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Posts Tagged ‘The Late Late Show’

Four weeks ago today, as a sunny Sunday came to a close, I sat in the restaurant of a hotel in Clare. Perched on a clifftop, the view was of huge Atlantic waves crashing on the beach, the surfers long gone as the last light drained from the sky. My husband was putting our children to bed in a family room two floors up. Our two-day break was nearly over. I say break, but as any parent with small children will tell you, ‘break’ is the most ill-conceived description of a holiday with young kids. Tons of fun, yes. A relaxing rest, no. After adventure parks and bouncy castles, beach strolls and round towers (where I managed to convince my son that Rapunzel lived), we decided to grab an hour or two to ourselves for dinner. The babysitter was booked, I ordered our main courses and although the view bordered on romantic cliché, it was insanely pretty. The minutes ticked by, other diners looked at me sympathetically. My wedding ring and the book of short stories I was reading did nothing to dispel she’s-been-stood-up glances of pity. I texted my husband. My normally well-behaved children, bitten by the holiday hyperactivity bug, were having none of it. After milk, umpteen stories and back-rubs, there was outright mutiny. Sleep? No way!

Kate and Gerry McCann

I mentally cancelled the crème brûlée I had seen on another diner’s table. After nearly an hour of wrangling, my husband gave up and sent the babysitter away. The kindly restaurant manager offered to send our food up to our room. My heart sank. I adore my children, and I thought of their impish faces as I wearily pushed the button for the lift – but everyone needs time out. At the time, I didn’t think of Kate and Gerry McCann. A harried doctor couple with three kids under four (including daughter Madeleine) attempting a family holiday, while stealing time for themselves; for the couple they were before they had children. I didn’t think of them, because at no point did my husband or I – as good as the view looked and the steak smelled – suggest to each other that we leave our children in the room alone. The McCanns stayed in an apartment a short distance (but completely separate from) the Tapas bar  where they spent that fateful night. Our room was two floors up in the same building, with key card access, 30 seconds from the restaurant, but still the thought was not there. It wasn’t even that it was unuttered – it never entered our collective brains to begin with. Watching the McCanns being interviewed on The Late Late Show recently, I had a flashback to that Clare hotel. How could they have left their children alone?

It’s a question that every armchair critic and news corporation has been demanding of Kate and Gerry McCann. It’s probably the one they ask themselves every night as they go to bed without their daughter.  On the last night of their stay in Portugal, they did what they had done every other night. They gambled. They made what they thought (must have thought, as I still don’t understand their rationale) what seemed like an innocuous choice. Food and drinks with friends versus leaving their young children untended. Not only was their decision as catastrophic as it gets, it has made them parental pariahs accused of everything from wife-swapping to sedating their child and much worse. They told Ryan Tubridy the story they’ve told a thousand times to Spanish police, to newspapers, to everyone they know. Clearly, it never gets easier. Kate’s face, as she talked of the horrific moment of realising her daughter was gone, was taut with pain. Online reactions to the interview were harsh. Too harsh. Because they have paid the ultimate price, and will have to live with unquantifiable levels of regret and guilt. I understand their lives were stressful, that they were tired parents, that they were eking out some downtime together in the evenings. That’s where I understand Kate and Gerry McCann. But that’s where my comprehension ends, because of the unfathomable decision they made that night.

In a Clare hotel, the food arrived to our room and we drank a glass of wine. My son and daughter wanted to taste the potatoes, in between bouncing on the beds and giggling. My heart nearly burst looking at them. Half an hour earlier, I could have screamed at them. Tired, I lay down and my daughter cuddled up beside me, her curls tickling my cheek. Her gorgeous face, all big-eyed and cheeky staring at me. Of all the memories we made that weekend, that was the one etched in my mind during the McCann’s interview, thankful that I can feel my daughter’s skin and smell her hair every day of my lucky life. And I feel nothing but pity for the McCanns because they cannot do the same thing.

