Posted tagged ‘Morning Ireland’

Communicating gargled messages

September 17, 2010

I understand that the noise and bluster around Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s interview on RTE’s Morning Ireland earlier in the week is now being called ‘Garglegate’, another of those annoying ‘gate’ suffixes, but this time referring to the Taoiseach’s statement that the problem with the interview was that he was hoarse. It has taken me a bit of time, but I have now listened to the whole interview online; and I know I’m swimming wholly against the tide here, but I cannot see what the fuss is about. Yes, he mis-spoke twice, once referring to the Good Friday Agreement when he meant the Croke Park Agreement, and once saying legislation was ‘in place’ when he meant it was ‘in preparation’. In each case he corrected himself immediately. And I’d have to say, if I were to be condemned every time I suffered a slip of the tongue I’d now be on my way to hell.

And the rest of the interview? Well, it was boring as could be, and delivered in a monotonous tone; but with no disrespect to the Taoiseach, that’s how he does interviews, and I don’t think this one was very different from many others he has done. I can’t even say that he sounded particularly hoarse, and if he did it absolutely didn’t matter.

So why did Brian Cowen apologise? Or rather, what exactly was he apologising for? In fact, in listening to his apology I wasn’t wholly sure that he knew what he was apologising for. A storm had broken out around the interview, and he was probably advised he could calm it all down by apologising for something or other. However, it didn’t make one bit of sense to me.

The problem is, I think, that our senior politicians have totally lost the plot as regards political communication. This is not just Brian Cowen’s problem, it is also Enda Kenny’s, and for my money even Eamon Gilmore doesn’t ring the bells. We have a political class that simply doesn’t know how to inspire trust and confidence through well-judged communication. I believe that this is also why we are still being questioned in the global media about our economic performance – not because the economic policies are necessarily deficient, but because we are so bad in our national advocacy in support of them. Furthermore, two years into our financial crisis the Taoiseach has, despite calls from absolutely every commentator, not addressed the nation. The only politicians whose communication skills I rate right now are Brian Lenihan and Pat Rabbitte.

This country has several very skilled communications experts. Politicians need to take lessons.