'He sounded like an eccentric uncle intent on spoiling everyone’s Sunday lunch' - Ivan Yates makes his radio return
Guess who’s back? Seven months after stepping away from his media career and embarking on road-trip across America, Ivan Yates returned to the airwaves with a new Newstalk show, Yates On Sunday.
Pitted against Marian Finucane on Radio One, the 11am slot represented a high profile rebound for the former Fine Gael minster. How would his combative technique go down in the more genteel environs of weekend broadcasting?
Yates On Sunday was a showcase for the 57-year-old’s strengths as a presenter, even as it drew attention to some of his quirks. His plummy, in-your-face style was in welcome contrast to the tip-toeing all too common on weekend radio.
He was, in particular, in his element chairing a debate on the ongoing garda crisis, between recent Fianna Fail recruit Stephen Donnelly, Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty and Sinn Fein’s Peadar Tóibín.
There was some good natured ribbing of Donnelly over his surprise move to FF. Meanwhile, as the discussion over the position of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan turned heated, Yates was canny enough to lean back and let the warring parties at it.
But if Yates’ ‘tell it like it is’ modus sets him apart, he at moments sounded like your eccentric uncle intent on spoiling everyone’s Sunday lunch. Especially egregious was his bonkers suggestion that Ireland seek a bilateral deal with the UK over Brexit.
Here, Yates’ Anglophilia arguably blinded his judgement and it was bizarre to hear him suggest we should risk the wrath of the EU by pursing one-on-one talks with London. His logic could be boiled down the fact some people in Ireland enjoy Coronation Street (far less than watch US television) and “support” British soccer teams (sounds like a good case for getting off your couch and making the effort to follow an Irish club, Ivan).
He repeated the assertion in an otherwise impressive interview with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who also shot it down. But their tete-a-tete was elsewhere good value. Again Yates showed that he knows when to push a point and when to let the interviewee take over.
This is in contrast to many of his rivals, who have a talent for cutting off their subjects just when they are about to say something interesting or for focusing on a wrinkle in the argument as the larger thrust of the debate is ignored.
Yates is far cannier, with a knack for exposing the underlying truth behind a partisan position. After just one episode, it’s too soon to predict whether he will take to the weekend slot or if his arrival is going to impact on Finucane.
Still, it was a lively return and those who enjoyed his Newstalk breakfast show will find Yates on Sunday equally compelling.