Thursday 14 December 2017

A monster meeting of the heavy hitters

This week kicked off with a Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla style radio duel between two media heavy-hitters: blue-shirt radio pundit Ivan Yates and "formidable" (Yates's word) ex-Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy (in this analogy Yates is Godzilla, Kennedy is Mechagodzilla and Yate's radio partner Chris O'Donoghue is Godzilla's cheerful sidekick, Godzuki).

Kennedy is an almost mythical figure. As a free-thinking journalist her phone was tapped under the orders of Justice Minister Sean Doherty in the 1980s. She later took a four-year diversion through politics as a Progressive Democrat TD, before returning to journalism at the Irish Times where she was editor from 2002 to 2011.


The discussion was robust with Yates adopting his amiably combative interrogative style and Kennedy responding with occasionally affronted defiance. Yates accused the Times of worthiness before suggesting it wasn't worthy enough with its ill-fated purchase of Myhome.ie and its boom-time "property porn".

Kennedy responded to the allegation of property cheerleading: "I don't believe that the Irish Times contributed to the property boom ... every taxi man, bus driver and everything like that -- everybody went mad."

She really was "formidable" as she defended her legacy: her protection of sources in defiance of the Mahon Tribunal, her role in ending Bertie Ahern's career, her own political history, and her bullish faith in the future of print media. She mentioned that Helen Mirren had asked to meet her when she was acting as an editor in State of Play. I couldn't help thinking that if Kennedy had stayed with politics there'd now be a biopic about her starring Mirren or Meryl Streep ... and the Irish state might just own Myhome.ie.

On Saturday's Marian Finucane Show, former Fianna Fail minister Mary Hanafin promoted her TG4 reality TV show, The G-Team and talked about life after politics. Hanafin's assessment of former colleagues was interesting enough (Ahern was "very kind and caring"; her relationship with Cowen was workmanlike) and her account of delayed grief after her husband's death was moving.

Fill-in presenter Claire Byrne pushed the issue of her massive pension, but got nowhere. Why Hanafin couldn't take a cut in this was presented as a mysterious and almost theological matter.

Like the mystery of the holy Trinity, Hanafin's pension was three pensions rolled into one (ministerial, teacher's and holy ghost's) and somehow this meant it was indivisible and couldn't be returned to the state. "I've no other income," she said sadly, channelling the spirit of Peig Sayers, and making me picture her wearing a really expensive sack.

We'll all be able to afford expensive sacks if salivating business gurus are to be believed, because trade with China is going to solve all of our problems.


Thankfully, the visit of Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping also triggered items about China's terrible human rights record. Monday's Last Word featured an interview with Falun Gong practitioner and Irish citizen Ming Zhao, who had been tortured in a labour camp by the Chinese authorities.

Amnesty International's Colm O'Gorman appeared twice on The Colm Hayes Show to stress the importance of standing up for "what's right and what's proper regardless [of the consequences]".

Eamon Gilmore promised Morning Ireland that human rights issues were, in fact, discussed with the Chinese vice-president "in a respectful way and a way we can learn from one another." Wait a minute ... what was that? What did the Tanaiste learn about managing human rights from China? I'm scared.

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