Sunday, 6 March 2011
Wonder what the Greeks are saying now, when they go out to riot: "We're not the Irish. We're not like that. We don't use democracy."
Democracy in Ireland, though, is different. The politicians stalked the streets like exiled princes in the days before the poll. On the day, white-faced - or unbelieving and delighted - they stood in the count centres while the radio journalists feasted on them.
There was a palpable air of schadenfreude as the interviewees - or in some cases, anticipatory schadenfreude, for who knows what the future will bring. Will it be premature coalition, or coalition interruptus, ending in tears and slaps?
High points on the day the cleamhnas was set up were Newstalk's breathless early reporting - "Envision the picture: Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and in the seat directly opposite him (pause) Arise, Baron Gerry Adams" - Ivan Yates with a chuckle in his voice at 10am.
I don't know who said it, but I choked on my tea, at home in the Dublin South Central Soviet, at "The blue bloods of Dun Laoghaire have turned blue for Fine Gael, while working-class Dublin South Central is red for Labour."
By mid-morning Radio 1 was as avid as a cat looking at a bird and making that unnerving chattering noise with its teeth. The noon news reported: "Every Fianna Fail seat in Dublin is in danger.... the Greens are in a fight for their political lives".
The most unconsciously telling statement for the fallen princes was from Sinn Fein's Dessie Ellis. Revealing how Fianna Fail's fortunes have changed, he said: "We're not going to be like the three main parties - and I include Fianna Fail in that."
Radio 1's was a master feat of reporting, going on through the day, relentlessly circling from constituency to constituency, and Rachael English and Sean O'Rourke finally staggered off to bed at 4am, leaving those last few centres still counting, counting.
It's all a dream - could it really be the end of the Tammany Hall fixing that has been the curse of Irish politics since the 18th century?
By midweek, Fine Gael and Labour have their match well on the way, and the two stations were reporting Enda, spurning the Enda-pendants for the fine reliable farm of Labour, murmuring "D'you want to be buried with my people?"
* A made match can work better, sometimes, than a mating in the full heat of passion; as the Indians say, in a love-match the kettle is boiling and is only going to cool; in a made match the kettle is cold when it's put on the fire and keeps getting hotter.
Labour and Fine Gael, though, will have to have the same careful trust that goes into any marriage. They may get help from the book Little White Whys - about why men lie. Brian O'Connell gave David Harvey the skinny on it, having talked to author Ish Major.
Everything you want to know about a man is in first three conversations, said Brian. He gave some helpful questions to ask a man if you're interviewing: Have you any legal problems? If you hear "Not that I care to discuss" or "Nothing that affects me now", run a mile.
The texters were speaking tough love. "Little white lies will lead to big black eyes," texted Dave. Texter M was indignant: "I don't think that writer's going to have many male friends." David pointed out: "Giving away trade secrets."
Listener Marie said bitterly: "Men are animals but some make better pets." And her ideal match, Noel: "Women's place in kitchen cooking - and they shouldn't be allowed on the road."
Election coverage, Newstalk, Saturday
Election coverage, Radio 1, Saturday
David Harvey, 4fm, weekdays