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TV's Mike is stern with Ahern

BERTIE Ahern never liked having to work on Sundays. It interfered with matches, you see. And entertainment. He resented it.

Saturdays he could deal with, but Sundays? Sure who wants to spend their free time running a country on the day of Our Lord? No time for mass. Or a fry-up. Or matches. Yes, the matches were very important. And probably still are.

But then, these days, everything is "a bit more relaxed". Busy, but relaxed.

That is, until someone like Mike Murphy comes along and invites Bertie to take part in a BIG INTERVIEW. The kind where everything and anything is up for discussion. Including his love life.

"Have you any romance in your life now?" asks Mike. "Well, I've a lot of good friends," smiles Bertie (chuckle, chuckle). "Maybe not as many as I did years back." (Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle). But that's not good enough for Mike.

"I'd really appreciate it if you gave me the inside story on who you're dating at the moment," he continues. "If I had a story I'd give it to you!" (Chuckle, chuckle). Still not good enough. "By the way, you're dressing beautifully these days -- so well you might, on the pension you have." (No chuckle).

And on it went; Mike's stern line of questioning tackling a more serious variety of topics as the interview progressed. His marriage breakdown. Charles Haughey. The Mahon Tribunal. What, wonders Mike, is the people's perception of the former Taoiseach, previously the most "popular politician of his generation"?

"Some people understand what happened ... other people give out like hell," responds Bertie. Mike quotes Shakespeare, Bertie discusses the banking crisis. Bertie waffles on, Mike rolls his eyes. Why did he take his eye off the ball? What in the name of God possessed him to "take money from people" during his tenure as Minister for Finance? How could he have been so "stupid"?

Sometimes, it was all too much for poor Bertie. "Can I answer, Mike?" he pondered. "In other words, will I stop talking?" asked Mike. Good man. Certainly, Mike's handling of Bertie's various excuses -- sorry, answers -- was most enjoyable to watch for a number of reasons. Indeed, it was as if Bertie had been called to the principal's office for a telling-off.

Only, Mike's is the only principal's office in the country with a skyline view of Dublin. And its very own jazz soundtrack.

Fittingly, Mike appeared to take great pleasure in (literally) pointing the finger at the man. But of course, Bertie insists he wasn't aware of the storm that was about to hit this country following his resignation in 2008. He also would have been happier dealing with the crisis than "out twiddling his thumbs."

"When you're a hands-on politician," he explains, "you're in there. And all of a sudden, you're out, and nobody rings you -- it is a sorry position." Poor Bertie.

At least he has his Sundays back.

Over on Albert Square, however, there is no rest for the Masood family. It's been a while since I've watched EastEnders. So long, that I worried I might have lost track of Dr Khan's wicked plan to win back his ex-wife, Zainab, and take over the world. Or something to that effect.

But everything is, well, the same, really. The Doc's plan worked. Sort of. But now there's another baby in the family. And another ex-wife. And hey, Khan is still hanging about every corner, doing his best impression of a Bond villain as he glares into the distance, no doubt conjuring up his next evil scheme.

But that's what you get with EastEnders -- plotlines that last forever, not to mention a long list of characters that would be better suited to a pantomime.

It wouldn't happen on Coronation Street. Take, for example, last night's thrilling episode, when a former school teacher-turned-maniac-murderer kidnapped some tarty lass by the name of Rosie in order to -- wait, that sounds kind of familiar ...



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