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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 11, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

    Cowen on the hustings

    Harry McGee


    Observe the picture closely. It’s a group of people waiting for a Luas tram at the platform in Dundrum. But it’s no ordinary group. The assembly is composed of political correspondents, reporters, colour writers, photographers and camera operators. And they’re not waiting for a train. Rather for the occupant of a train.

    This conspicuous group was spotted by Luas’s security office. A voice crackled into life over the tannoy on the platform intoning that cameras or filming were not allowed on Luas ‘infrastructure’ without permits. A minute or two later the same voice said that they were all being watched and recorded on CCTV.

    It was Big Brother stuff, straight out of 1984.

    But then Brian Cowen alighted off the Luas and we realised it wasn’t 1984.

    It was much much worse than that. Worse than the clock striking 13. Worse than Room 101. Worse than the fate met by Winston Smith.

    For this was 2009 and the nightmare facing Fianna Fail made George Orwell’s fatalistic take on totalitarianism seem like a tea party.

    Of course, the reason why everybody was there was because it was a ‘media event’. At grass roots level, candidates actually go and meet the electorate. But for national leaders and Eurpean candidates, it’s all about events. That means a quick sweep through a shopping centre, meeting and greeting everybody who crosses your path. Of course, every comet passing though has a tail. And that tail is the media. Everything is designed to get a sound byte on air, to get a couple of clips onto the news bulletin, to get a ‘human side of Pat the Political Leadr’ picture into the paper.

    And so it was yesterday. Brian Cowen was retinued by a press pack of 30 or so people as he  accompanied Fianna Fail’s candidate in Dublin South, Shay Brennan, through Dundrum. He was fated to meet far fewer ‘real people’ than the small army of handlers, politicians, journalists and snappers that surrounded him.

    The biggest surprise of the half hour walkabout  was the non-existent hostlity. On the other hand there was little euphoria either, in marked contrast to George Lee who had been three only moments before.

    Cowen gave a very careful stand-up interview where he repeated the line that the Fianna Fail-led Government was the only body willing to make the hard decisions. He discounted all contentions that the party was in trouble, that his leadership was in trouble, or that FF was in freefall.

    The impression from the first day on the hustings is this: Fianna Fail will do badly. But the party will not do quite as badly as people are claiming right now. Deep downs all FFers know that the two byelections are lost. If the party manages to salvage three European seats and takes only a relative hit in the local elections, it will be able to claim a victory of sorts.

    But only until the next crisis rears its head.

    • Eoin says:

      Left to right: Justin McCarthy, some RTÉ dude, some other dude, Ken Murray, Fran McNulty, photographer, cameraman, photographer, Ursula Halligan, Lise Hand, Q102′s Maria Shannon(?), Paraic Gallagher.

      Only one print journo (besides yourself, Harry)?

    • Harry says:

      RTE dude is Jonathan Clynch. The other dude is Senan Hogan, a print journalist from PA. Shaun Connolly of the Examiner was there as was Lise Hand of the Indo as was Aidan Cooney of the Mail. Sean Boyne of the Sunday World was also there.

    • Hugh says:

      Harry, Paddy Power have Lee at 1/20 to take the seat.Do you think thats a fair appraisal? If Brennan can hang in there and finish third on 1st preferences, his transfers could leapfrog White ahead of Lee, if we assume that FF voters will transfer to Labour far more readily than FG. 5/1 seems good value on the Labour man to take the seat.

    • Eoin says:

      Good to see the print media still there in numbers, for another year at least!

    • Kynos says:

      I’m sure they all consider themselves to be Very Important People anyway. Too important to be bothered with getting permits for filming on the Luas when a Nation’s thoughts urgently need forming. Or should that be re-forming?

    • Harry says:

      To Hugh:
      My opinion is this: The momentum behind George Lee is so humongous that he will come close to getting elected on the first count. He may not get the bulk of Shay Brennan’s transfers but it won’t make any difference at that stage.

    • Harry says:

      Sorry for huge pic. Picasa is the default on my computer and the bloody thing doesn’t allow you to resize pix. Thanks to Killian Doyle of ireland.com for doing the honours.

    • Des FitzGerald says:

      What I found more interesting is that state of the walls beside the stop – is there nowhere in Ireland that isn’t flithy dirty or covered in graffitti – who is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the LUAS stops? Why aren’t they doing their job? Grafitti like that should be removed immediately – it would take 30 mins to spray paint those walls and the parents of those responsible should be legally liable for paying the cost – maybe that would focus the minds of the generation of me feiners who raise the generation of low life scum who never work and think they have a God given right to have everything handed to them on a plate.

      It’s the total lack of respect for their environment and the right of those among them to be able to enjoy that environment that really gets up my nose.

      Biffo wouldn’t have noticed anything was wrong – what his head being up his ar*e most of the time.

      It’s always the little things that tell the biggest story about what is wrong with a country.

    • Brian Cowen High King of Ireland says:

      They look like a bunch of mafiosi waiting for a delivery of cocaine

    • Conor says:

      ireland.com Harry? Really?

    • Harry says:

      Sorry, Conor. Typed out quickly. He’s a fellow Irish Times journalist who works mainly for online editon.

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