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Every year on a Friday, some weeks before Christmas, RTE’s Late Late Show hosts The Toy Show. Running for over 35 years ago, it’s a rite-of-passage for Irish children growing up. Some Anti Room contributor’s share their memories…

As a child I, along with my many, many sisters and lone brother, was always allowed to stay up for The Late Late Toy Show. It was an occasion observed as faithfully as turkey for Christmas dinner. My memories date exclusively back to the reign of Uncle Gaybo. In fact, although I can’t be absolutely sure of this I seem to remember that all the early ones I saw were broadcast in black & white. We huddled in front of the telly: faces scrubbed clean, teeth hastily done, pyjamas on and wrapped in a variety of hastily gathered quilts and blankets. As the distinctive signature tune rang out mum and dad shouted “hurry up, you’ll miss it” and we scurried down the stairs. Of course we craved the toys and bitterly envied the children invited on to demonstrate them but, despite our excitement, we rarely made it all the way to the end. One by one we dropped off to sleep even as we insisted that we “weren’t tired at all” and were carried upstairs and tucked into bed. Naturally, now that I have my own two little lads, we observe the same ritual. Tonight we’ll be in our PJs in front of a roaring fire with hot chocolate, marshmallows and a tin of Quality Street (I have my instructions) watching Uncle Tubs. It might even be snowing. As for my husband Derek. Well he’s inexplicably turning his back on the occasion and heading into the Button Factory to hear Steve Ignorant belt out a few Crass tunes. Chacun à son goût! Eleanor Fitzsimons

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My Scottish husband is totally baffled by the Late Late Toy Show tradition. The poor man just doesn’t get that it’s practically the law that children be allowed to stay up in their jim-jams to watch a show that goes on till almost midnight. He thinks it’s just crass commercialism – perish the thought! The Toy Show is pure magic, as anyone who grew up in Ireland will tell you. My memories are also from the era of Uncle Gaybo. We were insanely jealous of the children who took part, though my mother, ever the cynic, would always point out that we could never get on the show because we weren’t related to anyone in RTE. I’m sure she was wrong about that… Catherine Crichton


When I think of childhood telly, it’s of the televisual holy trinity, i.e. the three shows we were allowed stay up late for every year: The Rose of Tralee (mostly for girls, even if my younger brother feigned a smidge of interest just to avoid going to bed), the Eurovision (when Ireland used to actually win the thing once in a while) and the ne plus ultra of all three – The Late Late Toy Show. It was bath, jammies, wet hair squeakily combed and no messing allowed, on pain of being frog-marched up the stairs and missing out. Our collective hearts thumped along with the familiar drums of the signature tune and there it was… a lavish, sparkly, tinsel-soaked set looking like Santa’s Grotto on crack. Oodles of toys, from the old skool to the faddish must-haves were heaped around Gay Byrne, who looked avuncular, jumpertastic and, it had to be said, in his element. How we envied the kids who got to demonstrate games and monsters, dolls and gadgets. If any of them fluffed their words or the toys wouldn’t work, myself and my brothers were united in our Schadenfreude glee of how WE would have done it better. The whirling dervish Billie Barrie kids both awed and frightened me, and we shamelessly fast-forwarded their set-pieces on the video when we watched the show back the next day. In this day and age, some might say it’s a gluttonous ode to consumerism. Not me. It’s 100% escapism, fantasy and fun, especially in the context of Ireland’s economic black hole. My own children are a little too young for the Toy Show this year, but it won’t be long before we’re sitting down to it, while squabbling over a bag of Maltesers and guffawing at Ryan Tubridy’s jumper. Sinéad Gleeson

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My memories of the Late Late Toy Show are dominated by a few things: the excitement of staying up late; the glamour of all those unobtainable toys (that often ended up broken – the waste!) and the Billie Barrie Kids. I was horribly jealous of the Billie Barries because I was also in a stage school and we didn’t get to go on the Show (didn’t even audition!). I thought the BB’s were such fakes with their dazzling smiles and superior costumes.

We – there were 7 of us in my family – used to sit on Toy Show night finding fault with everything and everyone on the Show. My Ma would lament ‘You’re sooooooooooooo critical’, every ten minutes to which we would snarl with cynical, childish laughter. And I loved it. Year after year. Even now, with kids of my own from 17 to one-year-old, I feel excited at the prospect of the Toy Show. It’s a time marker, a lead up to the big day. I’m glad it has endured even if the toys are still mostly unobtainable. I think the talent may have improved though. Has it?! Nuala Ní Chonchúir

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Guest Post by Miriam Cotton: Who is Merit, when she’s around?

