Pat Kenny moved to Newstalk yesterday. Pat Kenny is a current affairs and occasional light entertainment broadcaster who has spent a very long time working for RTE, the state broadcaster. He has been working for RTE a lot longer than most people in Ireland have been alive. That means that for large numbers of people, the fact he will be no longer heard on RTE is akin to the abolition of Weetabix. Kenny is a national institution, like alcoholism and paying for schoolbooks.
There does not seem to be much weeping and gnashing of teeth at his departure, though I may just be moving in the wrong circles. By ‘wrong’ I mean circles where everyone thinks he is a pompous asshole who gets paid too much.
If Pat Kenny were just a matter of an ersatz Alan Partridge, a big fish in a small pond who would struggle to crack Radio Norwich had he been born somewhere like Peterborough, there would be no need for this post.
But he is not just an ersatz Alan Partridge, though he is that. For many years he has been a dogged and meticulous defender of the Irish ruling class and free market economic orthodoxy. He has played a linchpin role in maintaining a generalised sense of inevitable necessity about austerity policies.
When someone was making an argument for taxing wealth, he would use histrionics to adumbrate it. When someone was making an argument for protecting profits, he would treat it as the quintessence of common sense. In regular slots on Kenny’s radio programme, Paddy O’Gorman, a roving reporter, would be sent out on human safari, speaking with marginalised people as if they were exotic wildlife. In a two-step of class condescension, Kenny and O’Gorman always took pains to make clear that these specimens were individually responsible for their predicament.
Pat Kenny embodied everything that stinks about RTE’s claim to be a public broadcaster. It was not just his exorbitant salary; Kenny saw to it that your TV licence went towards advocacy of your continued expropriation. Seen in this light, his departure to Newstalk, owned by Malta billionaire Denis O’Brien, is not only a moment of welcome release for the public; it is a fitting finale for his broadcasting career.