Conor Lenihan: “Back off Vincent!”

Via Cedar Lounge, human passion from Conor Lenihan sufficient to take Vincent Browne out of this own programme. Impressive stuff. It put me in mind of Shylock’s speech in Act Three, Scene One of the Merchant of Venice:

If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

It was also kind of in line with what Sarah Carey was digging at in yesterday’s Irish Times:

I know many TDs feel desperate frustration at how hard it is to change anything when they get elected, but they have a chance at it, which is more than journalists have. Lenihan and Martin may both be suffering from acute cases of denial, but I think the media should examine their consciences and see if they are similarly afflicted.

I don’t quite buy Sarah’s ‘journalists don’t effect anything in politics’. It’s true they don’t in any direct executive sense, but they can better serve the needs of a nation by providing good material which helps politicians make better decisions, if only giving a base read of public opinion on a given subject.

I don’t pretend to understand quantum mechanics (or any other kind of mechanics), but there is a weird phenomenon that happens at a sub atomic level in which particles behave differently when they observed than when they are unobserved. The fact of the observation can even create strange retrospective effects on the behaviour of such particles.

There’s a weird thing going on in Irish politics, where the experts and the observers have become so convinced they understand the problems facing the actors in politics better than the actors themselves. Some like Senator Shane Ross, as Sarah points out, are prepared to put their money where their mouths are.

But there is a disjunction between the important insights these authoritative figures in the media provide and the world politicians must traverse. This disjunction may simply be an indication that the government is now sick and old and needs to get out and let a new one try instead.

But there’s an additional problem which may or may not be dissipated with the arrival of new political blood after the next election. Much of the focus on near ground fiscal decisions (bail out after bail out, for instance) ignores the wider political reality in which the Republic has to operate.

Whatever the intentions of the new Government that’s not a square that can be easily circled. Especially if the media continues with an underlying assumption that all politicians are blackguards anyway (although, with the exception of Vincent, the Irish version is on the whole a great deal more urbane in character).

In the end too cynical an Irish media will have roughly the same effect as a supinely pliant one and leave us all (including the politicians) even deeper in the dark.

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  • Mack

    Mick –

    Psychology and the Hawthorne effect might make a better analogy than quantum mechanics.

    Or maybe not, is it Ireland that is being bailed out or the European banks? Maybe if we don’t ‘measure’ it, it is both and neither simultaneously. Which strikes me as just about right…

  • JaneJeffers


    What is *impressive* about this?

    Lenihan is defending only his self-image and reputation.
    I have yet to see hime so riled over the fate of his nation.

  • Rory Carr

    I do wish that this business of sub-atomic particles had not been introduced. It is difficult enough trying to get one’s head around the concept that somehow the particles are able to sense that they are being observed without trying to figure out how the scientists can possibly know how they behave when not being observed.

    I suppose it’s a bit like when Herself can always tell when I’ve been at the cratur even if she’s down in Somerset visiting her sister and couldn’t possibly have seen me. Or could she?

  • Mick Fealty


    Just on a human level, when did you last see Vincent take a lashing like that? On another, it was cracking TV. Impressive I said. Impressive it is. Whatever about the politics of it.

  • pippakin

    Vincent also had a close run with the Green party rep. it was very heated in parts.

    All good tv but not very convincing politics. As Ms Jeffers says Mr Lenihan was not defending FF or the country. His passion was reserved for himself.

  • Impressive? You obviously haven’t watched the whole thing Mick. On the whole he came across as completely self-serving trying to distance himself from Cowan (and later his brother) to save his on skin. He was a shambles.

  • Munsterview

    Sam Smith ( rte now) ” this is the second biggest blunder in politics that I can remember “

  • Mick Fealty


    You are both missing the point of the post (as opposed to the clip or the longer programme).

    Nothing should detract from FF’s *long-term* responsibility for the mess the country is now in. But the point here is that declaring open season on politicians (rather than getting the to talk about how they got us here), is actually bad news for the country.

    And my point at the end of the post is not to have a dig at Vincent (nor to big Conor up), because in part he’s permanently angry with his colleagues in the media for being too pliant.

    Conor’s passion, if I might guess was personal, but it was an unusual breaking of the narrative convention in political journalism that only journos are allowed to ‘behave badly’.

  • Munsterview

    Mary O’Rourke thinks that it is far too late for a change.

  • Munsterview

    P Kenny : update Eamon Gilmore is moving the motion of no confidence in the Government on Tuesday next. ( taken from Galway radio)

  • Munsterview

    P Kenny : update

    Consensus from panel Fg / Lab want FF/Greens to pass finance bill

    The Government will last until the March election date

    Micheal Martin is looking good.

    There will be a visit to Brian Cowen the start of the week to ask him to resign.

  • Greenflag

    ‘ But the point here is that declaring open season on politicians (rather than getting them to talk about how they got us here), is actually bad news for the country.’

