Entertainment Radio

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Darragh McManus: Liam Neeson's comments shine a light on our 'dark thoughts'


Liam Neeson. Photo: PA
Liam Neeson. Photo: PA
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The most remarkable thing about Liam Neeson's controversial admission of wanting to "kill" a random black guy, in revenge at his friend being raped, was that he said it at all. Ironically, in an age of ever-multiplying media outlets and output, celebrities tend to say very little of any substance, even though they also never seem to shut up.

Radio, actually, is one of the best mediums for drawing out something interesting. Celebs have space to breathe, it feels like, inside that small room broadcasting their words.

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Anyway: Neeson's interview, as it happened, was with a UK paper, and Morning Ireland's (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am) Rachael English asked film critic Donald Clarke about the "significant backlash" to it. "This kind of thing is strange but also not strange for Liam Neeson - normally he's very reserved, but every now and then he says something shocking or astounding," he said.

"If you're going to address this sort of incredibly sensitive issue, you'd be better off doing it in a long-form, say two-hour interview, with Vanity Fair or something. This happened during a press junket promoting a film, and the interview even featured another actor. It's all deeply strange."

Accusations of racism will now, presumably, dog the actor until the day he dies. Is he racist, though?

"Not at all, not at all," said Niall Boylan (Classic Hits, Mon-Fri noon & 9pm), who argued that all of us carry "dark thoughts" of violence from time to time, and that Neeson should be commended for facing up to his, and feeling ashamed of them.

Boylan added that we're basically a violent species of animal: "We're seven times more likely to kill one another than the average for mammals… we're one of the few animals that kills for entertainment."

Ciara Kelly and Frank McDonald's argument on Lunchtime Live (Newstalk, Mon-Fri noon) was very entertaining, though thankfully it didn't involve any killing.

In short, he feels that new Government plans to build accommodation for several thousand students across Ireland are very flawed; she disagrees, specifically with regard to Temple Bar (where McDonald lives). Their debate about the subject ranged from "with all due respect" passive-aggression to full-on "that's absolute nonsense" heat.

Who was in the right? I have no idea, but it was great fun nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Marian Finucane's (Radio 1, Sat-Sun 11am) chat with Helen Dixon, Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner, was the perfect example of how to interview. Over half-an-hour and more, they discussed everything from internet privacy and GDPR to social media, workplace rights and Sheryl Sandberg in a clear, informed and informative manner.

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