Saturday 23 March 2019

Radio: All aboard as the presidential race starts to spin faster


Sean Gallagher. Photo: Mark Condren
Sean Gallagher. Photo: Mark Condren
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The Presidential election campaign is really under way in earnest now, with candidates trawling the radio stations to impart their wit and wisdom. Seán Gallagher's appearances - Today with Sean O'Rourke (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 10am) and Newstalk Breakfast (Mon-Fri 7am) - have probably caused the most heat thus far.

As a general observation, one odd feature of these media circuses is that, after not too long, you start to feel like you've heard this exact interview already. You're positive you listened to Candidate Such-and-Such making the same point just yesterday on some other show.

But not much can be done about it, I suppose. It's the nature of the beast - broadly similar to how artists pushing new work are obliged to do the rounds of radio shows, and get asked similar questions.

So we had, for instance, Roddy Doyle on Marian Finucane (Radio 1, Sat-Sun 11am) and The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am) to talk about Rosie, a movie about homelessness that he has scripted.

For me there wasn't a huge difference between the two pieces; more than one promotional interview, usually, is pretty much redundant. But again, what can you do? It's not as if Marian and Pat will toss a coin to see who gets dibs.

On the subject of elections, the most interesting development of the week was the plan to hold plebiscites among the citizenry of Cork, Limerick and Waterford as to whether they want a directly elected mayor.

As discussed on This Week (Radio 1, Sun 1pm) and Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am), those take place next May. Galway will have the same in 2021, when their city and county councils merge, and in January, a citizens' assembly begins considering Dublin's situation.

In a way, this is almost more important than the showier, ratings-grabbing drama of a presidential showdown. Directly elected mayors could fundamentally change how this country is run; the identity of our next president probably doesn't matter all that much, though it will be entertaining finding out all the same.

Presumably, however, not as entertaining as David Byrne's new American Utopia tour which, Seán Rocks said on Arena (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7pm), has been described by NME magazine as "the most impressive and ambitious live show of all time".

His guest Jim Carroll pooh-poohed their hyperbole with an amusing "Ah, Jesus - no wonder the NME is in trouble." But he did describe the Talking Heads legend as "probably the most interesting man in pop music still".

After listening to this brisk, informative run-through of Byrne's career, in all its incredible variety, artfulness, innovation and risk-taking, it was nigh-on impossible to disagree.

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