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'.
DR GARRET FITZGERALD Known as ‘Garret The Good’, his knowledge of political history in Ireland is second to none. He has served as Taoiseach on two occasions and is revered in political circles for his depth and knowledge of politics.
MARY ROBINSON Ireland’s first female President is the perfect person to teach people all about the Constitution. She may have only served one term as President but her global reach since then has been fairly impressive. She has served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and is a member of the prestigious Elders - a group of world leaders convened to contribute their wisdom, leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems.
VINCENT BROWNE The Dark Knight of late night politics on TV3, Vincent has had more than his fair share of political scrapes in the past. His classes would be livened up by the numerous rows and debates that would be guaranteed par for the course.
SHANE ROSS The Independent TD knows how to get to the bottom of a bureaucratic minefield (just look at the work he did with FAS). When it comes to explaining the finer points of politics, he would be hard to beat.
BERTIE AHERN This is the man who, when he was Minister for Finance, didn’t even have a bank account. Despite being Taoiseach for 11 years, we now know that he was living on ‘Planet Bertie’ for most of that time. His classes would descend into farce.
JACKIE HEALY-RAE He would be a perfect teacher for a class who want to know the difference between a pot hole and an overgrown ditch. But when it comes to debating issues of national importance, the South Kerry man always lost his voice.
BRIAN LENIHAN Lock up your Communion money because Lenihan could direct those nasty bullies from the ECB to come in and take it off you. He would be more suited to teaching creative writing than politics.
MICHAEL LOWRY The Moriarty Tribunal didn’t believe a lot of what he was saying, so it is unlikely that Leaving Cert students would.You could argue Lowry has enough political experience to pass on to students but the Tribunal dealt his credibility a blow.
GERRY ADAMS If the Sinn Fein leader can’t come clean over whether or not he was a member of the IRA, then how can he teach the youth of Ireland about politics? His students would doubt every word he says - and that would make his job next to impossible.
IT is hard to keep a gang of Political Correspondents quiet for any period of time but when Edwin Chen is in the room, you could have heard a pin drop.
So just who was this stranger who popped into Leinster House on Tuesday as the guest of the Oireachtas - he is the closest thing that Leinster House had to US President Barack Obama himself.
Edwin is a journalist with over 40 years experience and has worked as Senior White House Correspondent with Bloomberg News. He was also the president of the prestigious White House Correspondents Association.
He was on a flying visit to Dublin and popped in to regale some of the Leinster House hacks with stories of his time covering three presidents - Clinton, Bush Jnr and Obama.
And his view on Obama’s impending visit to these shores next month - it will do him no harm in sweeping up the Irish American vote in the presidential election next year!
The best thing about his job, according to himself, was telling people that he was a Senior White House Correspondent.
Can you imagine an Irish Political Correspondent saying the best thing about their job was, ehmm, being a Political Correspondent? Don’t think so!!
TARTAN caps off to one user of the Politics.ie website for one of the funniest ‘politicians that look like stuff’ postings seen on the site for some time.
Going by the site name of ‘momoney’, this poster pointed out the remarkable similarities between one family who operate on a ‘wink and a nod’ basis and the infamous Trotters from Only Fools and Horses.
He was last spotted giving advice to the Nigerian Government on the need to ensure consistent and transparent policies if their economy is to attract much needed foreign investment an economic development.
Nigeria, consistent and transparent in one sentence? He must have moved back to Planet Bertie!
Staff working around Leinster House now know exactly how a teacher feels on the first day back at school with a new class, desperately trying to figure out who all the new faces are.
A handy photo guide to the new TDs, issued by the Houses of the Oireachtas, is a must-have accessory in Leinster House at the moment if you are to distinguish between students and some of the younger TDs.
Following the massive blood-letting in the election, the new administration is only a few weeks old and it seems even some of the TDs are still getting to grips with their new digs.
Common sights around the House are lost TDs trying to figure out where the Bills Office is or the Debates Office (they figured out where the bar and the restaurant were on day one!)
But it seems it will take them a bit of time to get used to the rules and traditions of the great house.
Young TDs can be seen blatantly chewing gum in the Dail chamber (a big no no) while over on ‘Independent Avenue’, the dress code is causing some raised eyebrows among many.
Wexford Independent Mick Wallace never fails to disappoint. We have seen every colour of the rainbow on him since he first took his seat.
In some quarters, they are even taking bets as to when he will wear a football shirt into the hallowed chamber!
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan - while being as neat as he can possibly be with a head of long hair and a glorious goatee - also looks a bit out of place surrounded by the suits and ties.
