Irony was in plentiful supply at an Oireachtas meeting this week on social media and new technology. The meeting was practically inaudible thanks in no small part to – new technology.
The great and the good of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications were gathered to hold three days of hearings into the ‘evils’ and social media in an effort to combat cyber-bullying.
The whole issue of cyber-bullying is a timely one and one that demands to be dealt with in some way without haste. One life lost as a result of cyber-bullying is one life too many.
But these committee hearings were viewed somewhat suspiciously by many social media users who felt that they were a knee jerk reaction to recent high profile events.
Let’s take a quick look at who is actually on this Oireachtas Committee that will be looking in to the use of social media in Ireland.
Its chairman is Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes. Tom is on Twitter but he is not your average user. He rarely if ever engages with other people and any tweets he posts are simply press releases or announcements.
Other members of the committee have no social media identity at all – Independent TD Tom Fleming for example.
So maybe the real reason for these hearings is to educate the committee on the world of social media?
Anyway, top brass in the Internet Safety Authority, Twitter and Facebook have been called before the committee to speak about their roles in social media and they are voices that need to be heard before any rash decisions are made.
But the business of the Committee is communications and they even had Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte present on Wednesday who entertained all with a few little anecdotes about his past experience with broadcast communications.
He recalled how he was once booked to feature on the Marian Finucane Show on Radio One and – disgracefully – forgot to turn up!
When he rang the show to apologise, he admitted he was met with a frosty response. But was quite surprised to hear that the show had already had three members of the public call up to complain what he had said on the show he actually forgot to appear on!
For a communications committee, you would think they would get their communications right!
For the entire session with Minister Rabbitte, the sound of interference from mobile phone signals drowned out the voices. Were the members tweeting from the Committee rooms?
Things got so bad that even RTE was forced to phone the Oireachtas to complain that it would not be able to use any material from the hearing because of the interference from the phones.
It seems that we need to teach our politicians more than just the A, B Cs of social media – but we need to teach them to turn their phones off when they are near a microphone.
Communications? You are having a laugh!
What was Justice Minister Alan Shatter thinking when he decided to mouth off about one of RTE’s finest journalists Paul Reynolds?
Let’s get things straight, to accuse an RTE journalist of ‘constantly engaging in tabloid sensationalism’ is actually a compliment.
Writing in a tabloid style is a craft that many have tried and few have mastered. But we’ll leave the mechanics of journalism aside for a while.
But to question a journalist’s accuracy is, to quote a former Taoiseach, ‘beyond the Pale’.
Shatter later apologised for his remarks that he made at a meeting of Templemore Town Council last week - and rightly so. He called the journalist’s integrity into question and he had no option but to issue a grovelling apology.
But it seems that Shatter seems to like the tabloid form of journalism.
Just look what he put in the letterboxes of the people of Dublin South in 2007 when he was hoping to regain the seat he had lost in 2002!
His newsletter was like a cheap British gossip magazine, complete with strap lines ‘Real Life Free’ and ‘The Only Read You Need’.
The cover featured a posed photo of Shatter - looking all relaxed in his jeans and denim shirt with his jacket casually thrown over his shoulder.
But what beats Banagher is his attempt at dress-up - comparing himself to actor William Shatner and his Star Trek Captain Kirk character.
What is quite obviously a photoshopped picture, Shatter superimposed his head on Shatner’s body to make him look like Captain Kirk.
“Only one of these men needs your number one vote” - the strapline reads.
Not only is Shatter a talented lawyer and a senior Minister, it seems he is a dab hand at a bit of ‘tabloid sensationalism’ himself.
So Alan, if you tire of politics - we are standing by waiting for your CV. Your portfolio is impressive!!
And Paul, you are welcome to The Star’s mothership anytime!!
“It’s part of the Lenihan DNA” - that is what I was always told when I questioned why Brian Lenihan contested the last general election despite his cancer diagnosis.
It was a mark of the man that despite the massive uphill struggle he was going through with his cancer battle that he insisted that life continue as normal.
And politics was in his blood.
Any other person, when dealt a devastating diagnosis like Lenihan was, would have retired to enjoy what they had left of their lives.
But not Brian Lenihan - because ‘it was part of the Lenihan DNA’.
The famous Lenihan DNA was carved out by Brian’s father, Brian Snr, who publicly suffered through his own health demons as a Minister.
Brian Jnr was no different - he had a job to do and cancer was not going to stop him.
Behind all of the politics, Brian Lenihan was an inherently nice and decent guy.
He had a few words for everyone and while he might be rushing here and there, he became a master in walking and talking.
In the last Government, he was given the nickname ‘Brainy Lenihan’ because of his massive intellect and his ability to read into a brief in no time.
