Monday 11 December 2017

Radio: A question of Islam, but Hook got few real answers

A Garda outside the Regency Hotel where a man was shoot dead. Photo: Damien Eagers.
A Garda outside the Regency Hotel where a man was shoot dead. Photo: Damien Eagers.
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

I must say, as a lapsed Catholic, few things are as strange to me as an Irish person converting to Islam. Or, to be fair, the other way around.

I get why people give up on all this stuff - I did it myself, sure - but why would you swap one of the three Abrahamic belief systems for the other? It's not like ditching monotheism for, say, Buddhism or Hinduism, which are radically different ways of looking at things.

Here, you're upping the dosage, so to speak, but the drug is essentially the same. And yet, of course, they're not the same, at least in how they make people behave - and how that behaviour affects others.

Ibrahim Noonan was born in Ireland (his real name is, yes, Michael Noonan) and raised Catholic. Now he's a Muslim imam based in Galway. Interestingly, he also speaks with a mild sort of Middle Eastern accent.

He appeared on The Right Hook (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 4.30pm), alongside Professor Ray Murphy of NUIG's Centre for Human Rights, to discuss a Red C poll commissioned by the show, on Syrian refugees.

This was, incidentally, a clever move by Newstalk: instead of just covering extant issues, a poll drives the terms of debate to some extent. And immigration and multiculturalism is a hot topic, therefore electorally important.

Oddly, the piece was less interesting than it promised to be. I guess waffle and blather are very boring, and the two contributors sure spun out a lot of it.

Both seemed like nice guys and all, but my God (pun not intended, I swear), this was hard going. We had Ibrahim deflecting Hooky's questions about, say, Muslim treatment of women with a few selective, and frankly meaningless, lines from the Quran about venerating your mother, and the usual "if a woman chooses to wear a niqab, who are we to say she shouldn't" type spiel.

Ray, meanwhile, was on a let's-all-hold-hands-and-sing voyage. He talked about how the rich West should take many more refugees, and promised that immigrants would improve the world we live in "if we're just open-minded about it".

As I say, they seem like nice guys. But neither gave actual information to quell public concerns over immigration - or, to be specific (not to mention honest), immigration from Muslim countries. I don't think anyone cares, or even notices, when Chinese people come here.

(Quick disclaimer, before anyone starts foaming at the mouth: I'm not a Nazi. I just recognise that people have questions, and the right to ask them.)

Such as: how exactly do Muslim immigrants improve their host country? In what specific ways? Who will fund this, and how? Are Islamic values compatible with Irish ones? Is it necessarily a good thing for Europe to become less, well, European? If so, why is this?

Many questions, few answers. Lots of well-meaning platitudes and vague aspirations, but few answers. At least, though, Hook is asking some of those questions.

The Dublin hotel shooting was shocking: not so much that criminals are killing each other, but the brazen, surreal, almost Grand Guignol manner of it. It's a cliché, but this really was an affront and challenge to civilised society.

On News at One (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 1pm), Aine Lawlor teed up an interview with James McGettigan, managing director of the Regency Hotel: "If you needed any reminder of the sheer terror experienced by people who were there…"

The place was full, he began, they'd welcomed Welsh rugby fans, all was normal and well. Then he heard "panic in reception… three uniformed men came into the bar and told everyone to lie down".

Shots were fired, and Mr McGettigan saw a man being "assassinated… it was shocking to watch". When he got to the residents' lounge and called the guards, 25 short seconds waiting on the line "felt like an eternity to me."

Powerful stuff: a first-hand, frontline account of a terrible event.

And as Philip Boucher-Hayes pointed out on Drivetime (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 4.30pm): "A spiral of tit-for-tat killings. Two well-resourced, family-based, murderous gangs, fearless of the authorities… We've been here before. And broadly speaking, the Gardai won that one."

He interviewed retired Detective Superintendent Jim Browne, part of the team in Limerick during the McCarthy-Dundon/Keane-Collopy gang feud. Limerick, Jim said, was "just as bad" as Dublin is now, with similar weaponry being used.

In the end, they nailed them through good, solid police work: information from the public, surveillance, profiling, targeting and seizing assets, use of the Special Criminal Court… even getting them on motoring offences.

Comedian Colm O'Regan has begun an election-centric radio diary for Drivetime. They pitch it as "keeping a wry eye on the campaign"; the opening salvo was on election terms and jargon.

It was more gently amusing than side-splittingly funny, but I did laugh at "the double-take handshake" and yahoos, er, yahooing "Up ya boy ya!" as their candidate is shouldered on victory. A nice change from the usual, oh-so-serious political radio.

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