What is it about Bertie and the Sunday Indo?
My family used to buy the Sunday Indo religiously. Not for any political reason, but it was just 'our paper', same as the Limerick Leader on a Thursday and the Irish Times on a Saturday. Until the summer of 2003, that is.
That summer the Sindo really 'came into its own'; at least, it became what we know today. That year saw the meteoric rise of Brendan O'Connor, to the extent that he now graces both the front and back page every week, the '03 team (journalism at its finest, may I say) and then the creation of Bertie Ahern, Superstar.
Seriously. Every single Sunday for the entire summer, Bertie (and Celia/and Cecelia/and Westlife/and Bono/and a pint of Bass) was on the front page. The paper charted the demise of Bertie and Celia in such a dogged way that, however well the relationship was going at the May Bank Holiday, by the Galway Races it was doomed.
So, having created Bertie the pop star, the paper is now lamenting his demise. With Brendan O'Connor writing a particularly excruciating op/ed (has he ever written anything containing fact?) today, deploring us for our fickleness and willingness to desert our Bert.
Would that he had lasted 100 years and made the Sindo his personal newsletter - only then would Brendan be happy, doing weekly 'at homes' with Bertie and going to the odd match with him. As Bertie doesn't have his own house, maybe he can just move in with Brendan and they can start an odd couple diary, happily growing old together. Or something.
(Actually, have just remembered the 'Bertie Ahern: Diary of my Last Days' piece highlighted on the front page - maybe Brendan is ghost-writing, because if Bertie writes the way he talks it won't make for comfortable reading.)
But I digress. What's bothering me today is the way they really seem to have it in for Cowen. Now, it's true that Biffo is not an oil painting, and that he's not what you'd call slick. And he's from the country. All three of these things are obviously inherently offensive to the Sindo.
But de paper is really really putting the boot in to our new Taoiseach, and, other than the reasons above, I don't really get why...
Front page headline: 'Shadow of slump over Cowen glory'... continued on page 5. Along with an analysis of why Bertie 'comes out tops' in the psychologist's chair.
Page 16 off-lead: 'Shiny-suited Goodfellas make way for the strong silent country folk'
... It's at page 26 that the heavies get going...
Editorial: 'Mr Cowen is off to a poor start'
Page 26 lead: 'Who put these people in charge? It wasn't us'
Page 27 lead: 'Ahern can't let it all end like this, he must rise above the bitterness' (written by, guess who, our friend Brendan)
... I understand the need to record change, and to mark such a major occasion in the short history of our country. After all, Cowen is only the 12th Taoiseach of this country, so he is joining a very elite group, whatever we may think of his predecessors in the cold light of retrospection. Which would suggest to me, as a citizen and a journalist, that, while it is time to outline the challenges he is facing and to judge the legacy of his predecessor, it's not the time to condemn him.
There will be plenty of time for that.