Thursday 29 September 2016

Radio: Fighting the good fight in a story beyond belief

Published 24/04/2016 | 02:30

Joshua Molloy
Joshua Molloy

In a time when the adjective is over-used so much that it's almost become meaningless, the story of Joshua Molloy is genuinely amazing. This young man - only 24 - from Ballylinan in Co Laois has been arrested by Kurdish authorities in Iraq after spending the last eight or nine months fighting ISIS in Syria.

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It all seems so outlandish, it almost comes across as fictional. We're talking about ISIS! Murder and torture and genocide and rape and slavery and crucifixion and decapitation and need I go on?

One can only imagine what they do to captured enemy soldiers, especially if they're non-Muslim "infidels"; death, I'm sure, does not come slow or easy. Yet this young guy - a kid, really - went out there and took up arms against the oppressor. That takes some cojones. I am a bit in awe, I have to confess.

The local station in Laois, Midlands 103, specifically its mid-morning Midlands Today (Mon-Fri, 9am), spoke to Times (UK) correspondent for Turkey, Hannah Lucinda Smith. This was a really excellent piece of reportage, by both journalist and station.

She told host Will Faulkner that Joshua had been in the British army but left for two reasons: understandable outrage at the atrocities of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and frustration at the lack of action by our governments to help the Kurdish forces battling them.

According to his father Declan, as quoted by pro-Kurdish campaigner Mark Campbell on The News at One (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 1pm), Joshua "came to help": simple as that, and maybe that's all some people need.

Hannah said that she'd met him a year ago in northern Syria, on his first day in the country. Interestingly, she described him as being "incredibly nervous".

Even more interestingly, he seemed to be more afraid of getting in trouble with the British army than of the life-and-death perils of facing ISIS, which to me says a lot about the man. (Joshua had actually told his parents he was going to do humanitarian work in Turkey.)

"A shy, well-meaning young man," Hannah added, "very much learning as he went. Syria is a big culture shock for anyone coming from the west… he had the demeanour of a man trying to figure his way through everything."

Once there he and his friends joined the YPG militia. Hannah went on, "Syria is a very nasty, chaotic war… all the militias have been responsible for what would be classed as war-crimes (and) well-intentioned men like Joshua may not have known what they were getting into."

Campbell added that the Laois man was arrested with two comrades - British men - while attempting to get home. Because of long delays, the trio had decided to take the long way around, which led to entry into Iraq and subsequent arrest by the KDP: part of a regional government in the northern part of that benighted country.

Due to the KDP's close ties with the Turkish government - currently fighting their own Kurds in a bloody battle - they arrested Joshua and friends. None of this politicking makes much sense. As Campbell put it: "The KDP themselves are fighting ISIS; it's all very odd." Joshua's family want the three men released on "humanitarian grounds". They'll probably be released, Hannah said, "within the next six months (but) there are wider regional issues at play here… they're now tangled up in incredibly complex politics."

The Irish Government should be all over this like a rash. If ever there was a worthy cause for the Department of Foreign Affairs, surely this is it: an Irish man risking his life to fight the worst, most barbaric death-cult on the planet since Pol Pot.

Good on you, Joshua Molloy. You're worth a thousand keyboard warriors and a million hashtags.

Two years ago, independent producer Gareth Stack made Mad Scientists of Music, a series on experimental music in Ireland, for the excellent Near FM. In keeping with the Dublin station's commitment to inventive, even daring radio, the show was original, ambitious and very, very different.

Now Gareth has moved stations to Newstalk for his latest project, which is more ambitious yet. The Wall in the Mind (Sat 10pm) describes itself as "a radio novel": it's a drama, in three parts, set around the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the present day.

This week's first episode introduced us to Irish woman Claire O'Hanlon, who moved with her mother to communist East Berlin as a teenager. During the chaotic madness of those days, Claire was arrested and imprisoned, under suspicion of being a spy.

Now, adult Claire receives a package which reopens the mystery of Emil: her sweetheart in 1989, who disappeared around the time of her arrest and who has played on her mind ever since. The drama swings between past and present: adult Claire tries to process her memories of events and the impact they have had on her, while we come to learn exactly what did happen to the teenage version.

The Wall in the Mind's second episode airs tonight, and the drama wraps up next weekend. Well worth an investment of your time.

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