RTÉ and the media circus


CONNECTIONS:LONG YEARS AGO this writer found himself in the snug in Doheny and Nesbitt’s with an RTÉ producer. This is not a good situation to find oneself in. But needs must. I was being interviewed for a scriptwriting job. I was poor. I needed the money. I sat there convincing the RTÉ producer that he needed me.

He did. He was Eoghan Harris. He hired me. I never saw him again with his clothes on. I next and lastly saw him at Seapoint swimming place. Buck naked. It was not a sight to encourage me to explore the feminine side of my nature. Well, none of us is getting any younger.

In RTÉ I had been passed on by Harris, passed up or down some convoluted chain to another producer. I wrote some scripts. I received a cheque for £800. That’s punts, not euro. What they did with the scripts I have no idea; they never saw the light of day, anyway. This will no doubt make TV licence payers feel very good this morning. But it happens. All around this town there are people merrily spending money that has been funnelled to them from TV licence payers. Now while many of these are the usual grossly overpaid top presenters, I’m also referring to the likes of me, being paid for projects and concepts and rushes of RTÉ blood to the RTÉ head that never actually get off the ground.

Very disheartened, I returned to the day job.

Beside me at a largish architectural practice was a largish friendly woman. I never got very close personally to this largish friendly woman, perhaps because I was more interested in a smallish unfriendly woman. She was a beautiful red-headed architectural technician from Co Cavan, and she was the main emphasis of conversational gambits, chit-chat and flirtations. Ah, but the memories. I have not forgotten them, particularly the largish friendly woman. Because one day she vanished. And one day I vanished too, and went into the book-writing business. And yet one day I turned on my car radio and there she was, the largish friendly woman, she had become Marian Finucane.

That was my second connection with RTÉ, but it was not enough, I was not to be spared. My wife, despite the best efforts of one doctor to kill her, produced a daughter. Rushed in a blood-soaked ambulance from that first hospital to a real one, they both survived. The daughter became a musician, and joined the RTÉ youth choir. And I found myself at lots of RTÉ concerts, smirking in a paternal sort of way.

Over the years, the smirk turned into one of those expressions we see in the work of a trainee embalmer. But whatever, now that daughter is Enya. Well, almost Enya, albeit temporarily singing in various Irish pubs in London.

Enough for one man, all this intimacy with RTÉ?

An RTÉ producer, an RTÉ presenter, and numerous RTÉ choral festivities? And I’m not even going to mention the RTÉ programmes on television and radio that a man experiences in the normal course of a lifetime’s despair. But it was not to end there.

I came into possession of an old 1930s photo album. RTÉ did not exist in the 1930s. It was Radio Éireann or some such. A man could expect to be safe from RTÉ, flipping through a 1930s photo album. I flipped the pages, expecting to be safe. But the time-space continuum warped.

Something cold grabbed at my innards. It was like the return of the Daleks in Doctor Who. Without the music. I looked again. There was no mistaking it. That photo there, that photo reproduced right here, that man is Pat Kenny. The dead spit.

But no, of course it wasn’t Pat. The photo is of his father, a one-time elephant-keeper in Dublin Zoo.

A strange connection that, but strangely appropriate.

Phrases like “the media circus” come to mind. And images arise of the lumbering beasts that inhabit it. And Pat Kenny presiding elegantly over it all.

Enough already.