The unexpected announcements by Olwyn Enright and Liz McManus of their intention not to seek re-election in 2011 have sparked national discussion about the under-representation of women in Irish politics. Their leaving is all the more significant given the recent, failed attempt to introduce a quota system to ensure more women candidates. Merit and merit alone, we are told, should be the sole deciding factor for selecting candidates for the Dáil. Of the 23 women TDs in the Dáil, 14 of them were opposed to quotas on the grounds, not that women elected by a quota system would actually be less capable but that they would be viewed as token women TDs. In the words of Maureen O’ Sullivan TD – quoted during a special report on the matter on last night’s Prime Time:

“they would ‘be crucified at every turn’ about their status in hostile, male-dominated parliamentary debate.”

This logic implies, ironically, that it is actually fear of how the men would behave rather than the merits of gender quotas per se that is determining what a majority of our women TDs are saying about the matter.

If that is really the prevailing attitude among male TDs toward gender quotas then it is hogwash, cant and hypocrisy. For a very long time, to be the owner of the wrong set of gender signifiers was an automatic bar to entry into politics – a state of affairs that did lasting injury to women and one moreover which manifestly has not yet been put right. Besides, are we seriously being asked to believe that the network of interlinking family dynasties of which the Dail and Seanad are substantially made up has anything to do with merit? Does the incompetence with which the country has been run into the ground over the last decade suggest that merit was ever even a consideration? Didn’t Bertie Ahern reassure the nation that he only appointed certain people to positions of power because they were his friends?

As Ivana Bacik said on Prime Time, there are all sorts of informal quotas in operation already that involve list systems of one kind or another – all of which continue to favour men. She also pointed to the two most impenetrable factors preventing women from entering politics: the culture of Irish politics and candidate selection. Miriam O’ Callaghan reported on last night’s programme that the National Women’s Council of Ireland have calculated that at the present rate at which women are entering the Dáil, it will take us 370 years to have equal representation. Meanwhile over 100 countries are using gender quotas in a serious effort to counter the prejudicial antipathy towards women in political culture and candidate selection.

A few years ago over lunch with a hospital consultant, he mentioned to a somewhat taken aback group of friends that measures were being taken to ‘do something’ about the higher numbers of women entering the medical profession. He complained about the effect on working life in hospitals of maternity leave in particular. Though this sort of rationale for it has been officially denied, the subsequent introduction of the HPAT test – a new IQ test which purports to be about identifying ability in ways other than by Leaving Certificate results (which young women were excelling in) – has indeed resulted in higher numbers of men entering the profession, though in many cases they will not have scored as many points as women in their Leaving Certificate exams. The euphemism for justifying this exercise has been that it is a necessary ‘re-balancing of the gender quota’.

While it has certainly attracted its fair share of criticism I don’t recall anything like the stubborn resistance to this measure among politicians – male or female – as has been evident when the subject of gender quotas for themselves comes up. It also says something about how far feminism has really succeeded in Ireland that no sooner than do women, on the basis of true merit alone, begin to surpass men in any influential walk of life than the general feeling is that something urgently needs to be done to call a halt to it. There are plans afoot to extend the requirement to sit this test into other professions as well.

As Brian Moore, Guidance Counsellor at Oatlands College, Stillorgan put it in an article in the Irish Times in 2009:

“Are we comfortable with a system that actively discriminates against females attaining medical places? Is the medical establishment supporting the change in the admissions system because it fears the feminisation of the medical profession will somehow reduce its status, and thus its financial rewards as it is reputed to have done in teaching and other professions? Are there those within the medical establishment who consider it a waste investing huge resources in training females as doctors if, after a number of years in practice, they decide to leave the active labour force or decide to work on a part-time basis to give time to care for their children? Where are the voices of those who would normally speak out in protection of equality of opportunity for women in the workplace?”

