No time for crime on late night airwaves
The latest gangland-related murders in Dublin threw a shadow over the election, but were also somewhat overshadowed by it.
Liveline was left to fill the gap with some informative exchanges, though perhaps the emphasis was weighted rather too politely towards tackling the "underlying causes" of drug use rather than expressing the sense of outrage at the spread of criminality.
One caller last Tuesday even wondered who was supposed to tell "the kids" in those areas that they're wrong to get involved in drug-dealing now that support services for young people have been cut back in the recession. Well, there's always the parents, a group who have been conveniently forgotten as usual.
Dublin Talks on 98FM and the FM104 Phoneshow could never be accused of being too polite, and are easily mocked for the way in which interactions typically descend into swearing and abuse; but last week they did articulate an authentic voice of working-class Dublin which is tired of being at the mercy of criminal gangs and equally intolerant of liberal hand-wringing.
Asked by 98FM's Chris Barry whether it was right to print pictures of the body of David Byrne, victim of the Regency Hotel shooting, 'Gary' admitted that he didn't care: "He's a scumbag, dirty vermin, put 'em all over the paper … I don't see why people are up in arms over it." The next caller agreed wholeheartedly.
These were not opinions being aired in more refined media circles, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be heard.
On Tuesday's FM104 Phoneshow, the theme continued as another man, who'd been in prison with members of families involved in the feuds, insisted that they were basically good lads deep down.
"Who's that f***ing a******e?" the next caller wanted to know. "You're talking a lot of f***ing b******s, ya f***ing g******e."
Again, not the sort of exchange normally heard on RTE or Newstalk, but instructive all the same. These were people at the ends of their tethers with criminals and in no mood to show sympathy.
There was some shouting on Monday's Late Debate, too, where Cormac O hEadhra seems fated to be reduced during the election to the broadcasting equivalent of herding cats. Tuesday was a much more civilised affair, as Diarmuid O'Flynn, Independent Alliance candidate for Cork North West, made a persuasive case for decriminalising soft drugs such as marijuana to take some power from the gangs, even if it ultimately couldn't stop every murder.
It's hard for radio to compete with TV at election time, but Late Debate is first rate.
Oliver Callan is also getting his teeth stuck into the election on Callan's Kicks, though thankfully he has not jettisoned his pitch-perfect parodies of Marian Finucane either. "Coming up, that thing in the papers that everyone is talking about… also the awful thing that happened to that poor woman." It can't be easy bearing the brunt of Callan's in-house satire, but it's a compliment in its own way, too.