ARCHIVE PIECE: Great Irish telly controversies



So does Lottie Ryan have an unfair advantage on Dancing with the Stars? A nation wants to know.

Genuinely – the nation really does want to know. I know, I know, you’d think we’d all have better things to be worrying about than whether or not the 2FM presenter is actually a “trained dancer”.

But we don’t, it would appear, and you know what? I don’t mind that. In fact I’m very find of this sort of daft controversy, which erupts on Irish television regularly.

Any type of scandal or row, involving reality TV, sport, the Eurovision, the Rose of Tralee and similarly enjoyable but ultimately meaningless things – they really add to the gaiety of the nation. You get all the drama of current affairs, but none of the depression and horror of real current affairs.

This current DWTS snafu is but the latest in a long and inglorious line of Irish telly controversies. And I remember, and love, them all. Here are some of my favourites – beginning, appropriately enough, with Lottie’s famous dad Gerry…


…and “Lambo”. In 1987, the 2FM powerhouse travelled with a group to the wilds of Connemara, as part of a proto-Bear Grylls kind of “survival” stunt. On their return, Gerry claimed, on The Late Late, to have killed and eaten a lamb to survive, thus earning him the aforementioned nickname. (Stallone’s Rambo movies were huge in the 1980s.) Although it later turned out to be a hoax, people were up in arms over this wanton act of animal cruelty…presumably while tucking into a nice lamb kebab.


Staying with the Late Late, a decade later one Siubhan Maloney, from Donegal, won the show’s antiques competition – yes, this was a real thing – with a renovated regency library armchair. Beautiful work, indeed, but unfortunately, not hers. Antique shop owner Joshua Duffy had rejuvenated the famous chair, a fact subsequently acknowledged in court.


And still staying with the LLS, 2014 brought us a dinger of a row between Linda Martin and Billy McGuinness. Two second-tier stars of Irish entertainment, screeching at each other on live TV – could it get any better? It sure could: they were arguing about Ireland’s proposed entry to the Eurovision, an event of such non-importance that it makes the proverbial “two bald men fighting over a comb” look like World War III.


Speaking of Eurovision, our 2003 entry, Mickey Joe Harte, got into a kerfuffle after allegations that We’ve Got the World Tonight was a copy of Denmark’s 2000-winning song, Fly on the Wings of Love. The storm raged on Liveline for days. Two genial Danish songwriters rang in to say it really wasn’t a problem. And Mickey Joe survived it all – to come 11th.


Fellow Reality TV alumnus Nadine Coyle was poised to join long-forgotten Irish popsters Six in 2001, until she inadvertently revealed that she’d lied about being over 18. The show – Popstars – dropped Nadine like a hot spud, but the tale had a happy ending: Six flopped completely after one dreadful single, and she went on to massive success with Girls Aloud.


The Rose of Tralee has provided some delicious controversies, including: the 2016 “Rose Cull”, when contestants were ejected from the final on live TV; New Orleans Rose Molly Molloy Gamble refusing her boyfriend’s offer of marriage about a dozen times (dry those tears, incurable romantics, they did get hitched in the end); Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins annoying even pro-Repealers by hijacking the Rose to deliver a lecture on reproductive rights; allegations that the 2013 results were “fixed”, after the prize was engraved with the winner’s name two days before the event; and the “Father’s Rights” protestor who stormed the stage – dressed, for some obscure reason, as a priest.


Joe Brolly is also deserving of an entire section of his own. The firebrand GAA pundit has been in hot water for labelling Rachel Wyse a “Baywatch babe”, slagging off Marty Morrissey for being “ugly”, questioning Sean Canavagh’s bona fides “as a man” and provoking the ire of Kieran Donaghy, David Gough and his fellow panellists, to name but a few. RTE finally let him go last autumn. He’s now with the subscription service Eir, after literally years of decrying GAA games being on subscription services. Ah, genius does what it must.


Eamon Dunphy famously threw away his pen in disgust after Ireland’s abominable 0-0 draw with Egypt at the dismal Italia 90 World Cup. He also said, “I’m ashamed to be Irish after watching that” – except, of course, he didn’t. What Dunphy actually said was the far more reasonable “We should be ashamed about the way we went about the game.” Did us rabid fans take that into consideration? Did we hell. I still remember a pal’s tee-shirt which read “We kicked ass on Italian grass” over a cartoon of Jack Charlton mowing the lawn…using Dunphy’s head a mower.


In 2007, Michael Healy-Rae – not quite as omnipresent across our media as he is now – took part in reality show Celebrities Go Wild (also set in Connemara). His magnificent triumphed, decided by a public vote, was marred somewhat when, four years later, it was revealed that thousands of votes had been phoned in from Leinster House, costing the taxpayer more than two grand. Michael pleaded innocence, but munificently pledged to pay the money back.


And we haven’t even touched on Tweetgate, Boyzone’s first Late Late, Boyzone’s most recent Late Late, Brian Lenihan’s “mature recollection”…


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