Master of cross examination: Marian Finucane

I do believe Marian Finucane is our very best radio interviewer/journalist by a long way. When I get to listen to her I usually end up admiring her communication skills rather than simply listening to the interview. I sensed something typical of Finucane was about the happen last weekend while she was interviewing Sister Elizabeth Maxwell about the 2002 compensation agreement Maxwell helped negotiate for the religious congregations. Finucane had put Maxwell at ease with some gentle questions and then asked straight out a very obvious but can-of-worms-opening question about the morality of the agreement. I couldn't believe it when another member of the panel broke the awkardly charged silence and ruined the dynamic that Finucane had managed to set up. She put the fella in his place quickly but it was too late to prevent the nun from getting off the hook.

Another journalist, whom I don't admire at all, was listening to the same interview with the same sense of lost opportunity, and describes it well (enough) in the Sunday Independent today and because of the fly-fishing analogy I'd like to keep a record of it:

"Marian Finucane's strong panel includes Sister Elizabeth Maxwell, the nun who found the Babe in the Woods. After Colm Allen SC has his say, Marian closes in on Sister Maxwell, lulling her with a long question which she lands like a fly before a wily salmon where it floats in silence as the panel holds its breath.

At which point Mr Allen breaks the magic media moment by booming his way back in again. "But that's precisely the point that I was making . . . blah blah.''

Mr Allen may be a great advocate in court, but he should keep silent when a mistress of the craft has created a media moment."

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