But that intellect carried into his personal persona too - he was charming company, funny, witty and warm. People gravitated towards him, they wanted to be part of whatever the conversation was.
His time as Minister for Children has been lauded by Childrens’ Rights advocates as a turning point.
During his five years in that post, he was responsible for the creation of the Office of the Minister for Children, the appointment of Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children, the commencement of the National Longitudinal Survey, rigorous and serious engagement with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child process and reforms in the areas of youth justice and early years education to name but a few.
His time as Minister for Justice was brief - but it was something he relished. The law was part and parcel of his make up and he enjoyed getting stuck into this portfolio.
His promotion by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen to the Department of Finance in May 2008 was a huge leap - but by no means an impossible leap - for Brian Lenihan.
He was taking over a poisoned chalice and a chalice that would shape his legacy.
The economy was going down the toilet and of the entire Fianna Fail team, Lenihan was the best equipped to try and steer the ship to some level of safety.
History will, no doubt, judge his role in Ireland’s economic crisis. But Brian Lenihan would want for nothing less.
He put his country ahead of his personal well-being at a time of huge suffering.
Smackdown - that is the only word that can be used to describe Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s treatment of Minister for Loose Lips Leo Varadkar after he scared the living bejasus out of the Government at the weekend.
Leo has always been his own man - he had unique views on Bertie Ahern and he even had his own unique views on the late Dr Garret FitzGerald.
But his comments to the Sunday Times newspaper that Ireland would need a second bailout did not go down well - with anyone, well except for Independent TD Mick Wallace who congratulated Varadkar on his honesty!
In fact he received two other pats on the back by economic luminaries such as Independent TD Shane Ross and economic expert Constantin Gurdgiev.
Varadkar’s comments were picked up by 2,200 media outlets around the world, putting Ireland’s economic recovery in peril according to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.
“The problem is,” Martin said, “that loose talk costs jobs.”
Needless to say, there was no sign of Varadkar in the Dail chamber when his views were being filleted by the opposition. Maybe he was recovering from the fillet of Enda he received earlier at the Cabinet meeting for his ‘loose talk’.
Anyway, Enda has adopted his tough man approach and has spoken to all of his Ministers - telling them, no doubt, to tow the party line...... or else!
Well done to the crew from RTE’s Week in Politics who have managed to scoop the Irish Times by bringing out their own election book, which was launched this week by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Up to now, the Irish Times had the monopoly on election books with their excellent Nealon’s Guide to the successive Dails.
But RTE pipped the so-called ‘paper of record’ to the post with their own guide to the last election and the new Dail.
Edited by Deirdre McCarthy and featuring contributions by all the political staff of RTE - including Sean O’Rourke, Micheal Lehane, Brian Dowling, David McCullagh and David Davin-Power among others - it is a virtual encyclopaedia for any political anorak.
Featuring plenty of graphs and questions and answers with all TDs, it is a great read and an even better reference book.
Who knew that Taoiseach Enda Kenny was such a fan of Winning Streak presenter Kathryn Thomas - or maybe it is just his back room team that are fans?
Well in any case, the presence of the RTE presenter INSIDE the Taoiseach's office during a courtesy call by the Queen last week was certainly called into question at a Political Correspondents briefing this week.
To say noses were out of joint would be an understatement - and rightfully so.
All journalists had to fight to secure a place in the different pools to cover all aspects of the Queen's visit. When she visited Government Buildings last week, the hacks that cover the Taoiseach day in, day out, were left standing outside waiting for a glimpse of our new best friend.
However, inside the Taoiseach's office, was Thomas who told the nation she was walking her dog when she got a call from Government Press Secretary Feargal Purcell telling her to be in Government Buildings within an hour.
So why the special treatment for someone who isn't even a working news journalist?
Enda and his team may have had a Winning Streak with the back-to-back VIP visits, but that has turned into a Losing Streak as far as media relations go.
Richard 'Rich Boy' Boyd Barrett really should have known better when he appeared on a Late Late Show panel discussion last Friday night on the Queen's visit to Ireland.
While the rest of the country was enjoying the glow of the historic and successful visit, Boyband Barrett was having none of it.
He wasn't gushing in his praise for the English Monarch's visit - he is entitled to his opinion - but he did say he wouldn't have a problem of she wanted to come to Ireland 'on a private fishing trip'!!
Did he learn anything at all with his expensive private education? Did he not realise that Prince Philip's uncle, Louis Mountbatten, was murdered by the IRA during a private fishing visit to Ireland?
It was an own-goal by Boyband Barrett and his comment, as Ryan Tubridy said, was 'very unfortunate'.