Monday 19 March 2018

Radio: Choked with emotion: voice of the grieving

RTE crime correspondent Paul Reynolds
RTE crime correspondent Paul Reynolds
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

This week's tragedy in Cavan was one of those things which are almost beyond comprehension. The death of Alan and Clodagh Hawe and their children Niall, Ryan and Liam was horrific - and impossible to fathom.

As one Ballyjamesduff local told Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am), this apparent murder-suicide "will have a long-term effect on the children's classmates and friends". Another woman - I'm guessing Polish, by her accent - said, "It's very hard to even think about… it's terrible", before breaking off, her voice choked with emotion.

RTÉ's Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds, on the scene in Ballyjamesduff, summarised it by saying that, while the facts of the matter had been more-or-less worked out, "the mystery remains as to why this happened".

The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Tues 10am) spoke to psychotherapist Trish Murphy, who made the interesting observation that "The term (murder-suicide) gives us some sense of the absolute tragedy here… this is so extraordinary, it's not within our normal range to think about it. We understand that anyone driven to do such a thing must be beyond human at that time - beyond the ability to think and feel like a human being.

"That person must be in a terrible state for something like this to happen," she added. "Nobody in their right mind would do such a thing, so there's a sense that this person deserves sympathy."

I was shocked to hear Pat say that, since 2000, there have been over 30 murder-suicides in Ireland. Though Pat did qualify this by rightly pointing out that, statistically, it's a "rare enough occurrence", it's still more than 30 awful, awful tragedies - a very dark shadow on Irish life.

The GAA, for many years now, has been one of this country's brightest lights. Which isn't to say that everyone must be interested in Gaelic games, or there's something wrong with anyone who isn't, or that they're "less Irish" or anything else.

(Personally I couldn't give the proverbial fiddler's what sport people follow, or indeed if they follow one at all. Books are better anyway!)

What I mean is, it's something that is enormous in size, quintessentially Irish and a positive force in this land. I don't think anyone could deny any of the three qualities, unless they're one of those weird, self-hating types who can't see anything good in any aspect of the "Gaelic" Irish tradition. And like, someone that ideologically blinkered can't be argued with, and won't have their minds changed, no matter what you say.

And contrary to stupid preconceptions, the GAA is for everyone. Listening to interviews and discussion around last weekend's epic Dublin-Kerry All-Ireland football semi, I was struck (not for the first time) by the diversity of voices, accents, backgrounds, types.

On Sunday Sport (Radio 1, 2pm), for instance, we heard the Kerry brogue of Éamonn Fitzmaurice and the middle-class Dublin accent of Jim Gavin. On the following evening's Off the Ball (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 7pm) were the more "working-class" Dublin tones of Mossy Quinn and James Horan's soft Mayo accent.

These are just a few examples of the range of voices, people and personalities and voices heard on radio coverage of GAA. This is important, I think.

A grievous and common failing of media is that it's often woefully divorced from the reality of life, outside its self-referential bubble. Well, 82,000 people - Dubs and culchies, rich and poor, farmers and doctors and everything else - rocking Croke Park in an electrifying celebration of the best of Irish culture: that is real life.

And with due nods towards other sports, the GAA truly is, to a large extent, the nation at play.

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