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20 May 1999 Edition

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Television: Official Ireland is in mourning.


By Sean O Donaile

The Late Late Show (RTE1)
Legends of the Isles (TnaG)
Obsessions (Network 2)

The national grieving that greeted Parnell's funeral and the assassination of JFK, Ireland's most infamous Philanderer, has been surpassed by the trauma that is unfolding on the departure of Gay Byrne and the demise of the institution that has symbolised the Free State over the last 40 years, The Late Late Show.

No more the Housewives and husbands crying over their wireless of a Monday morn'; no more the dummies in stuffed shirts, who thronged the rows of Montrose, clapping and guffawing in obedience at Gaybo's every whim; no more the crushing depression of teenage years as one realised that all one's weekend consisted of was being trapped in the family parlour on a Friday night; and no more the waving at Auntie Francis at home and a stuffed chicken `for everyone in the audience'; no more the nonsense!

Despite his undoubted professionalism, which shone through at times, most notably on the night of The Omagh Tribute, Gay Byrne was not so much an individual star as a symbol and a mouthpiece of Free State morals and politics over recent decades. This was shown in particular in the slow drive towards some form of liberalism, the promotion of right-wing philosophies and plastic culture, and the attempt to silence and denounce republicanism and nationalism, most infamously on the occasion of Gerry Adams' first appearance, when a lineup of reactionary liberals shot themselves when trying in vain to ostracise Our Gerry.

Sinn Féin Councillor-in-waiting Daithí Doolan put his finger on the pulse recently, when stating that Byrne represented reactionary political thought over the last 37 years.

Gaybo is determined to go out with a bang, with the recent appearance of Mother Maria Bernadette alias Sinead O'Connor, who despite her humourous rants about Jesus and the Rastafarians and Traveller Drop-In Centres in Lourdes, is obviously unwell and was used solely to boost TAM ratings; and the most recent appearance of Sunday Independent `society columnist' Terry Keane, who revealed all the secrets of her 27-year affair with Ireland's answer to Napoleon - Charlie Haughey, who she described as her `Sweetie'.

Despite the regrettable slide in the Irish media into interference in people's affairs, Haughey deserves no sympathy for his consistent double standards. While he exhorted us to `tighten our belts' and implemented savage health and education cutbacks, he wined and dined his lover on his ill-gotten gains; and following a passionate adulterous weekend in Paris with the bould Terry, he spoke of his belief in `family values' in the run up to the first divorce referendum.

Gaybo will now depart to the Hill of Howth, to be replaced by another D4 mouthpiece, God spare us from Plank Kenny.

Queen Maeve was no `Sweetie', rather a violent Fairy Queen who was prepared to stop at nought in her lust for power and brown bulls. TnaG's excellent Legends of The Isles set the record straight on the origins and facts of that most famous of tales `The Brown Bull of Cooley', revealing that, not satisfied with ruling Connacht and green with envy for her hubbie's White Bull (symbol of the God of Light in Celtic times), she set in train a battle against the mighty men Of Ulster for their magical Brown Bull (God of Death).

Untouched by the Romanisation of Britannia, the Celts viewed cattle as the ultimate expression of wealth and status (there were no BMW's in them days) and spent their days waging war on enemy tribes for Daisy and co.

Similar to the Dublin footballers of the early 1990s, Maeve, whose name evolved from the pagan intoxicating Meade drink and who was viewed as the Goddess of Land, could not conquer the men of Derry, Down and Donegal but managed to put them under a magic spell (of Steiger and twenty Regal perhaps), and restricted them to their beds (where they caught up on the latest Sky Sports), leaving Ulster in the hands of the nubile but fearsome Cuchulainn, who slaughtered 20 men in one go, including his half brother Ferdia.

Amidst the carnage, the tarbh did a runner, where he met up with his brother bull in Galway, where they caroused the weekend away but eventually ran into a wall and popped his clogs, and that was that.

A load of bull or what?!

There were many Oohs and Aahs to be witnessed on the Penultimate day of the Premier League, wrapped up yet again by Merchandise United, who look set with one or two other super rich clubs to bore us to death in the new millennium.

Unfortunately for local soccer, the FAI Cup Final clashed with Rupert Murdoch, and despite my best efforts, I failed to prise away a number of Donegal fans from the box, to support their own peroxide blonde Finn Harps. The colony is alive and well.

No such carryon for Tom Synon, featured in RTE's Obsessions, travelling to over 200 League of Ireland fixtures every season, sleeping overnight at times in the local stadium, and catching the first bus to see the glamour of Cobh Ramblers or Monaghan United.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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