Seniors stay away

 It's always dangerous when old people are allowed to talk about popular culture, and never was this more app...arent than on the Marian Finucane show on Sunday, 12 February. The panel: economist Constantin Gurdgiev; former Justice Minister Nora Owen; senior council Gerry Danaher; former editor of the Racing Post Alan Byrne; and historian Diarmaid Ferriter. The subject: U2.

The potential for embarrassment here was immense, and perhaps sensing this, the show's producers rang RTÉ rock critic Dave Fanning to assess the significance of U2 winning five Grammy awards this year. Although Fanning is about as old as Newgrange and is no longer on the cutting edge, he's excellent – if a little bit uncritical – when it comes to rock dinosaurs like U2.

“If you and me did a record we'd probably win a Grammy,” he said, pouring scorn on the ceremony as the panel tittered nervously. “What U2 have done, music-wise, is ten times better, with all due respect, than winning a few Grammies,” he said, before launching into a succinct summary of all that Bono et al have achieved in their 20 years of making music.

Then stand-in presenter Brenda Power turned to her panel and said: “Anybody here seen U2 live?”

She might as well have gone into the nearest nursing home and asked if any of the patients had enjoyed a game of beach volleyball during the last week. A moment's silence followed, during which you could picture the economist, the politician, the barrister and the horse-racing expert sweating swimming pools into their studio seats.


“Who said yes?” said Power, as if one of her guests had confessed to a particularly unsavoury crime. It was Diarmaid Ferriter, who had seen U2 in 1987 and on their most recent tour. In fairness to Ferriter, he was the only person in the studio who participated in the discussion without making a complete show of himself. He had just finished an informed critique of U2's live performances when Nora Owen butted in with a terribly stupid story about how a parish priest in North Dublin had once refused an early incarnation of U2 a gig.

“Two of them lived in Malahide, one of them in the same housing estate that I live in myself,” she told RTÉ's listeners, “and way back when the Malahide Festival started, they offered themselves to it. They were called... The Commitments. Is that right, Dave? They were called The Commitments, weren't they?”

“I think maybe The Hype?” said Fanning, who must have been getting very anxious to disassociate himself from the unfolding debacle.

“Anyway – they had some kind of a name for themselves,” said Owen, before going on to claim that “when you listen to them, they haven't changed,” directly contradicting Dave Fanning's earlier account of U2's musical development and thus proving she has probably not listened to U2 more than once in her life.

Cool Mom Brenda Power was quick to get in on the act too. Bono's extracurricular charitable work “doesn't seem to have compromised his coolness,” she claimed. Brenda Power is a Sunday Times columnist who specialises in from-a-parents-point-of-view moans; she is not an arbiter of cool. The other guys had the sense to keep their mouths shut, and the discussion, thankfully, moved on to subjects with which old people can discuss without disgracing themselves.

Perhaps the makers of the Marian Finucane show assumed that the youth of the nation would have been in bed that morning, exhausted after a night of binge-drinking, spreading sexually transmitted infections and crashing Landrovers through motorway roundabouts – they were probably right. And it's just as well. The Marian Finucane show is doing a reasonable job of filling the void left by Tom McGurk's Sunday Show, but in covering this kind of material, they're not playing to their strengths.