Crowley and Dunne: star quality

The Week in Politics is stuck in a dull formula but this week's One to One, on which Richard Crowley interviewed Ben Dunne, showed some star quality often missing on RTÉ television

Richard Crowley interviewed Ben Dunne on the series One on One at lunchtime on Sunday, 26 November. He was direct, articulate, relevant, unassuming,
intelligent: a combination of characteristics almost unique in Irish broadcasting (some or all of them are missing in most other cases). Why does he not have his own programme? Why is he not presenting Prime Time or, come to think of it, The Late Late Show or You're a Star?

Crowley is not just direct, articulate etc, he has a star quality which is scarce enough in RTÉ, so why not go with it?

The interview with Ben Dunne was fascinating, as Ben Dunne has a certain star quality too. Undoubtedly a rogue, but everything he said was believable. He gave money to Charles Haughey because he was asked to, not because he expected anything in return. Haughey never discussed it with him subsequently, probably because he (Haughey) was embarrassed. Haughey did arrange a meeting for Ben Dunne with the then chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, but no favour ensued. Yes, he is still in counselling and yes he was saved by his wife and his psychiatrist and he knows quite a few people whose first port of call should be a psychiatrist.

There was something appealing about his candour, especially about his mental state. And about tensions within the Dunne family. He acknowledged that there were tensions but blamed nobody, except perhaps himself. He didn't go to Charlie Haughey's funeral because he thought it decent not to. Later he went to Charlie's grave and said a prayer.

He spoke interestingly about his kidnap, the terror and discomfort of it, his view that a ransom of around £500,000 was probably paid, but he made no big deal of the ordeal.

This One on One series has been patchy. Seems like a perk for newsroom reporters to get a little TV exposure, but there's not much point to it otherwise. The Richard Crowley interview with Ben Dunne was by far the best. So far.

The Week in Politics will probably go on until the election, which is a depressing prospect because it now is stuck in a formula that is despairingly dull, uninformative and well dreary. Last Sunday, 26 November, Phil Hogan and Conor Lenihan were the panellists and between them they said not a single thing that was even vaguely interesting.

The interview with Mildred Fox was its only redeeming feature as, for once, a woman was saying that it is not possible for a mother to rear young children and be a public representative, at least at Dáil level. And isn't that quite something?

We have devised arrangements whereby half of the electorate is effectively precluded from becoming elected representatives for much of their careers. This has to do with responsibility for childcare (how is it that male politicians have no similar problems?) and to do with how parliament is organised. Why does parliament have to meet at night? Why can't the Dáil meet from nine to five every day of the week, thereby allowing TDs and even ministers to get back to their families in the evenings?

These issues could have been explored on The Week in Politics, but they were not even acknowledged as issues.

A slight correction to what I wrote earlier – that the only redeeming feature of The Week in Politics was the interview with Mildred Fox. Actually, the interview with Gay Mitchell was also a redeeming feature. We are not going to have Gay to kick around anymore because he is staying in Europe. Come to think of it, wouldn't it have been interesting if that decision were explored in a little more depth as well? What is there about the European parliament that makes it more interesting or important than our own parliament? The European parliament does have some more powers than it used to have, but it cannot initiate legislation, it cannot, on its own, approve legislation and of the institutions of the EU, it is probably the least significant.

So why would someone like Gay Mitchell want to stay there rather than come back to the hurly burly of the Dáil? Could it be that the Dáil is even less relevant?