Saturday 18 November 2017

Radio: A trip back in time to 1986 is real food for thought

Garret FitzGerald with Margaret Thatcher in November, 1985. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection)
Garret FitzGerald with Margaret Thatcher in November, 1985. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection)
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

It's customary, at this time of year, to look ahead to the next 12 months, perhaps making some predictions about what's going to happen, across politics, art, sport and so on. Being a cantankerous sort, though - not to mention a highly paid and much-in-demand professional contrarian - I decided to more-or-less ignore all that and look instead to the past.

Specifically, the State papers for 1986, just released (another customary event around the turning of a New Year). John Bruton, who popped up on News at One (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 1pm) for analysis, was of course a minister in the government of that time.

The meat of the matter was the North and the Border. It turned out that Margaret Thatcher was "depressed" about the situation, and accused the Irish government of being unable to control the Border. This is flabbergasting; even more so is the fact that Garret FitzGerald basically admitted this was the case.

I found it hard to get my head around Mrs T being depressed by anything. While hardly the malevolent ogre of popular imagination, she was undoubtedly one tough bit of stuff.

On a tangential point, almost equally difficult to fathom is the concept of secret government papers being locked away for 30 years (I'm presuming in a lead-lined vault deep under the midlands bogs), and finally being released for public scrutiny.

Is there not something vaguely condescending here? This is basically the Government telling their employers - ie citizens and taxpayers - that they're incapable of handling the truth right now; these are complicated matters best left in the hands of professionals. Give it a few decades, and you'll be ready to know what's going on now.

Speaking of the 1980s, 1982 was when the Ana Liffey Drug Project was established in Dublin. The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am) brought in current director Tony Duffin for a wide-ranging discussion: everything from the foundation of Ana Liffey to the current situation in the city, illegal drugs to quasi-legal but apparently dangerous synthetics, and the imminent supervised injection pilot scheme for intravenous users to the pros and cons of legalisation.

Tony made an important distinction between decriminalising and legalising drugs, and is in favour of the former, not the latter. If it was up to me - and I say this as a boring old fart who's always stuck to nicotine, alcohol and caffeine - I'd legalise the whole shooting match. For one thing, it'd cut out the actual shooting matches taking place across the world, as ruthless gangs fight for control of an incredibly lucrative industry.

But I'm not the expert here, people like Tony Duffin are. Seriously, listen to them, not us media know-it-alls.

I did tune in for one "predicting 2017" bit, on High Noon (Newstalk, Mon-Fri noon). Likeable stand-in host Tara Duggan and food writer Dee Laffan were parsing current and incoming trends in… well, eating. You can probably tell where I'm going with this.

I mean, how can food be trendy? How can something so fundamental and necessary to all biological life… have trends? Tara even admitted in the intro, "It's funny to think of food as fashion" - yep, you got that right.

In fairness, it's not just them: this nonsense is all over the media (and society, to a lesser extent). And in case you were wondering…we've seen "a move from more formal dining to casual dining", pulled pork is not trendy now but street food is, doughnuts were big in 2016 ("pimped-up doughnuts", actually), cauliflower will be big in 2017 - apparently "every year there's a vegetable that's going to be trendy" - and fermenting is "definitely here to stay". Good to know.

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