South Kerry’s Michael Healy-Rae is almost unidentifiable without his trademark hat and as for People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd-Barrett,he has turned up almost every day wearing black jeans.
Even Socialist TD Joe Higgins raised a few eyebrows on Tuesday. The normally dapper politician turned up in the Dail chamber wearing a casual beige jacket as opposed to the normal sports jacket that he normally wears.
As one stalwart of Leinster House told this column, ‘you’d think that they would at least dress up, this is the national parliament after all. But then again, aren’t they rebels who think they have a cause?”!
Start as you mean to go on - that is the mantra of new Transport Minister Leo Varadkar who scooped every news organisation by being the first to reveal the cost of his St Patrick’s Day junket to India.
Every year, newspapers scramble to get the cost of the different Ministerial junkets but this year, young Leo decided to save us all the hassle and published the exact costs on his website - within days of returning.
Leo has never been backward in coming forward about how he spends his money - he was one of the first TDs to itemise his expenditure on his website.
And it seems he is carrying that practice on into Ministerial life.
For the record, the cost of his six day trip to India (accompanied by his private secretary as is normal practice) came in at just over €9,000.
This included flights to India, internal flights, overnight accommodation and gifts for dignitaries.
During the course of the trip, the Minister said he met over 100 people and addressed over 1,000 people at evening evening events in New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
Micheal Martin - turn away now. Do not read another line!
A new campaign has been started to convince the new Government to tweak the non-smoking laws in Ireland to give pubs a bit of, erm, breathing space!
Seven years after the smoking ban came into effect in all Irish workplaces, a smokers’ group has called for the legislation to be amended to bring Ireland into line with most European countries and ‘help save the Irish pub’.
The group is called Forest Eireann and its spokesman John Mallon said since the ban was introduced, more than 1,000 pubs have gone bust with more closures on the way.
“A sensible compromise has been found in countries such as Holland where small, owner-managed pubs can choose to be smoking or non-smoking, and larger premises are given the option of having separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms,” he said.
“With a change of government, let’s have a change of heart on the smoking ban and help save the Irish pub.”
Considering that the new administration is healthier than the last (Enda Kenny is a cyclist and a mountain climber), I’d say Forest Eireann’s call will disappear in a puff of smoke!
A four-way debate - that is the only fair way that RTE can accommodate all the political parties in the run-up to the general election.
In the past, it was simply a two-way debate between what were the two biggest parties - Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
Last year, Labour - quite rightly - was putting RTE under pressure to ensure that the leaders’ debate before the election would be a three-way one including themselves.
Judging by the opinion polls of the past 12 months, Labour can no longer be regarded as a small party, sidelined to a minor debate.
But now a new power has emerged - Sinn Fein. And with the last opinion poll showing that they had as much support as Fianna Fail, surely there is a valid argument to include them in such a debate?
To keep them out based just on the number of TDs the party has at the moment would be a gross insult to the people, many who, for the first time, are preparing to give the party a vote.
And it is the same for the Labour supporters. Labour will be a significant power in the next Government and Eamon Gilmore deserves a podium at the leaders’ debate.
Look at the leaders’ debates across in the UK in the run-up to the elections there last year. They were three-way debates and it wasn’t any huge problem. In fact, they were informative and entertaining.
The Greens will, no doubt, want a place in a leaders’ debate if it is a free for all. But a line has to be drawn and with little more than 3% support, it is hard to argue that they should be there.
A four-way debate is the fairest way that RTE can deal with this.
But then again, it may not be RTE who does it at the end of the day. TV3 will, no doubt, be keen to pitch for their slice of the action.
To be fair to TV3, they are taking the bull by the horns in overhauling TV coverage of elections.
They want an end to the archaic broadcasting moratorium in advance of polling day.
Current guidelines drawn up by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland force TV and radio stations to stop virtually all political coverage in a 48 hour period, which includes the day before polling day and the day of the poll itself.
However this does not apply to print media, online media or to foreign media which are available in Ireland.
TV3 believes this moratorium has no basis in law, is non-existent in other countries, is ineffective and is archaic.
And so reads the Gospel according to Seanie FitzPatrick:
“For information (on the economy), one of the best sources is FT.com. For analysis, read the Economist. But for the real McCoy, you can’t beat the nineteenth hole on the golf course.”
Forget about the economy, forget about the state of the banks, forget about the politicians who are about as popular as nasty veruccas - it seems that a simple round of golf may have put the final nail in Brian Cowen’s political coffin.
While this column is a true believer that golf is a good walk spoiled, it may now be a case of golf being a good career spoiled!