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27 November 2008 Edition

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Irony lost on whingeing Harris

Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent this week is, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, fantastic.
Last week Eoghan was in the Seanad, to which he was appointed by Bertie Ahern for his support in last year’s General Election. Our hero announced he was taking a 10% pay cut in order to argue that low-paid civil servants should be fired or have their wages cut. Bear in mind by the way, Eoghan’s salary as a Senator is between €65,000 and €70,000 and he has a slew of expenses to claim.
Having left the Seanad he ran into Deaglán de Breadún of the Irish Times and rushed over to tell him like a child excited to have tied his laces for the first time. De Breadún scribbled a few notes and all was well.
But then we turn to the villain of the piece. A man without an ‘historical hinterland’. Harris thought he deserved to be on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland for his efforts. And so, giddy with glee he ran up to the dastardly David McCullagh of RTÉ whose response was the majestic, “Well that’s more of it” before walking away.
The cheek of the man. Did he not know whom he was talking to?
“Unlike Deaglán De Breadún, McCullagh was not around when I played my part in the Peace Process. And his older colleagues, David Davin-Power and Tommie Gorman and Charlie Bird, who also did their bit, remember things like David Trimble flying me to Scotland to help persuade his people to set up the Northern Executive.”
Yes indeed, the role Eoghan Harris played in the Peace Process.
The role...Eoghan Harris...played in...the Peace Process. For those of you hysterical with disbelief, the article is still on
Anyway, back to the action.
“...McCullagh is one of the new breed of RTÉ broadcasters. They lack historical hinterland. They do not know that I was winning Jacobs awards (two) for cutting edge current-affairs, in Irish and English, when I was a lot younger than McCullagh is today.”
I love the brackets. I love the fact that he sat down, wrote that sentence and then felt the need to put in the number. Now class, how many Jacobs awards did Eoghan win? This is actually something that should be looked into. Harris once boasted at having won a Silver Bear, one of the biggest awards in international film, at the Berlin Film Festival. Only he didn’t. We’re pretty sure about the Jacobs’ but anyone who wants to check can let us know.
David McCullagh, has also won at least one national media award by the way. We’re not sure if he’s won others but we suspect he doesn’t write columns boasting about it.
He’s also been a journalist with RTÉ for a number of years, holds a PhD in Politics and wrote a reasonably good book on the first inter-party government.
Anyway, continuing his devoid of irony voyage Harris moves from McCullagh to RTÉ in general.
“I was effectively banned from RTÉ News shows in the seven years (1993-2000) when I wrote a weekly column in the Sunday Times...
“In that period, I was persona non grata in RTÉ. Nowadays, whenever you see me on RTÉ shows, I have been invited by programmes outside the news area, like Questions and Answers and the Late Late Show.”
Pause for a moment. Have a read over that again.

Eoghan Harris, who has boasted repeatedly about keeping republicans off RTÉ over two decades, is hurt because the only RTÉ shows he appears on are the two shows with the highest ratings in the country. A point he makes in his weekly column in the most widely read newspaper in the country. While being a Senator. The irony of his plight is lost on this most ardent advocate of blanket state censorship.

The reality is this. The Times and the Independent did cover Eoghan’s announcement. Neither of them gave him more than 250 words, the newspaper journalist’s equivalent of pat on the head. They were right to do so. In fairness to Harris it was a story, and in fairness to the newspapers, it was a minor one.
Television and radio journalists have much less space. Morning Ireland might be the flagship current affairs show on radio but it can generally only cover eight or nine stories a day in the flagship.
There are cutbacks in health and education, a global economic crisis and not a day goes by without some enterprising small businessmen in Somalia hi-jacking an oil tanker.
Only Harris could demand that the world stop turning to pay attention to him.
And only Harris could do it while believing himself to be the victim.

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