Saturday 25 January 2020

On matters of life and death and filthy lucre

Martin Amis.
Martin Amis.

Eilis O'Hanlon

Two deaths dominated last week's radio. The first was that of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, whose State funeral took place on Monday morning.

Ivan Yates offered his own warm tribute on Newstalk Breakfast, and revealed what he considered to be the secret of Albert's success: "He had cups of tea instead of pints. He was always sober at two o'clock in the morning." He also praised the Longford man's business acumen, a rare enough quality in modern politics and wondered, "would someone like Albert Reynolds even get a nomination for a constistuency these days?" It's a good question.

Jazz musician Paddy Cole also recalled his long friendship with Reynolds, forged during the showband era, on Today With Sean O'Rourke, which filled in the gaps nicely as RTE waited for the State funeral to begin; while later that day on Drivetime, Brian Lally fronted a touching report on the funeral itself, concentrating on the homily of Fr Brian D'Arcy, which was "so full of nuggets that I'd love to play it all".

The sound of driving rain in the background only added to the poignancy.

The Last Word on Today FM, meanwhile, didn't feature a single word about it, instead concentrating on the fallout from the clash between Kerry and Mayo, an odd omission on the day of a rare State funeral.

The other death being marked on air was that of US photojournalist James Foley, murdered by Islamic State terrorists. Martin Amis was on Tuesday's Pat Kenny Show to talk about his new novel The Zone Of Interest, and Pat took the opportunity to ask for Amis's reaction to the rise of Islamic extremism around the world. The writer's reply, drawing on his own professional preoccupation with the Holocaust, was grim but typically perceptive. "I don't believe in the supernatural but I do believe that death has a motive power of its own. It's very hard to arrest once death starts lumbering along and there seems no reason not to kill someone."

On Sunday's Marc Coleman Show on Newstalk, the man in the hot seat was once more a lone voice of dissent as he insisted to an assembled panel of worthies, that it might be a tad excessive for RTE presenters such as Marian Finucane to be paid more than the US president for a few hours of radio each week.

"That is only her airtime," one guest insisted. "That is not her research time, her listening time, her reading time." Marc didn't want to have a go at Marian whilst she wasn't there to defend herself, so extended an invitation for her to come on air and explain her salary, "because I would love to hear that story" He's surely not holding his breath.

As he talked of how RTE journalists have proper salary structures and pensions while "the rest of the media has no security, no certainty" and increasingly meagre wages, he was doing what journalists are supposed to do. He was speaking truth to power, and it's sad that his guests didn't even recognise that reality.

Sunday Independent

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