O'Rourke's great election and the ugly faces of RTE

Sean O'Rourke has become the main media player in Irish politics. His News at One on Radio One is the pre-eminent politics programme on radio. His Week in Politics feeds off that pre-eminence with an array of political heavy-hitters and less heavy commentators.


His interview with his “boss” Cathal Goan about the deal RTÉ did with Beverley Flynn was close to a blood sport. Cathal Goan was not able for O'Rourke's ire or rattle-fire questioning. An impressive show of robust independence from RTÉ's corporate interest and of solidarity with his colleagues, Charlie Byrd and George Lee, whom Beverley Flynn had sued, along with RTÉ. Re-assuring that someone in the station is prepared to take on the most powerful media presence in the country. But was it fair?

The limpness of Cathal Goan's style disguised the reality that RTÉ did the best deal it could in getting compensation for the legal costs it incurred in the libel action, given  Beverley Flynn's personal circumstances. She simply did not have the €2.5 million the legal costs amounted to, so RTÉ could have the €1.25m that she was willing to come up with, or have her declared bankrupt, in which case RTÉ would have got damn-all.

It had nothing to do with standing by the RTÉ journalists or not standing by them, it was sheer economics. Get as much as possible for the station. And, by the way,  all that talk about licence fee payers, it is not the license fee payers that own RTÉ it is the State, aka, us, the people.

Sean O'Rourke gave Beverley herself a good run over the hurdles on the News at One but, revealingly, failed to land a punch on the “class act”. Also revealingly, he failed to land a punch on someone else, who never has been saddled with the characterisation “class act”, Enda Kenny. Enda was talking up Fine Gael's chances in the 2012 election, claiming that by then Fine Gael would be the biggest party in the country.  As Enda himself said during the election campaign to Bertie Ahern, “dream on”. But O'Rourke did not disturb the dream!

A new star to emerge from the RTÉ wilderness in the recent part has been Anne Cassin, formerly and indeed currently a newsreader but now also presenter of Capital D. Anne Cassin is beautiful (an important dimension of TV personalities but one ignored by RTÉ quite a bit, oth-erwise how come Charlie Byrd, Pascal Sheehy, David Daven Power, Dave Fanning, Tom McGurk, Pat Spillane, Tommy Gorman, Brian Dobson, Tony O'Donoghue, Marty Whelan, that ugly fellow on You're a Star whose name I have forgotten and couldn't be bothered remembering or finding out,  Louis Walsh and the guy who does the weather forecast – need I go on?). She is also serene, articulate, competent, and relaxed. Rather as Mary Kennedy is. Why isn't Anne Cassin presenting the Late Late Show or Questions and Answers (by the way I forgot to include John Bowman in the above catalogue of television horrors – and Pat Kenny, come to think of it).

Incidentally, my aunt in Skibereen, who claims to have had a fling with Tom McGurk in Newry after a civil rights march there in 1970 now says she can't stand him because he has turned into a raving right-wing lunatic, full of himself and fuller of his ego, which, apparently, she thinks is something different. And, by the way, she might well be lying about the fling with Tom McGurk, although why I have no idea. She says there was a police vehicle put in the Newry canal by the civil rights activists and McGurk wanted to collect money to pay for the damage, which sounds very revolutionary!

The Marian Finucane programmes on Saturdays and Sundays give us some of the best radio there is going. A discussion she had on the issue of nuclear energy, with the former head of the University of Limerick, Ed Walsh, was revealing. Revealing because of the coherence and persuasiveness of the case for nuclear energy presented by Ed Walsh and the incoherence of the opposition to it offered by familiar windbags in studio. By the way, how about tapping windbags as alternative energy sources, there is a long line of them who could be corralled? The Green Party has a few gasbags who might be nationalised.

And talking of gasbags, on another recent Marian Finucane programme there was a discussion about Big Brother, marked by the repetition of tedious  commentary on the awfulness of this popular entertainment. If they think it is so awful why do they bother watching it?

The best TV programme for a long time was the Britain's Got Talent show on TV3 and ITV. The live final was on 17 June, the winner being Paul Potts a telephone sales man with a spectacular tenor voice, the star of the series being a six-year-old delightful girl, Connie. The first programme in the series got 4.9 million viewers, the next 6.4 million, then 6.9 million, on up to 10.6 million for the final programme. The programme idea was simple, getting the best of Britain's amateur talent to perform. How come nobody in RTÉ thought of that?