Irish Presidential elections are meant to be exciting – this one is as dull as a Martin O’Neill press conference.
I suspect the wider public have little enough interest in a campaign that, so far at least, is tediously uneventful.
The candidates are waffling…offering us mostly tiresome platitudes. I’m all in favour of every citizen being entitled to put their name on a ballot paper, but really, some of these candidates are just wasting our time. It is downright arrogant of them to think they are worthy of being President.
The media is no longer interested in hearing about the supposed ‘vision’ and qualities of each candidate – and you can hardly blame the media for that. Instead, journalists are desperately trying to spark the campaign into life by unearthing some dark secrets from the past, or perhaps by forcing a monumental error from a candidate. We are looking for the David Norris moment. Almost every question posed to a candidate is an intended trap, an attempt to catch the interviewee out.
Have you ever made a settlement with Revenue? What’s this about you being involved in a car crash when you were in your 20s? Who is your favourite poet? (This latter question was actually put to Gavin Duffy, in the hope that it would expose him and thus present him as being ‘culturally unfit’); Where have you been the last seven years? How much are you spending on your campaign? Where did you get your money? All pretty tiresome.
I listened to the RTE Radio 1 debate on Saturday, which at least had all six candidates present. For the first 20 minutes, the wannabees ganged up on Michael D, all of them apparently appalled at the alleged extravagance of his term in office. Thereafter, the wily Michael D settled into his stride. Once all that unseemly talk of money was out of the way, his presidential auru descended over his rueful opponents.
Given that Monday night’s first TV debate was not starring Michael D or Sean G, I convinced myself that I would pass on it, but when the time came, I tuned in. It was so bad it was almost riveting. Fair play to Gavin Duffy, who angrily took presenter Claire Byrne/RTE to task for reading out a response from a spokesperson for President Higgins. (The Áras had the hump about Peter Casey alleging that costs associated with caring for the President’s dogs are covered by taxpayers). How dare all the President’s men, women (and dogs) seek immediate right of reply when he (Michael D) had turned down an invitation to take part in the debate?
Peter Casey (I think unintentionally) provided some surreal moments, Joan Freeman was solid (if trying too hard to ‘sound’ presidential), Gavin Duffy was slick enough (maybe even too slick) and Liadh Ní Riada did well overall.
The arrogant absence of both Michael D and Sean G undermined the whole event. The debate was utterly forgettable; and I hope to have utterly forgotten about it very soon.
One audience member walked out in protest – a gesture that seemed to sum up the mood of the nation regarding this lacklustre presidential election.
Zero out of ten to Michael D for not showing up, but it looks like he’s sleepwalking to victory. Even the dogs in the street (and especially the pampered dogs in the Áras) know that.
Where’s Dave when you need him?
I once jokingly tweeted that the scariest words in the English language are ‘And now, sitting in for Ryan Tubridy…it’s Dave Fanning’.
Radio channel-hopping on Monday, I discovered that Derek Mooney was sitting in for Ryan, the latter no doubt recovering from his much-hyped broadcasting rollercoaster in London.
Derek’s fine, but it was much too early in the morning (for me) to buy into chirpy, happy and doubtlessly daft musings on life – and so I switched the dial, in the hope that Pat Kenny might have some misery radio on offer. I knew I could rely on Pat for some discussion on Brexit, or on our wobbly Government, or maybe even on the latest Trump controversy. Pat is as polished as ever – an excellent broadcaster. If there’s one thing that’s annoying about him, it’s his tendency to strut the stage and show off his magnificent bulging intellect/current affairs knowledge (the spellbound audience oohing and aahing, while possibly also rolling their eyes). Sometimes Pat isn’t just content to exhibit his expertise; sometimes he seems to answer his own questions.
So yeah, Pat does quite a lot of the talking, but at least he knows what he’s talking about, whereas we don’t really want to hear Dave Fanning (or Derek Mooney) pondering on Brexit or the National Broaband Plan or on the alleged murder of a Saudi Arabian journalist.
(Neither do I want to hear Dave prattling on about what name Meghan and Prince Harry should give to their baby, which is the sort of nonsense that morning radio inflicts on us).
JF on Shannonside has of course got his pulse on the local (and national) scene – and is always well worth a listen. Still, sometimes you have to channel-hop.
When I’m on the school run, as 9 am approaches, the temptation is to keep switching the dial in search of the latest breaking news. This usually involves a brief stop at Newstalk. Speaking of which, one of my ambitions in life is to have the will to survive an entire 10-minute exchange between presenters Shane Coleman and Paul Williams, but sadly this would appear to be too ambitious. Coleman is a good journalist/broadcaster, and Williams is a proven crime reporter with a fondness for bombast and sensationalism, but their efforts as a wise-cracking double-act between interviews can be excruciating, mostly because of Williams’ crassness.
So, thanks to Paul Williams doing my head in, I can seldom stay with Newstalk in the morning for any more than two or three minutes (there’s some excellent output on that station later in the day). Switching to channels where the morning shows apparently require two or three presenters (why?) is not an option either. Why does a radio show need two (or three) presenters? And why do said presenters think they are some magical combination of Groucho Marx, Billy Connolly, Joan Rivers and Jason Byrne? Do listeners really want to hear their inane, unfunny reflections on their lives?
There’s a lot to be said for the calming tones of Bryan Dobson, the incisive questioning of Rachael English or Audrey Carville.
It may have been partly responsible for depressing the entire nation from 2008-2010, but that historic act of torture aside, Morning Ireland remains a solid and popular institution. Most mornings, I will end up gravitating towards the ‘old reliable’.
By 8.40 am each morning this week on Morning Ireland, a new Presidential candidate was on air, ready to tell us why we should invest our hopes and dreams in them. On Monday it was Gavin, on Tuesday it was Sean. Oh God. That didn’t satisfy me either. Gavin, too soothing, too much ‘ask me anything’ nonsense; Sean, too earnest, like a man trying to claim his lotto winnings when he knows the deadline was in 2011.
Where’s Dave Fanning and those baby names when you need them?