The Frontline Heckler
I wrote the story on Alan O’Brien’s dramatic outburst against Pat Kenny on RTE’s Frontline last night. When I checked late last night, the Tweeters and bloggers were also quick of the mark and out in force.
The first sight readers of the paper saw of the story was this morning or at 1am if they read it online. But the point is that that it was written up in six minutes, quicker than your average blog. I had time only to tap the stuff out, certainly little time to reflect on the quality of the intervention.
When I was thinking about it afterwards, what impressed me was that O’Brien had not used bad language during the course of his intervention, though the decibel levels reached Motorhead levels on a couple of occasions.
He seems a fascinating character. He was the guy who intervened in the ICTU public march last Friday to rail against David Begg. He also showed up to challenge the champion of atheism Richard Dawkins.
When our stories go online, there is a link to allow people to correspond with the reporter. I got a lot of responses today. Most of them were strongly supportive of O’Brien who they said had a point. The gist was that high-profile and high-earning RTE presenters like Kenny and Joe Duffy and Marian Finucane do not have the moral authority to talk about those on social welfare.
O’Brien is likely to become a bit of a folk hero following last night’s heckle, a little similar to the guy who threw an egg at John Prescott during the 2001 elections in Britian and ended up at the wrong end of a right hook from the then deputy prime minister.
One small footnote. RTE presenters pay is a legitimate issue for debate on programmes at the national broadcaster but it’s treated a little the elephant in the room (I hate that expression but just can’t think of any other at the moment). I also believe that the production team was caught wrong-footed. It took a while for everybody to realise he was directing his attack at Kenny and it would have looked terrible to have cut him off immediately once that realisation was made. But then neither his energy levels or his voice levels abated and when it was only when it it kept on going on and on that the decision was finally taken to pull the plug.
It was highly embarrassing for Kenny obviously. But whatever you think about his salary levels, I thought he dealt with it as well and professinoally as he could (and perhaps the only way that he could). By contrast, whatever about Jack O’Connor’s gaffe last week, he should not have described the comment as “crap”.