfast Luke 'Ming' Flanagan bemoaned the appointment of money-mislaying Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors.


"If the government is committed to giving us a good image in Europe then this is the wrong way to go about it," he said, "because we wouldn't want our politicians to do anything embarrassing.

Later Ming revealed that he was wearing a three-piece suit made entirely out of hemp (seriously).

"I'm highlighting the fact that it's actually 10 years since I posted a joint to every TD and every senator in the country," he explained (wasn't it in 2001 the ESRI first started issuing warnings about an overheating economy? Picture a fug of smoke in the Dail). He was protesting the pointless and expensive prohibition of cannabis. He also warned listeners about procuring the dangerously adulterated cannabis that was currently on the market, which reminded me of the classic Woodstock warning: "Do not take the brown acid."

Later I felt like I'd taken the brown acid when listening to Kevin Myers. He was discussing stealth charges on flights on Lunchtime and he was very angry.

Such airlines should "shag off" he said, and advocated that instead of Newstalk "doing rational interviews" with them, they should be "kneeing them in the groin. Put it in the bloody bill!" he yelled. "Don't play games with us! Put it in the bloody bill!"

Interviewer Jonathan Healy treated the conversation like he was fielding a phone-call from a drunken ex. He made sympathetic noises . . . when he wasn't speechless.


"Are you there?" asked Myers uncertainly, before eventually drifting from rage to self-hating consumer remorse. "I'm being treated like an idiot," he said. "And I am an idiot for paying it," he added.

Finally he dropped the bombshell: "I have been stripped naked and left out in the rain."

I knew budget airlines were bad, but enforced nudity? He must have accidentally ticked something when buying the flight. Nonetheless, it was "unpleasant," he noted mournfully.

Spike Milligan would have appreciated the absurdity. A BBC Radio 4 documentary about his poetry featured three of his daughters recalling his flawed, wonderful genius and old recordings of the man himself reading about transcendent reality. Imagine him saying this: "Last night in the twilight gloom a butterfly flew into my room. Oh what beauty! Oh what grace! Who needs visitors from outer space?"