Farewell (for now) host Vin­cent Browne: You made de­bate TV real

Bray People - - OPINION - David looby david.looby@peo­ple­news.ie

LAST WEEK marked the end of an era in Ir­ish broad­cast­ing when politi­cians’ tor­turer, jour­nal­ist Vin­cent Browne left the hot seat of his TV3 late night de­bate show. A jour­nal­ist to be reck­oned with, the pre­vi­ous night on Tonight with Vin­cent Browne he tack­led Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar on his def­i­ni­tion of class, when the Fine Gael man de­scribed peo­ple on the min­i­mum wage as be­ing mid­dle class.

Over the years count­less hard­ened politi­cians have been skew­ered and re­duced to mum­bling wrecks by the trained bar­ris­ter, who de­lighted to pro­vok­ing his guests, or should that be vic­tims.

From the be­gin­ning Browne’s host­ing skills raised eye­brows. The cam­era zoom­ing in to his face was, at times, more ter­ri­fy­ing than hor­ror movie ter­ror cli­mac­tic scenes on hor­ror films show­ing at the same time. This was meaty stuff and view­ers couldn’t get enough.

Browne came into his own as the re­ces­sion gripped the coun­try and through his per­sis­tent lines of ques­tion­ing and dogged­ness, the be­lea­guered peo­ple of Ire­land felt they, through their li­cence fee, were get­ting their pound of flesh. True, RTE In­ves­ti­gates and Prime Time also do an ad­mirable job, but no­body could match Browne for jour­nal­is­tic brim­stone and fire. At times, he was re­lent­less, never suf­fer­ing fools gladly, in fact slaugh­ter­ing them from sev­eral an­gles.

He would wrap up be­fore ads by turn­ing away from the cam­era, mid-thought. This was not al­ways pol­ished TV, but it was strangely ad­dic­tive. He had a dark­ness about him, but also a good sense of hu­mour and he was never afraid to ask the ques­tions other jour­nal­ists were afraid to.

In his in­ter­view with Mr Varad­kar, he rightly tack­led him on his as­ser­tion that the Gov­ern­ment would be­gin of­fer­ing more sup­ports for the hard work­ing mid­dle class, who he de­scribed as any­one earn­ing the min­i­mum wage (€9.55 an hour or around €1,600 a month), and up.

Be­ing of In­dian her­itage, Mr Varad­kar is no doubt well versed in class sys­tems, where, in In­dia, peo­ple are born into ‘castes’ - many forced to re­main in roles of ef­fec­tive servi­tude for the rest of their lives. He claimed 70 per cent of Ir­ish peo­ple, in­clud­ing those on the min­i­mum wage, are mid­dle-class. In turn­ing the no­tion of mid­dle class as pro­fes­sional class on its head, the Taoiseach has set the cat among the pi­geons. Browne looked non­plussed. The na­tion, (well those able to stay up that late to watch the pro­gramme), scratched their heads, and held their breath.

To me the class sys­tem is noth­ing more than a la­bel. It is not a term I ever re­call us­ing, even if I was al­ways con­scious of a so­cial strata. Hav­ing re­cently been in Amer­ica where the mighty dol­lar rules all, I had my coun­try blink­ers lifted some­what to see poverty first hand. Walk­ing city streets you see home­less­ness and are aware of how much a sink or swim, dog eat dog world it can be in a coun­try of hun­dreds of mil­lions,

Mr Varad­kar seemed to be hint­ing at the need to help hard work­ing peo­ple strug­gling with astro­nom­i­cal child­care costs and mortgages, in a mean­ing­ful way. De­scrib­ing the two mil­lion peo­ple who work in Ire­land to­day as cit­i­zens who con­trib­ute a lot to so­ci­ety but don’t get much back, he said this class of per­son de­serve more rep­re­sen­ta­tion and talked about cre­at­ing a ‘Repub­lic of Op­por­tu­ni­ties’. Of course this could all be po­lit­i­cal mumbo jumbo, but for me the sooner the no­tion of class dis­ap­pears and all peo­ple can ac­cess jus­tice, health and ed­u­ca­tion with­out bar­ri­ers, the bet­ter.

Jour­nal­ist Vin­cent Browne and Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar on his TV3 de­bate show.

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