And riddle me this: if there is a concern to ensure a 50/50 gender balance in the medical profession, why is there no corresponding concern to ensure the same balance at the top of that or any other profession – still almost all massively biased towards men?

It seems we can proactively discriminate in favour of men but not women. But this is of course nothing new – only a new way of reviving and redefining the common-or-garden, old-fashioned chauvinism that continues to discriminate against women in any case – albeit generally less obviously so than before.

Media commentary in recent weeks has been depressing – at least for this feminist it has anyway. Of all that I have read and heard, John Drennan in The Independent takes the prize. I blush for him to quote from it here, since it would be best for John himself if it were just quietly forgotten but it surely goes to the heart of what Bacik means when she talks about the prevailing political culture. In an article ostensibly lamenting the loss of Olwyn Enright from politics he manages to say the following:

“THE day I first saw Olwyn Enright, she was draped seductively across what appeared to be a row of Toyota Corolla cars.”

and:

“When Olwyn entered the Dail, even the driest political hacks immediately knew how Thomas Hardy felt when Tess of the D’Urbervilles first entered his imagination.”

as well as:

Instead, in what was — to put it mildly — a bit of a shock, Charlie Flanagan lost his seat and breathless, naive, happy little Olwyn scooped the pot.”

and:

“It was understandable, for Enright allowed them to say, “Look we have women, they are young and pretty, Fine Gael is not the latterday equivalent of some dying Welsh coal-mining village.”

and:

“Some of us even suggested she might make a perfect leader, but we should not be criticised too harshly, since the only alternative was another pretty doe-eyed blonde.”

And where to begin with this:

“Sadly, in spite of this fine beginning, we tired of Olwyn remarkably quickly. She was, like any well-brought-up convent girl, hard-working, quiet and diligent. But the Dail is a cruel judge, and she did not distinguish herself sufficiently to retain our attention.

Too often the breathless schoolgirlish style of delivery spoke of someone who was feeling the effects of a steep learning curve. And there were other brighter comets, such as John Deasy, who were far more capable of attracting our interest.

You could not blame us for our lofty sighs about how it was simply not enough to be a lovely girl, for there was more than enough of old Tom in Olwyn to render her cautious.”


It’s an indictment of the state of our collective attitude that it is still possible for a journalist even to think of penning sexist bilge like this in the pages of a national newspaper. Yet Drennan moves comfortably about the political scene with little or no notice evidently being taken either by male or female TDs when he reinforces such an atrocious stereotype. The effect on young women thinking about a career in politics can only be damaging and discouraging – even if (as most will) they recognise this stuff for what it is.

In last Saturday’s Irish Times, Garrett Fitzgerald pondered the same imponderable: how to get more women into politics. Without a shred of self-consciousness he described how he stormed The Late Late Show studio one evening years ago during a programme dedicated to women. Twenty women had been invited along to discuss women in politics among other issues and they were not amused by his arrogant intrusion. He was infuriated by the effrontery of Mary Kenny who had dared to suggest that grassroots networking and seeking to influence change from the bottom up would be more effective than trying to break into the club to bring about change from within. Garrett, roused into action from his armchair at home, was single-handedly going to put the ladies straight on their mistaken notions. Never mind that Kenny has been proved completely right, Fitzgerald – despite the obvious failure of our political system to facilitate the entry of women into politics in equal numbers in the intervening years – still believes it is self-evident that trying to play the existing antipathetic political system is more likely to serve women better than any independent women-led initiative.

Mary Kenny was right in more ways than that too. Once in the door, women politicians drop the f-word from their vocabulary entirely, if they ever used it in the first place. Most are ashamed of it. There was a twitter moment in response to an interview with Lucinda Creighton on The John Murray Show this week when Creighton – who was there specifically to talk about being a woman in politics – felt it necessary to say that, while things could definitely be better for women, she was no ‘crazed feminist’ herself. Aaarrgh, Lucinda! Bad enough when men go reinforcing stereotypes but it is fatal when women do it to themselves. Nobody was accusing you of it – and anyway it’s OK to be a feminist! The ‘crazed feminist’ was always the fearful figment of uncomprehending male imaginations – a latter-day virtual witch to be held out for virtual ducking and burning. Don’t make out that she actually exists!

