Sunday 28 December 2014

Radio review: Marathon running and Leaving Cert dramas

Radio review

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

Seamus Heaney's appearance on the paper was welcomed by students
Seamus Heaney's appearance on the paper was welcomed by students

'On today's programme, we launch our selfie competition ... Brenda will literally be catching some marathon runners as they pass our studio in Donnybrook" – er, did he say literally? – " ... and we'll be talking to Louis Walsh and his new boyband Hometown." Quick, press the off switch! And that was within the first 30 seconds, a new record for Mooney.

To be fair, at least Derek Mooney was in work on bank holiday Monday, as indeed was Mary Wilson on Drivetime afterwards. Otherwise it was a much changed schedule, with no John Murray Show, no Liveline, and Keelin Shanley sitting in for the titular host on Today With Sean O'Rourke.

Whereas it was largely business as usual on Newstalk, with Pat Kenny and George Hook both turning in for work as usual. Though Moncrieff was a Best Of compilation, admittedly, and Ivan Yates was on his own in the Breakfast studio because "himself, that young Donoghue whippersnapper, is not here to annoy me".

Not that anyone could accuse the Newstalk crew of not working hard. Chris Donoghue and Shane Coleman must sleep in the office, they're called on to contribute so often during a normal week.

Liveline was back on Tuesday. Anne's daughter had developed a virus, and, though she was out of hospital now, would be unable to sit the Leaving Cert, starting the next day. That's when she discovered that there was no flexibility in the Irish examination system, unlike in other countries. Miss it first time round, for whatever reason of illness or family tragedy, and students have to wait another full year to get a second chance. It's an annual injustice that is never resolved because that might actually require some imagination on the part of examiners and legislators.

Meanwhile, instead of doing something useful by chasing up these cases to find out why blameless students are made to suffer in this way and have to put their lives on hold, Irish radio devotes scores of hours of airtime each year to pointless discussions about whether Seamus Heaney came up in English Paper 2 and such like, which is hardly news. Indeed, one teacher interviewed on Morning Ireland last week even suggested that these post-mortems only added to the stress of students because it was too late to rectify any mistakes thus identified.

On Wednesday's Drivetime, Philip Boucher Hayes continued his investigation of the still unfolding Tuam babies story, though he was arguably a little too pessimistic about the "official reluctance" to investigate what really happened in mother-and-baby homes across the State. Events were moving, if not fast, then certainly at a greater pace. All three main evening shows – on RTE, Today FM's Last Word, and Newstalk's Right Hook – featured the story prominently that day; and while the discussion on Thursday's Pat Kenny Show between historian Diarmaid Ferriter and David Quinn of the Iona Institute could have been longer, it made up in depth what it lacked in length.

Quinn pointed to the undue influence that the harsh Christian sect of Jansenism, with its emphasis on sin and punishment rather than love and forgiveness, had on Irish Catholicism.

"Other countries can be nostalgic about their past," he said. "We can't be, because the horror stories from our institutions keep coming back to haunt us."

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