    The current economic situation in Ireland , the USA , UK etc did not happen /arise just in the past two or three years . I suspect many of our politicians now know in hindsight how ‘they’ got the country into this mess ( not without some help from an ‘exuberant ‘ electorate of course -irresponsible bankers domestic and foreign , and a largely silent media ) .

    Re Mick’s video -probably a good job that Vincent Browne and Conor Lenihan were sitting at opposite ends of the table 😉

    I thought for a moment that ‘fisticuffs’ were about to be exchanged . Now that would have been youtubed the world around in about 10 minutes .

  • soln

    There’s not much difference between politicians, journalists they’re all as bent as each other. Saying & doing what they’re paid to. The good ones are normally shot, the best die from it.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think I recall a much younger Mr Browne taking a bashing over something he published indicating that a Westminster MP could not stand for Stormont (or vice versa) because it was an office under the Crown. If I recall correctly it was published close to Election Day.
    But basically politicians give far too much respect to journalists. And this has allowed SOME journos to behave like arrogant prima donnas.

  • Greenflag

    After such an ‘exciting’ week time perhaps to unwind the clock -pun intended 😉

    A lifelong FF voter died last week and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, “What are all those clocks?” St. Peter answered, “Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone in the universe has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your clock will move.” “Oh,” said the man, “whose clock is that?” “That’s George Washington’s’. The hands have never moved, indicating that he never told a lie.” “Incredible,” said the man. “And whose clock is that one?” St. Peter responded, “That’s De Valera’s clock.’ The hands have moved twice, telling us that he told only two lies in his entire life.” “Where’s Bertie Ahern’s clock?” asked the man. “Bertie’s clock is in the kitchen . They use it as a ceiling fan.”

  • dwatch

    Biffo, intends to fight it out. What’s to odds he will get elected in March?

    Cowen vows to lead party to polls
    (UKPA) – 22 minutes ago
    ‘Embattled Irish premier Brian Cowen has defied his critics and said he will lead his party into the March General Election and beyond.
    Despite growing signs of discontent in his Fianna Fail party, and continuing disputes with his Green Party coalition partners, he said he believed he had survived the controversy.’

  • Greenflag

    They’ll have to prise power from his cold dead hands as this one time NRA leader was oft quoted

    Power corrupts as we know and it looks like Biffo’s intent on dragging the party along with himself into the political abyss is just more evidence of what only be a form of megalomania 🙁

    Sad end . Was’nt it Enoch Powell who said all political careers end in failure ? Some obviously more so than others . .

  • aquifer

    Must be hard to be a columnist or interviewer and be smart & engaged and win the argumentt every week. Much easier to be snide cynical or just angry,with no argument to loose.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Well Done Conor – about time someone took some of these snide reporters down a peg or three

  • Brian

    Impressive during the stretch, so he was.

    Although, ss others have noted, how often do you see politicians get that upset over the state of the nation, over the unemployed, over the bailout???!!

  • wee buns

    Vincent acted with appropriate belligerence for ‘the day that was in it’. While Dan Boyle’s upper lip and indeed his hands were visibly trembling with rage, and Lenihan’s head displayed an amazing array of mottled purplish hues, Vincent remained in control of himself.
    Boyle’s indignation was about being pressed on ‘flakey’ communication. Big deal.
    Lenihan’s outrage was at the suggestion of a ‘happy coincidence’ that may have been self serving. Encore big deal.
    These are the men who are mismanaging the country FFS.
    Surely they should be expected to possess the necessary skills of keeping the run of themselves under pressure.
    If their foundations are feeling personally threatened by a remarkable turn of events that is no reason to treat them with kid gloves.
    They were exposed in their human frailty: important when the culture of government is, at best, amputated negligence.

  • Nunoftheabove

    wee buns

    Quite. If there had been a demonstration of even 10% of the integrity they’re now viciously insisting on an entitlement to -foaming mouths, throbbing temples, raised voices, clenched fists and pointing fingers – like obnoxious drunkards at closing time – then he and his ilk might be in a position to look the rest of us in the eye and humbly admit that:

    (i) they were unbelievably arrogant in their governance of the country;

    (ii) they were almost breathtakingly inept in their government of the country;

    (iii) there were deep, formative and entirely inappropriate relationships between prominent members of their party and an altogether unscrupulous shower of greedy bastards, liars, criminals and chancers and that these people were key co-partners in crime in the ruination of the country.

    If they could do that and admit that they were wrong, take a large portion of the responsibility for the mess they’ve co-created and offer a very, very sincere, explicit, unconditional and humble apology and at the very very least forego any entitlement to pension pay-offs and the rest of it then we might find it within ourselves to at least regard them as fellows we’d not cross the street to avoid.

    Not even come close to that and absolutely no sign of it. One’s breath is not being held in any expectation of.

  • Munsterview

    Brian Cowen has already resigned as leader of Fianna Fail, the announcement will be made after two at a news conference in Dublin.

    This is not High Political drama, it is political pantomime and farce ! He is not fit to lead the Fianna Fail party and yet he is fit to lead the country ?

    It is now difficult to see the Government can survive past Tuesdays Dail row.

