Wednesday 21 March 2018

Radio: Gripped by a shocking story of domestic violence

Riveting radtio: Pauline Tully's interview
Riveting radtio: Pauline Tully's interview
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

I'm not the world's biggest fan of The Marian Finucane Show (Radio 1, Sat-Sun 11am). To be brutally frank, I think it's pretty much run its course, and has sounded stale and past-its-best for a while now.

But the listenership figures disagree - Finucane increased her already very large audience in the latest JNLR - and it can't be denied that, every so often, the presenter pulls something really special out of the bag.

So, to a Finucane Hall of Fame that includes celebrated interviews with the likes of Joe Jacob and Nuala O Faolain, we may now add last weekend's interview with Pauline Tully. The former wife of Garda killer Pearse McAuley was speaking about her ordeal at his hands, after McAuley was last week convicted of assaulting her last Christmas.

"As soon as he came in, he just lifted his fist in the air and hit me in my left eye," Pauline recounted.

It only went downhill from there: "I remember his words were, 'If I can't have you, no one will.' He stabbed me in the upper chest; I remember him sticking the knife into me. It was such a shock. I can still see his face as he was doing it, the anger, and the blood was everywhere."

This was genuinely chilling and absolutely riveting radio. I mean that almost in a literal sense - you felt powerless to switch off or stop listening. I found it unsettling and upsetting on something close to the physical level, as if there was a biochemical response to her words.

I guess everyone has their personal, emotional pressure points - highly idiosyncratic but no less inescapable for that - and domestic violence would be one of mine. It's strange, really, at least when you consider that, objectively anyway, worse things happen in the world.

But you can't change your subjective response to things; you can only be who you are. And Pauline Tully's interview hit me like thunder and lightning.

Maybe it was the mundane intimacy of it that made it all seem so shocking; the domestic setting which makes the insane violence seem even worse. A house out the country, a woman preparing for Christmas dinner, her two sons playing. Normal, routine stuff.

And then the calm is shattered by a - well, what do you call a man like Pearse McAuley? A sadist, a bully, a thug, a creep, a monster, a loser, a borderline sociopath? They all seem to fit. Not sure about the word "man", though, come to think of it.

His crime was awful; his weird and surreal behaviour before and afterwards made it worse. He's a bad article, pure and simple. (Yeah, maybe that will do for a fitting description, that short but very evocative Hiberno-English term: a bad article.)

After such a powerful, but gruelling, interview, you'd need to listen to something lighter. Thank goodness, then, for Teresa Mannion, whose heroics in the face of Storm Desmond have made her an internet icon and now, with CNN coming calling for a chat, an international celebrity.

The RTÉ television reporter popped up on The Eoghan McDermott Show (2FM, Mon-Fri 4pm) to tell stand-in host Aidan Power all about it, saying: "I'm in my own little storm bubble (since) - it's just not dying down like Storm Desmond, it just seems to be getting bigger and bigger."

She went on: "I'm so new to all of this, I mean I've never had a great Twitter moment. I'm a bit of a saddo - if I get a few followers a week, I'm happy. But I think I've had over 3,000 new followers in the last 24 hours. My phone just keeps pumping, pumping, pumping. I'm like my teenage sons, I can't stop looking at it and I'm always saying to them, 'Get your face out of your phone!" Teresa also dashed over to The Ray D'Arcy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri, 3pm), as quick as - ahem - the wind, where she described the experience as "mad". "I had no idea I was bellowing! Charlie Bird has nothing on me now."

It was all good, silly fun, as was the bit on Christmas Number ones on Neil Delamere's Sunday Best (Today FM, Sun 11am). Now, being a grown-up, I haven't given a rat's ass about the charts or who makes top spot during Yuletide for, ooh, years and years.

But it's still good crack to reminisce about pop favourites of years gone by, and Delamare - alongside guest John Meagher, this paper's resident music guru - knocked some sport out of recalling the greats and not-so-greats of Christmas Number ones past.

Well, alright, so there weren't really any greats, except for the great 'Fairytale of New York', from The Pogues and Kirsty McColl. Oh, and 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. And that time Rage Against the Machine made top spot in a public protest against Simon Cowell and the reality TV Entertainment-Industrial Complex.

Apart from that, you're looking at the musical equivalent of tapioca pudding from Chris Rea, Cliff, East 17, Mr Blobby, Bob the Builder and a bunch of more recent singers who I'd never heard of and have already forgotten. 'A Silent Night' sounds attractive when you think about that lot.

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