Noel O’Reilly, the producer of RTEs flagship news and current affairs programme Saturday View was in a quandary – Two stories, but which one to broadcast.
The first story concerned the world’s financial system which was in meltdown. Our own government had just staked all our futures on a €400 billion bail out of the Irish banking system. Everything was in flux; the news was red hot, dramatic. Historic events that will have far reaching consequences for every human on the planet were occurring from minute to minute.
The second story concerned a civil rights march that occurred in Derry 40 years ago.
Here’s how the presenter, Rodney Rice, introduced the show.
“I thought we could all do with a weekend away from the financial crisis. So we’ve come to Derry to be part of the recollection of that famous march on Oct 5th 1968.”
Actually, RTE was not giving us a break but rather was yet again indulging in its obsession with all things Northern Ireland. Nothing, absolutely nothing takes precedence over events in NI.
If somebody throws a stone, if a Catholic looks crooked at a Protestant, if a politician breaks wind – RTE will be there with their permanent and ever alert outside broadcasting unit.
RTE has thousands of secret agents operating all over the dismal province constantly on the look out for anything that could be defined as news. Deep in the bowels of Montrose, in a cellar the size of a Shuttle hanger, thousands more constantly pore over millions of miles of film and other archival material incessantly working on stories, putting together documentaries and preparing for yet another anniversary.
Last month a team leader was severely upbraided for failing to notice that a Mrs. Jones from the Falls Road in Belfast was knocked over and cut her knee during a riot in July 1974. A documentary commemorating Mrs. Jones’ knee is now in the final stages of production.
But RTE doesn’t just operate in the depressing and irrelevant past when it comes to NI. The Director General has a direct line to Moscow and Washington and is daily updated on how much time the world has before Armageddon should the red buttons be pressed.
Happily, it would take at least half an hour before total annihilation – Just time for one last documentary on the dismal province before we all go down the spout.
Yes, yes, I know. I’ve become obsessed with RTEs obsession – Bring on the nukes.