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blame

The scoop of the week was DCU FM's extensive interview with the newly re-anoraked, True President of Ireland, Bertie Ahern. Recorded in the summer, aired on Tuesday and then partly re-aired on Wednesday's Last Word, it revealed why Bertie is perfectly suited to life in the Aras.

In contrast to the actual candidates (still all over the airwaves) who believe that the president is a sort of hands-on, problem-solving executive action-man (possibly with real weapons in some cases), Bertie understands the limitations of the role.

In fact, he spent his time in government practising for it . . . in so far as he treated being Taoiseach as a ceremonial, hands-off, ribbon-cutting job.

He certainly wasn't taking responsibility for anything that happened during his time in office in this interview (except maybe peace to the North and any nice holidays we took). Actually, he has racked his brains and just doesn't see what he could have done differently.

Indeed, if anyone was to blame for anything it was "lazy" Fianna Fail colleagues, the Progressive Democrats and the media (for paying too much attention to the tribunals). It certainly wasn't poor ould Bertie, pleading with his sad eyes (you could hear them over the airwaves) and sitting forlornly in the cupboard where the News of the World left him.

On Sunday, we sadly discovered that the Denis O'Brien-owned Today FM had given Sam Smyth his P45. "You probably noticed that a number of stories I referred to in the headlines are about me, this programme, the management, and the owner of Today FM," said Smyth on his show, before revealing that he was forbidden from discussing it. "So, there you go," he added breezily.

Panellist Justine McCarthy discussed it for him, suggesting, as some of the Sunday papers had, that his sacking was because of his coverage of the Moriarty Tribunal and his boss's part in it, and not, as the station management maintained, commercial reasons.

"Before someone comes down runs into the studio and pulls a wire, I think we'll get on," chuckled Smyth after a while.

Now, back when I was young there was a comic called Whizzer and Chips which pretended to be two rival comics but was really the one publication. Today FM is Whizzer to Newstalk's Chips. Newstalk is also owned by Denis O'Brien and is housed in the same building. As Sam Smyth outlined his fate (he conveniently shares his initials with Whizzer's hero, "Sid's Snake"), Newstalk's Sunday morning contrarian Eamon Dunphy went on an admirable tirade in his defence (he shares a fighting spirit with Chips's child pugilist, "Shiner").

"If Sam is to be sacked and if there's any link between that sacking and his work as a journalist for the Independent Newspaper Group and his criticism of Denis O'Brien and Michael Lowry, then it is up to every citizen in this country to understand that press freedom is threatened," he said (among other things).

During the break he must have popped over to demonstrate his solidarity in person. "I see Eamon Dunphy looking in the door making mischievous faces," said Smyth over on Today FM.



paymasters

The next day John Bowman, who was promoting a book about the history of RTE, reminded Pat Kenny of old arguments with his own paymasters.

"On the [RTE] Authority records you're there as saying you didn't like being number two, you knew what Gay Byrne was earning and you wanted to address that authority of which he was then a member," he said. In the past such reminders might have annoyed Pat, but he's mellowing with age.

"That was hardball!" said Pat in good-humoured admiration of his younger self.

Nothing freaks him out anymore. On Tuesday, reporter Brian O'Connell rustled up some moral panic in a nightclub filled with drunk, scantily-clad young people.

"If you're sober enough to shift someone," said one girl, "then you are sober enough to know what you're doing, because if you're that langers, you're going to be inside puking your ring up on a toilet."

The traditional response back in Montrose would have been to lament the folly of youth. Not our Pat.

"I was going to say . . . 'memories'," he said with a wistful laugh.