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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 25, 2009 @ 11:16 am

    Ask my arts

    Fiona McCann


    As you all know by now, some gifted prankster recently placed paintings – caricatures, essentially – of our esteemed Taoiseach in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) and the National Gallery. RTE reported it. And then the Taoiseach’s office had a quiet word and RTE apologised. Whatever your feelings about the nature of the joke, the work itself, or the manner in which it appeared (and come ON, can anyone really believe that our government representatives are above satire?), the fact that our national broadcaster performed a mincing U-turn is nothing short of shameful. Your thoughts, dear readers?

    • The government have done themselves no favours with their wild overreaction to this trifle, and RTE have damaged their credibility as regards independence. If Cowen had just laughed it off, he’d have been admired for his sense of humour, and the story would have gone away…

    • JC says:

      Right on. RTE should’ve cowboyed-up and stuck by their original decision to report on this minor, only perhaps mildly interesting blip of a story. By pulling back, RTE becomes the story.

      I think there is a pleasing democratic efficiency to the way pranksters are judged by their audience – and if a nonviolent political stunt is to be judged offensive, it must be so judged by those who see it, and not just objected to by the the offended party.

    • Quint says:

      Shameful decision indeed by RTE. Absolutely no backbone whatsoever. Apparently, they also asked Oliver Callan to tone down the content of Gift Grub as it was flying too close to the bone in its depiction of Brian Cowen. What’s the point of neutering a political satire show? They might as well just cancel it completely.

    • Aisling says:

      By getting indignant over the incident the government have caused a whole weeks worth of news out of a story that should have blown over in a day. The PR offices of both RTE and Fianna Fail should have seen that coming.

      And now the Gardai are also wasting valuable resoures investigating the artist!

    • adam says:

      Better that RTE did apologise so that the debate about them can go stratospheric.
      Disgusting decision to apologise. How could this incident have been ignored by a news programme?
      Are they implying that had they been thinking straight they never would have reported on it??
      Holy shit, can you imagine if that’s how things are going to be done from now on?
      At least there seems to be a huge backlash developing against the horrifyingly ball-less national broadcaster, even if that backlash is, at present, confined to Twitter and blogs. Let’s hope we hear a public decrying of RTE by the NUJ and every journalist worth their salt, myself included, and that Fianna Fail and RTE are publicly executed in Stephen’s Green.
      Possibly fed to the ducks even.

    • Fiona says:

      A Doubtful Egg: You are absolutely right. What he really should have done, however, is bought the paintings.

      JC: Your right – it’s not for BC to take issue with this piece. But boy oh boy can you believe our national broadcaster APOLOGISED?

      Quinn: Too true – so much for free press.

      Aisling: I know, I cannot believe the Gardai are involved in this bungling, keystone cops-esque “investigation” where they storm Today FM with one of the bubble-wrapped portraits. Ridiculous.

      Adam: I honestly think this is going to go mainstream – what starts on blogs usually makes its way into the mainstream media anyway, but there’s no way it can be overlooked. Watch this space.

    • *** says:

      It just shows Fianna Fail’s hard neck. They accuse RTE of demeaning the office of Taoiseach. What about Haughey and Ahern at the tribunals? There was no indignation then.

    • adam says:

      is there an organised bombardment of RTE with emails of complaint at the moment? where should everyone direct their complaints? we could actually get the decision reversed and the story reinstated into the RTE archive.

    • Fiona says:

      Adam: The story has been reinstated, but with the apology attached, or so it appears: http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0323/cowennude.html

    • Clare says:

      What a whoo-ha about nothin. The govt did themselves no favours reacting like they did. What would have been a half-story for a day or two, will now live on as part of Cowen’s legacy. At least it kept us from talking about the R-word though, and that’s definitely a positive thing.

    • clom says:

      Recycled outrage from the UK.

      “Prankster” placement of work into national gallery recycled from a Banksy “intervention”.
      (inverted commas used to maintain degree of distance from two terms if find personally abhorrent- mileage may vary…)

      Government overreaction to story about political leadership? Recycled from the big book of Alistair Campbell.

      Spineless national broadcaster apologising at the first sign of trouble recycled from the big book of BBC crisis management since, well, take your pick.

      Maybe we should just hand the country back to the UK, think of the efficiency savings!
      We can synch up our scandals, have free healthcare and get double the amount of BOILING IMPOTENT RAGE that seems to characterise all public discussion of anything even mildly controversial in both sets of islands.

    • click here says:

      This is absolutely disgraceful.

      It was mildly amusing when the story first broke; it was somewhat distressing when the national public broadcaster, RTÉ, issued an apology (for reporting the facts?!).

      Now, however, it has turned sinister, since the offices of Today FM were visited by a detective from Pearse Street Garda Station, requesting copies of email correspondence; the artist – also a teacher in north Dublin – has since been questioned by An Garda Síochána; and on foot of the latter, a file sent to the DPP.

      Utterly, utterly dangerous.

    • Gaga says:

      Easily known poor ol’ Cha Haughy is no longer with us. Cha loved art, nudes, pranks…Biffo can’t get his head around the art thing. RTE never had a spine…and the Guards —well, they don’t get the art thing either and it’s easier for 6′-2″ lads from the back of beyond to hassle artists than it is to tackle feckers with machine guns and swords…

    • Mark says:

      If the continued reports of potential arrests are true then the escalation of this prank into something approaching treasonable actions really does show the governments inablity to react in any responsible measure..to anything.
      Its always been a feature of FF to bully others into submission… to do so over this really shows their true colours.

      Its a case where one iota of humour would have gone a lot further then threats.

    • click here says:

      Prep your glitter glue and pipe cleaners!

      Fústar (http://www.fustar.info) and the Salon des Libertes (http://salondeslibertes.wordpress.com) are seeking submissions from anyone and everyone of their own artistic creations, in response to this shameful episode, for future public exhibition.

    • The best looking man alive says:

      I will be creating my own collection of censored caricatures for freedom, The fat cowen,The wicked little Sarkozy doll he wanted banned,the little cretin,Blair sucking bush and that is a poetic metaphor if ever there was one! Gordon Brown in an old time Mistrel show with Obama,just to offend the politically correct erect and uptight,Brian Lenihan in a dunces cap for slow learners,Mary Harney painted as a patient opening a private clinic to tackle obesity,being patted on the belly by chubs cowen and co,Bring back Francis Bacon he died too young!!

    • ordinaryjoe says:

      RTE – from the supine to the ridiculous. Why would we expect anything different from RTE, after all, didn’t they play a major part in enabling FF to dupe the people at the last election with their US Presidential ( as opposed to Parliamentarian ) style election ” debates .” It seems we elected McCarthy.

    • Stan says:

      Fiona, I think it’s a farcical story. The government’s reaction is revealing and a bit worrying, and RTE’s capitulation is shameful, as you say yourself.

      Given all that’s going on, you’d think they would have more important things to worry about. But no, they couldn’t let it go. Their overreaction vindicates the original act of provocation, and shows the importance of satire.

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