We live in what is still fundamentally a deeply chauvinistic society – both in the generic and specific sense of the word. Though we are lucky to have strong, capable feminists among us and though significant advances have been made, too many Irish women are to varying degrees still deferential to men – still consciously or subconsciously afraid to assert themselves reasonably for fear of alienating or irritating when interacting with men whether personally, socially or professionally. You can see it even in our body language when we are around them. And you can see it in the fear some women TDs have of gender quotas what is more.

It’s not just women who suffer from this fear affliction either. Deference is endemic in all aspects of Irish life. As Vincent Browne has written recently, we have even succeeded in being punished by the financial markets for excessive deference to them. We defer to corrupt and incompetent politicians. And despite the outpouring of anger against the abuses of the Catholic Church, the actual sanctions taken against its institutions have been pathetically deferential – if the term is even adequate to describe the legal indemnity they were granted. Hardly surprising, then, that in our society it has been that much harder for women to achieve equal status and representation in all walks of life. The potential is there for women to be the key to bringing this entire, decaying house of cards down to the benefit of all but, clearly, we will be a long time waiting if we don’t seize the initiative for doing so ourselves. Remedial action is regarded as a very ordinary, necessary requirement when righting a wrong in any other context. A hundred other countries have understood the point. If we don’t have gender quotas in Irish politics until we are equally represented and if we are not to lose the gains already made (and the signs are that this already happening) – then there will be no choice but for women to eschew politics and to build an alternative, powerful movement by and for themselves. Ideally, we need both.

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Miriam Cotton has been an editor of the media-monitoring website MediaBite with David Manning for five years and has contributed to numerous national and international print and internet publications including Village magazine, The Irish Examiner, The Real News Network, Counterpunch, Znet.com, Indymedia Ireland and others.)

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petedSo Pat Kenny thinks he’s a paid up member of the Hammer & Sickle brigade by taking a pay cut from RTE during the recession? Well done Pat. It still doesn’t justifiy the massive salary and utter incompetence when it comes to interviewing people on The Late Late Show. Last Friday, Pete Doherty was a guest and the interview was one of the cringiest, biased things I’ve ever seen (well, it’s not as bad as his patronising, personal-space-invading interview with rape victim Lavinia Kerwick) on Irish telly. I’m no Babyshambles fan and I think Doherty’s talent is negligible, but to some he’s a gifted musician and writer. To others, he’s tabloid fodder and a drug addict. No matter what he is, he deserved to be treated with a little more respect than Kenny afforded him. At times it looked as though the interview was being carried out by either a kindly but ashamed uncle or a wishy-washy social worker, not a former political correspondent (Today Tonight, anyone?) or someone who has decades of experience at interviewing famous people. It was a new nadir for Kenny, who asked question after samey question about drugs, Kate Moss, being a disappointment to his family, being a role model and, er, more drugs. All with a barely concealed condescension. Doherty is no genius, but he deserved better than that. When will the bigwigs at RTE face up to the fact that Kenny is out of touch with reality, false when faced with human interest stories and an overpaid relic that should be reinterred?

You can watch the car crash unfold at the start of this clipby

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tamponI was sad to hear this week that John Mortimer (of Rumpole of the Bailey fame) passed away at 85. I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of his avuncular barrister creation, but as a kid I got a kick out of the fact that he called his wife Hilda “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. Mortimer wrote a ton of plays and novels, but he looms large in my memory for an entirely different reason.

One fateful Friday night in the 1980s, I was watching The Late Late Show with my mother. Up popped John Mortimer as a guest regaling Gaybo and the audience with witty tales of legal life and literary anecdotes. My mother had just finished blow-drying my hair for me when she started “the talk” and told me all about periods.  My 10-year-old self was a bit horrified at first, but aware that I was being told grown-up woman stuff. As John waxed lyrical about Rumpole, I was learning about eggs, fallopian tubes and using sanitary towels.

To this day, whenever I see Mortimer on TV, I think about that night and will always associate him with finding out about the joys of periods.

So where/when/how did you find out about Aunt Flo/Eve’s Curse/your flowers?

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