Collins and Pearse battle it out with Bono and Ronan

RTÉ’s latest online offering is a bit like the Eurovision: a cynical mix of talent and trash where the thrill is all in the voting.

And just like the Eurovision, the winner of RTÉ’s Ireland’s Greatest Person competition will be decided on the basis of ability to vote en bloc rather than any obvious achievement.

This public competition to decide from a shortlist of 40 who deserves the title of ‘Ireland’s greatest’ has raised as many eyebrows as voices of protest at the inclusion of some and omission of others.

First up is the matter of the number of women who made the shortlist, and, at three, they clearly matter very little.

Next up is the plan to make one-hour documentaries about the lives and legacies of the top five – despite the obvious pitfalls of judging the legacy of anyone under 40 who is midway through a career.

The public has only itself to blame for this skewed selection which features boyband members, past and present, barely out of short pants, as well as their musical svengali; a former taoiseach as famous for wrongdoing as ruling, and one or two singers that surely made the shortlist on the back of a blue rinse vote or ability to convince the listener that she’s such a good lookin’ woman.

The names not included are more startling than some that are. No Georgie Best, no Rory Gallagher, no George Bernard Shaw, no Samuel Beckett, no Louis le Broquy, not a single scientist. No Maud Gonne, no Countess Markievicz, no Grace O’Malley, no Harry Ferguson, inventor of that handy little tractor that revolutionised ploughing.

Whoever said the Irish were sophisticated voters was clearly angling for a vote. The shortlist, decided on foot of an RTÉ commissioned survey by Ipsos MRBI, was sadly chosen by ourselves. Now we must work with what we have and whittle the achievers down to a list of five. Before making your selection, you’d do well to remember that the outcome is five hours of viewing you may never get back. An overall winner will then be chosen by you, the public, once documentaries on the final five have been aired in September. The greatest of all will be announced in October on the Late Late Show.

* For the full list of 40 and to find out how to vote, log on to rte/tv/ireland’s greatest.

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