Miriam Lord's Week


Sad-eyed Carey gets no sympathy from Rabbitte; world's media follows Cowen to T2; no escape from Nama at Chester Beatty

Spat of the Pats is Prime attraction

THURSDAY'S SPAT of the Pats sparked a huge surge in Prime Time'sviewing figures when an extra 90,000 people rushed to catch an emotional Pat Rabbitte tearing strips off a crestfallen Pat Carey.

RTÉ says 610,000 viewers were watching when the former Labour Party leader and Fianna Fáil's Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs began their discussion.

By the time though the dust settled on their stormy encounter that number had shot up to 700,000 - a massive audience for the current affairs programme, only topped by general election leadership debates.

According to our source in Montrose: "The item was going along like normal when all of a sudden Pat Rabbitte literally took off. It was an electrifying moment.

Panellists Karl Deeter and Jim Power were over the other side of the studio waiting to start their segment with Miriam O'Callaghan - they just sat there, transfixed."

Labour Pat had been listening to the ever-so-reasonable Carey quietly going about his task of applying gloss to his Government's humiliating slide into the open alms of the IMF.

Clearly losing patience, he took a gulp of water and slammed his glass down on the desk.

But FF Pat flannelled softly on, gently putting out how his Government was in discussions with the Bailout Boys for "the safeguard of the Irish citizen and the Irish taxpayer".

Better late than never, some may have thought, but not Rabbitte.

Pat Carey is a great man to put out in sticky situations (like when the IMF arrives in town to say the game is up).

Nobody does humble like Pat. He soothingly spins out lines like they were sweeties. He is the antithesis of bruisers like Dermot Ahern or Noel Dempsey.

Attacking mild-mannered Pat Carey is like kicking a puppy - that soft face and those sad brown eyes looking up at you - sure how could anyone be mad with FF Pat? - even if, for all his undoubted decency and fair-mindedness, he continues to be one of the most doughty and unswerving defenders of/apologists for the Government and his party.

On such a dark day for the country, Rabbitte became sick and tired of his political opponent's reasonable routine. He let fly at the startled Minister.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," he roared, berating Carey for "comin' on here with your aul' palaver".

FF Pat bowed his head, more in sorrow than in anger. That's what he does. But Labour Pat continued the tirade, despite attempts by presenter Richard Crowley to calm the situation.

In the best tradition on television, the producers decided to let the item run over time, another Reeling in the Years clip safely in the can.

The texts and tweets started flying almost immediately.

Many feared Rabbitte - gesticulating angrily - was going to hit Carey. Others thought the Minister was going to cry.

The episode lasted nearly four minutes.

Finally, Crowley thanked his guests. UCD Prof Ray Kinsella looked stunned. Desmond Lachman, a former IMF executive appearing by live link from Washington, managed a wan smile and the two Pats sat stoney-faced, looking straight ahead.

What happened next? Did they rip off their microphones and storm off the set? Did they continue the argument or did they shake hands?

Miriam O'Callaghan tweeted after the show: "Incredible atmosphere in studio tonight during Rabbitte/Carey row - didn't speak to each other afterwards."

The aftermath, we hear, was "deathly quiet". The politicians completely ignored each other. Both men were "seething" and "wouldn't look at each other" when they returned to the hospitality area to pick up their belongings.

"In all my many years working here I've never witnessed such a scene," one staffer told us.

Miriam O'Callaghan says she was taken aback by the ferocity of the exchange.

"I've chaired some very robust debates on Prime Time - leadership debates, appearances by Ian Paisley - there have been a lot of very heated arguments. Normally though, when people fight, they always shake hands and make up when the lights go down."

She was in Donegal in advance of next Tuesday's programme from the county, but hardly anybody wanted to talk to her about the byelection. They all wanted to know more about the previous night's fireworks in Donnybrook.

In Killybegs, fisherman Ciarán Doherty told her he was at home with his 100-year-old grandfather when the Pats started having their spat.

"Jesus," roared centenarian Hughie Sweeney to his grandson, "give me that remote control quick so I can turn it up!"

International arrivals already in evidence at T2

The good news for Dublin airport was that half the world's media wanted to attend the official opening of their spanking new terminal yesterday.

The bad news is that they were only there to chase the Taoiseach and ask him about the arrival of the IMF and EU Bailout Boys.

Between beggars, boarded up houses, piebald ponies, a hugely expensive airport project and a moustachioed Michael O'Leary dressed up as an undertaker, the international press is having a field day here.

Guests attending the opening of T2 were presented with a goodie bag by the airport authority.

As the celebrations were in full swing, a television journalist with a soft Scottish accent was doing his piece to camera. He was telling his viewers about the opening of the swanky new terminal by the Taoiseach and contrasting this with the fact that the IMF is putting together a bailout for the Irish economy.

As he spoke he held up his hand. "Guests here have been presented with a goodie bag," he said, removing the gifts, one by one. "A box of chocolates, a paperweight and a bottle of champagne."

His final words? "You couldn't make it up."

Nama echoes across the ages in Iranian epic

The great Iranian epic Shahnama(the Book of Kings) is the subject of a marvellous exhibition which opened this week in the Chester Beatty Library. The poem is 1,000 years old this year.

Written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, it was meant as a "mirror for princes" chronicling the triumphs and failures of ancestral rulers so those in charge could learn the lessons.

Minister for Culture Mary Hanafin, who did the opening honours, joked she had come to "escape into the world of eastern culture" and not to be reminded of Nama.

The book is one of the great epics of literature but is little known in this part of the world. Iranian ambassador Hossein Panahiazar said Goethe rated the Shahnama as one of the four great epics of the world.

Exhibition curator Dr Elaine Wright said: "There are stories in the Shahnamathat anybody could learn from when you don't think about the future and the consequences of the things that you do."

Just like the stories in our own Nama.