Studio bunny Pat pulls rabbit's ears stunt at digital switchover


DÁIL SKETCH:LEINSTER HOUSE was reeling from the excitement of the digital switchover.

It’s a miracle how anyone managed to concentrate during Leaders’ Questions yesterday morning.

All the politicians were jealous of Pat Rabbitte, who got to go out to RTÉ and make a nice speech without interruption in the fragrant company of Mary Kennedy and Miriam O’Callaghan.

Whereas they had to listen to the Taoiseach getting dog’s abuse in the Dáil from Micheál Martin over the long running saga of the new children’s hospital. And then Enda had to endure Richard Boyd Barrett’s continuing taunts about him being “special” in the eyes of our German paymaster.

But his pain will have been eased somewhat by the news that he has been named “European of the Year” by an association of German publishers.

The Taoiseach is now proud holder of a “Golden Victoria” award.

But not half as proud as Rabbitte, who plunged distraught pensioners in the far flung depths of the Kerry valleys into telly oblivion with his leap from analogue to digital.

They’ve no time for Big Switching Pat in Annascaul and the likes. If they didn’t have Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, who has been tirelessly working on their behalf in the Dáil, they might never see Fair City again.

Now that he is a Minister, going out to RTÉ isn’t half as much fun for studio bunny Pat. He used to be able to drive out to Montrose blindfolded, but these days he has a man to drive him there.

At yesterday’s gig, the Minister for Communications got so carried away with his leading role in this “historic event” that he simpered a saucy comment at the lovely Mary Kennedy while the cameras were live.

The Nationwide presenter had just been waxing nostalgic about the early days of television, recalling how she used to have to “tweak” the rabbit’s ears aerial to get a clear picture on the set at home.

Whereupon Pat rose to deliver his harmless speech, happily joining in the welter of self-congratulation which enveloped RTÉ for the duration of their over-egged switchover programme.

“Thank you very much Mary for that introduction” he smirked, “and you can, eh, tweak my ears anytime!” The Ceann Comhairle wouldn’t let him away with a comment like that.

The switchover extravaganza – marking the change from analogue TV signals to digital – was not dissimilar to your average morning around Leinster House.

Everyone had a great welcome for themselves. Speeches galore. Nobody listening. Much back-slapping.

Signals flying everywhere – angry, lost, conciliatory, mixed, coded, clear, unclear. . .

A lot of sound but not much picture and an audience at home wondering what all the fuss is about.

Back in RTÉ, numerous people with executive titles were produced for the occasion, chief among them the director general and the chairman of the board.

Close your eyes and you could have been at a meeting of the Oireachtas Communications Committee – with all the self-importance but none of the vitriol.

Somebody called someone a “genius” at one point. You’d rarely hear that in the Dáil, although Peter Mathews lives in hope.

Naturally, Bryan Dobson was wheeled out to add some gravitas in the studio. On big days in Kildare Street, they position him out under a big tree beside the plinth.

The big switch moment fell to Miriam O’Callaghan, who clicked a computer mouse and, well, that was it.