Wednesday 21 February 2018

A good time was had by all in the election

Underused: RTE’s roving reporter Paddy O’Gorman
Underused: RTE’s roving reporter Paddy O’Gorman

Eilis O'Hanlon

So how was it for you? The election, that is. Irish radio, by and large, had a good one. Drivetime was excellent, both on the road with Mary Wilson and in studio with Philip Boucher-Hayes.

The Late Debate upheld a consistently high standard, despite being unluckily scheduled some evenings against the leaders' debates on TV. During the first RTE debate hosted by Claire Byrne, the show was even playing host to a round table chat featuring candidates in the Wicklow/East Carlow constituency.

Stephen Donnelly, running in that part of the country for the Social Democrats, was a notable absentee, being otherwise engaged on TV.

Last Tuesday, Late Debate avoided a similar clash with Miriam O'Callaghan by discussing climate change, which would have had listeners switching off in droves anyway. Smart scheduling.

Always the bridegroom, never the bride. That is radio's eternal problem, though, for quality of content, it more than held its own this time out, even if Today With Sean O'Rourke, whilst consistently solid, could have been livelier.

Paddy O'Gorman, in particular, was criminally underused. The roving reporter is often mocked, but it would have been fun to hear him out more on the campaign trail.

Also missing in action was The Ryan Tubridy Show, which has settled into a lifestyle and showbiz groove after Morning Ireland, which is undemanding both on Tubs and the listeners, and surely unrewarding for him too. Ryan should have been given more to do during this election.

The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk was slightly disappointing, but did have the hardest job in radio in following Newstalk Breakfast, whose regulars were in top form throughout the campaign. The same station's Shane Coleman has been indefatigable.

The Right Hook was diverting in its own eccentric way, though more usually for the entertainment value, as when George clashed in knockabout style with Vincent Browne in the second week, rather than for any great political insights.

Browne was back on Today FM's Last Word earlier in the week, doing it all again with Matt Cooper, lambasting Fine Gael for not keeping Enda Kenny out of sight for the whole campaign, as that was, in his eyes, the Taoiseach's best chance of avoiding trouble.

Would Browne really have been any more complimentary if they had? Doubtful.

By complete and welcome contrast, The Lyric Feature told the story of English composer Arnold Bax's long infatuation with Irish landscape and nationalism, which culminated in him writing the only contemporaneous orchestral piece to commemorate the Easter Rising, the sublime In Memoriam, Patrick Pearse.

Bax, Ireland And 1916 was fronted by Dr Aidan Thompson from Queen's University in Belfast, but - a minor quibble about such a fine programme - why not wait until nearer the 100th anniversary to broadcast it?

It could easily have been lost in the election.

Sunday Independent

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