Friday 14 December 2018

Radio: Campaign trundles on - or would the kids do it better?

 

Peter Casey. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Peter Casey. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The Presidential election seems to have descended, if not into farce, then a state of abject meaninglessness. That rowdy debate on Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra (Radio 1, 1pm), for instance, felt pointless, in that it's impossible to imagine anything but victory for Michael D Higgins.

No matter how many digs were thrown at the incumbent - with Peter Casey the most enthusiastic pugilist - it's all redundant, as are ongoing interviews and analysis. Barring a Trump-squared level of voter disruption, nobody will come within an ass's roar of Higgins.

Even something like the controversy over Casey's Travellers comments to this newspaper's Floating Voter podcast is less significant than it appears. Pat Kenny (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am) asked in the immediate aftermath if this would scupper "his chances" - but what chance did Casey ever have, really?

And things could get worse. Kenny, again, interviewed Francis Fukuyama, the political scientist, about his new book Identity.

Identity politics began on the left, then metastasised on the right, and is now, Fukuyama argues, a threat to democracy - or at least, the liberal version of it we're used to.

Fascinating, if not a little worrying, and no better man than Pat to draw it out in all its complexity. He may come across at times as if he knows he's the cleverest man in Irish broadcasting - but that's alright, because he is.

The same station's Hard Shoulder (Mon-Fri 4pm) explored whether we should lower the voting age to 16. Ivan Yates wisecracked that his next guest sent "a 10-page email about it".

Cork teacher Vincent O'Connell believes young people are smart and interested, and should be taught more about "civics, political engagement and societal awareness", but are let down by the education system.

I'm not sure I fully agreed with his ultimate contention. But you look at the current series of snafus in Irish politics and wonder, would the kids actually be any worse?

Then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Any Questions? (BBC Radio 4, Sat 4pm), the iconic political debate programme, has just celebrated its 70th anniversary.

This strangely charming special edition, looking back all the way to 1948, told us the show drew up to 10 million listeners at the peak of radio's glory days. Funnily, apart from the cut-glass accents (both panellists and audience members), much of it was familiar: the way things are phrased, the vaguely exhausting back-and-forth of the question-and-answer format.

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