It’s amazing the number of people involved in politics who can’t stand “The Frontline.” Ha ha! You cry. They can’t stand the truth, being confronted with the genuine anger of The People! (that’s the Irish people, by the way, not the Dublin regional newspaper)
The funny thing is, it’s not that. All of us who have been involved in politics have had to have the political row with someone, and to be honest, most of us have enjoyed it. But that’s not the problem wth “The Frontline”. These aren’t political rows. This is how it happens:
Pat introduces the issue, frames it, consults the panel, and gets what is a pretty high standard of debate going. He’s pretty forensic, and cuts through to key points. Last night, FF TD Darragh O’Brien, FG’s Leo! and Fintan O’Toole all gave a solid account of themselves, although Pat caught O’Brien out with the zinger that the banks could not actually be forced to lend. But it was good, informative stuff, and FOT was on particularly good form.
Then the bit that every political activist hates. “Let’s ask the audience.” The moment the show judders to a bitter, irrational halt. Don’t get me wrong: People’s individual stories are important, and can illuminate a wrong that needs to be righted, but this is more than that. The sheer cynicism of the audience, the “government are doing absolutely nothing to help me!” tone which is just not true. One gentlemen demanded that all TDs go without pay for a year? Imagine asking any other sector of society to do that, yet this gets applause?
“The Frontline” is an improvement on “Questions and Answers”, and Pat Kenny has finally found his footing, but the reality is that most political people watching it find themselves flicking over to “Two and a half men” when the audience starts up. They have to. Their blood pressure will have it no other way.