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Darragh McManus on radio: In Pat Kenny we trust to calm our fears around Covid-19


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Pat Kenny

Pat Kenny

Pat Kenny

In times of trouble in Ireland, I find, there's always one place to turn to; one wise figurehead whose soothing words and ever-present calm are the perfect balm for tormented minds.

I'm talking, of course, about Pat Kenny (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am). He's obviously the smartest person in the nation, possibly ever - the man is cleverer than the proverbial brain pie.

More than that, he's a science guy. Pat may come across at times as the supercilious know-it-all, but that's just his manner; in truth, he always defers to the real experts in their particular field, and he's doing it again in response to coronavirus.

Wednesday's interview with immunologist Professor Luke O'Neill was a masterclass in public service broadcasting. Professor O'Neill is a consistently sound and valuable voice in Irish life, and once more sorted fact from myth, delivered encouraging news on advances made in fighting the virus, and gave practical tips on how we can all help slow its spread.

Ultimately, he asked everyone to keep a sense of perspective, be careful but not panicky, be optimistic but wary, and basically make sure to wash your hands and have a bit of common sense. Although numbers of people infected on the island are rising by the day, we're not at the epidemic stage yet.

The day before, Pat had gravely intoned: "Against the background of more confirmed infections, a Cabinet committee meeting yesterday sought to address concerns over hospital space and sick pay. So, with billions in income support, hundreds of millions for additional emergency beds, the Government is finally appearing to act on many fronts."

Reassuring indeed. But even more reassuring is knowing that PK is keeping a watchful eye on the whole thing. In Pat We Trust.

Not that the news is necessarily good elsewhere. The World Tonight (BBC Radio 4, Mon-Fri 10pm) began with the frankly scary declaration: "As Italy reports another huge spike, is it already too late to halt the spread of the coronavirus?"

Italy is the worst-hit country outside China. All Italians have been told to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel for four weeks. Hundreds of people have died, while the number of positive tests has spiked by over 10,000 in just three weeks.

Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am) heard from Josephine McKenna, a freelance journalist based in Rome, who said the Italian capital "really looks like a scene from the apocalypse. The piazzas are empty, the streets are empty". It almost feels, she added, "like a war-time situation".

Asked if she was worried herself, Josephine answered, "Not particularly. I think if you take precautions and follow directions, and remain inside as much as possible, that's probably the best approach."

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