TIM FANNING MY VIEW
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, unless you live in this banana republic…
It was difficult to pinpoint what was the most depressing thing about Looking After No 1 (Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm). The fact that the five TDs who featured in the show spent so much of their time driving around their constituencies when they should have been in Dublin working as national legislators? Or the brazen way in which they defended a system that makes absolutely no sense?
You’d guess that the deputies – Willie O’Dea, Michelle Mulherin, John Lyons, Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Michael HealyRae – were glad of the publicity. Here they were, caring and sharing, helping their constituents to find a decent council house, with a sun terrace or back garden, or get a visa for a family relation fleeing Syria.
Michael Healy-Rae was, unsurprisingly, the most robust in his defence of ‘parish pump’ politics, as he clocked up hundreds of kilometres a day, driving around the roads of south Kerry, occasionally taking a note at the wheel. At one stage, HealyRae, a member of our national parliament, pondered aloud about whether you were allowed to write and drive at the same time. Sure, how would he know? He’s too busy doing favours so he’ll be re-elected at the next election to be bothered with anything as trivial as the rules of the road.
Naturally, there’s a lot at stake. Those TDs who neglect their constituencies in order to focus on national issues often pay the ultimate price: losing their seat and their salary. Of course this is softened by a generous pension. Dublin Labour TD John Lyons defended their large salaries with that cliché about monkeys and peanuts. There are plenty of monkeys in the Dáil, despite the massive wage bill, but precious few peanuts, unless you count the kind they serve in the Dáil bar. That said, if we were paying our TDs to work on building a better country for all, it would be worth it. Instead, we pay them to spend hours on the phone bumping constituents up lists or negotiating with civil servants, often to the detriment of those further down the list.
But this is Ireland, where we prefer our politicians to pull a stroke for us than to make sure the system works properly in the first place. We’re the real monkeys. The gripping observational documentary series, presented by Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh (pictured left), returns for a new run. Over the past 12 months, RTÉ’s cameras have been following the emergency services, including the RNLI, Mountain Rescue, Rapid Response doctors, the Cork City Fire Brigade and Irish rescue workers in the United States and Australia, as they risk their lives in daring and hazardous operations. Using hundreds of small portable cameras, the production team has captured all the drama and danger faced by these brave men and women. In this opening episode, the Rapid Response doctors fight to save the life of a six-week-old baby.