Michael O'Doherty: I was once like George Hook, but then I saw the light and got on my bike
Last week's confrontation on the subject of cycling between Matt Cooper and George Hook on TV3 was fascinating viewing, especially for myself.
The topic is one on which I have not only held a strong opinion, but have also seen that opinion alter drastically. The reason for this change is a very simple one: in the past year I have become a cyclist.
In typically Hookian fashion, George went in all guns blazing and took the view proffered by many motorists, with his traditionally overwrought sense of drama. "The vast majority of cyclists are criminals," Hook said. "It's outrageous what they do."
As evidence he offered the fact that many cyclists break red lights, cycle on pavements and go the wrong way up one way streets. And as a previously bicycle-avoiding motorist, I shared those views.
But since last summer, when I joined Dublin Bikes due to a relocation of my office, I have done what most motorists fail to do, and have seen things from the two-wheeled perspective.
In so doing I have experienced the pleasure of toddling around Dublin on a bike, enjoying the health benefits and the sheer joy of travelling at minimal cost.
George, by his own admission, hasn't spent a second of his life on a bike in the past 50 years, and as such his opinion is one borne out of ignorance. Because of this, he is happy to deal in generalisations.
Sure, there are those who whizz around town constantly breaking the rules of the road, and endangering pedestrians in so doing. But the majority of cyclists are benevolent, peaceful souls, who have taken to the bike both as a healthy alternative to driving, and also as a more efficient way of getting from A to B.
Dublin is blessed with a relatively compact city centre, flat terrain, and a climate which sees rain fall far less than most people would believe. As such, it is ready-made to be converted into a cyclist-friendly environment, and the ongoing plans to make it less attractive to people who choose to use their cars, very often because they consider public transport or bicycles to be beneath them, is only to be welcomed.
It might even encourage some pompous, lardy men, who clog up the city as they sit in their cars, to get a bit of exercise and shift an excess stone or two. Not mentioning any names, George...
In all this, Cooper came across as a particularly calm voice of reason. To George's predictably cynical argument that increasing the attractiveness of cycling will not encourage cyclists to abide by the rules, Matt pointed out how, following a clampdown on drink driving and people driving without seat belts, there is now a whole generation coming through who follow those rules without thinking. And will do likewise when it comes to riding bikes.
Listening to the two sides it was with a sense of shame, but ultimately relief, that I can admit the following.
I was once like George Hook. But now I am cured.
The only insult levelled at Dail gate protests was one to voters' intelligence
Much has been said in recent days about the constitutional rights of Oireachtas members to be allowed go to work in an unimpeded fashion.
Weighty statements have been made about the shocking denial of those rights by protests outside the Dail last Thursday, which saw some TDs having to postpone going home and one, Alan Shatter TD, being held up for a period by the assembled mob.
And to those elected members who remind us if their constitutional right to go to work, and slam the shameful tactics of those who curtailed that right, I can only say the following: sod off.
Never has the pompous self-entitlement of some TDs been better illustrated than by their absurd over-reaction to the kerfuffle outside their place of work last week.
Not only is it a place of work that they attend with less regularity than just about any other class of employees in the country, but it's also somewhere that they require travel expenses to travel to and from. To hear Alan Shatter compare the protestors to fascists was baffling. Yes, he has a right to go to work. But everyone has that right.
Of course the former Minster, accustomed as he was to having a private driver, would possibly be unaware of this, but delays in getting to work are something ordinary workers experience every day. We get held up by traffic, even by protests, but we don't equate that with the rise of Nazi Germany.
And at the heart of Shatter's outburst is the suggestion that the work that he and other Oireachtas members do is somehow more important than us regular workers, and any delay in their coming and going is an insult to democracy.
Whereas the only insult that's being levelled is one by Shatter himself. In equating protestors to fascists, he's insulting our intelligence.
UTV Ireland needs more than logo fix
Six months after it launched, UTV Ireland's viewership figures are dire and, aside from two UK soaps they show on weeknights, few are tuning in. They have been honest enough to admit this, with MD Michael Wilson stating that "we've gone under the bonnet...what's working, what's not working".
And Wilson has conducted a diagnosis and identified the source of the problem - UTV Ireland's green logo. "We're awfully green," he said, "I think the green palette is a little bit harsh. We want to be more inviting and bring the audience into all parts of the output." So now you know why less than 5,000 people have been tuning into UTV Ireland's flagship news programme.
It's because it has a green logo...
How RTE finally got in on the joke
The Apres Match team are, finally, to be given their own stand-alone comedy show on RTE. Funny, satirical and inventive way beyond the confines of their sports-based show, Gary Cooke and the lads have consistently proven themselves to be the most skilled comedy writers working on Irish television.
And the only question is why on earth it has taken RTE so long to realise this? I am particularly delighted at the news, as I myself suggested such a move in this very column, when I wrote "RTE desperately needs a consistently funny comedy show, so why don't they give the (Apres Match) lads a full-time gig?" I wrote those lines, by the way in February 2011, and it's taken RTE over four years to heed them. Well, better late than never...