  • wee buns


    ‘like obnoxious drunkards at closing time’
    My thoughts precisely: only difference being, no shame faced hangover to follow.
    Your analysis is couched in refreshingly frank terms.

  • Nunoftheabove

    wee buns

    Refreshed frankness I can do 😉

    Never thought terribly highly of Lenihan to begin with be honest, I suspect there’s a self-loathing element to his character and he’s no stranger to attempts to bully and provoke journalists. There’s the air of born-to-rule birthright privelege about him (hardly surprising, given his family heritage and his membership of Fianna bleedin’ Fail) that will never lend him any likeability but in the current climate this pompous, self-pitying, spoilt brat demeanor is beyond irksome, it’s nauseating.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    A case of the “Biter Being Bit”.
    For whatever reason Vincent Browne is not on one of the Irish Channels on the Sky Satellite. And Im far too lazy to be messing about with aerials just to watch him.
    He always struck me like Eamonn Dunphy as a bit “ignorant”.
    Certainly on balance Im always on the side of the politician …even a Fianna Fáiler….in these situations.
    So fair play to Mr Lenihan.
    Clearly Mr Lenihan had the high moral ground. And his sense of outrage was entirely justified. Unfortunately he let his outrage last about a minute longer than was absolutely necessary.

  • Nunoftheabove

    “on balance I’m always on the side of the politician”

    Thanks for the transparency.

  • Munsterview

    Nunof… “Never thought terribly highly of Lenihan to begin with be honest, I suspect there’s a self-loathing element to his character and he’s no stranger to attempts to bully and provoke journalists…..”

    He has a double dose of privilege and entitlement : not alone has he the top drawer political pedigree and credentials, he is also a trained lawyer and Barrister. You have to see them in their own environment in the Four Courts to to really how superior to the common herd they consider themselves to be.

    In the London and the UK legal chambers are scattered all over with groups to dozens of Layers, Solicitors and Barristers alike sharing chambers, each with their own heads and seniors. In Ireland the Castle corralled all the Barristers into court environs, the better to control them and stymie their interact with radical establishment opposition.

    That continues in the Four-courts. All the barristers have a common room with two doors opening out into a lobby/ corridor area. When a Counsel is wanted, the solicitor concerned, no matter how senior and distinguished, has to ask ‘the crier’ at the desk outside who will then give a public call for X to come to the desk. The Barrister always come out, no non barristers are allowed inside.

    If a solicitor or a lay person in a hurry dare open one of the two doors and stick a head inside to call a barrister for themselves, the traditional shout of ‘Donkeys On The Lawn’ is brayed by and taken up by all near by Barristers.

    As far as Lenihan is concerned that is what all people outside his privileged circle are : ‘donkeys on the lawn’ to be treated as such.

    Lenihan is a Top Counsel and one that any large commercial concern would not like to be up against. At the beginning of every year all major banks, financial institutions and other concerns ‘Retain’ the likes of Lenihan by paying say € 5,000 up 100,000 officially to have them available for ‘consultation’

    It is not unknown for a Top Council and expert to have dozens of such ‘retainers’ guaranteeing themselves millions without lifting a finger at the start of every year. Is is any surprise then that as a class they tend to be posturing, strutting, arrogant and expect privileged treatment.

    In practice these commercial concerns are buying off any expertise that can oppose them. Twenty years back a I was present when a Senior Council was ‘ retained’ to go to Europe if required at anytime over the next six months on a financial matter. He was given a draft there and then for € 100,000 and never had to leave the Four Courts or country.

    Some hours later he was contacted by another solicitor who wanted to engage him to sue the very firm he had been retained by. How can we ever get rid of corruption when there is this institutional corruption at the very heart of the very legal institutions that are supposed to be defending and protecting our rights ?

    This legal industry have always had a few people like Lenihan in Government to act as their goal and gate keeper,s to ensure that the ‘Donkeys on the lawn’ were quickly seen off with any other threat to their vested interests.

    Blackmail outside of the Four Courts is a criminal offense, ‘Greenmail’ inside the Four Courts is a defended and hoary legal tradition !

    All Superior Court and Lower Court Judges were appointed through the same cronyism patronage system responsible for the collapse of our Financial and other institutions, yet despite the systematic, instutionalised corruption such as the ‘retainer system’ to stymie justice, no one dares to expose or question this same and other such blatant legal corruption.

  • deaconzippy

    I think that Vincent Browne is taking a leaf out of Jeremy Paxman’s book. The only fault with this method is that it’s from the 1990’s and we live in the 2010’s.

    I agree that political commentators are not fulfilling their roles in keeping abreast with the issues that affect Ireland and are very much like our politicians, living in the past.

    Ireland has, over the past 20 years removed the clergy from it’s prominent role in Irish society to a more appropriate role, now its time for its politicians to get revamped and to take up their proper role, which is not to abuse the country, but to care for it, for the people who have elected them to this role. And along with them, should be the political commentator, who analyse the work of the government and to look ahead to any problems that their work might cause, in order to fulfill their role in keeping their viewers informed of all political issues in their country.