Sunday 21 January 2018

Radio: Guns, Dev and Commie propaganda: it's election '32

Did you know that Lucinda Creighton’s signature dish is chilli, and she wanted to be a showjumper?
Did you know that Lucinda Creighton’s signature dish is chilli, and she wanted to be a showjumper?
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

By this stage in any election campaign, I - and presumably, most of you - am fairly full of debates, policy and pitches. We know what all the parties and candidates are about by now, and we probably know how we're going to vote.

And I don't think I can take another "I didn't interrupt you so don't interrupt me" or "the reality here is" or what-have-you. So, on radio, I've been on the look-out for election stuff, but with a twist.

First up, Breakfast (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 6.30am) and their weekly Hidden History spot, with Donal Fallon of the Come Here to Me blog and Little Museum of Dublin. A very enjoyable look back at the 1932 General Election, where Fallon teed it up nicely by saying, "We've gone very soft nowadays - the 1932 campaign was vicious."

That it was. Forget your sob-stories of being harassed on social media or accosted by some mouthy idiot on the doorstep: here we had Fianna Fáil TDs reportedly carrying revolvers into the Dáil - one was apparently even seen "assembling a machine gun in a telephone box in Leinster House" - and a "ruthless propaganda war" in which Cumann na nGaedheal claimed that "gunmen and communists are canvassing for Fianna Fáil".

Weirdly, that one is partly true. The IRA did indeed canvass for FF, because de Valera had promised to free republican prisoners if elected. To thicken the plot, he had only recently formed this breakaway party after a row with - yes, you've guessed it - Sinn Féin, over the oath of allegiance to the Crown.

Showing the sense of Realpolitik that defined FF for the next 80 years, Dev decided, let's say the oath... but not mean it. That way they could "get into the building… it becomes clear early on that Fianna Fáil were only heading one place: into power." Dev then promised "lots of things" to the plebs.

It would be hilarious how much history repeats itself… if it wasn't so depressing.

This was great fun, only spoiled for me by Fallon's use of the "present historical" tense: speaking of distant events as if they're happening now. Loads of historians do this, and it annoys the bejeesus out of me. Like, we don't even write newspaper reports in the present tense, and that's describing stuff that only happened yesterday.

Also great fun, courtesy of possibly the funniest show on radio, is Carpool Candidates and Quick Fire Candidates on Moncrieff (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 1.30pm). The latter is particularly entertaining: the show describes it as series of "questions that they will likely not be asked anywhere else". Interestingly, this is both a good and a bad thing.

Anyway, it's mighty craic. Did you know that the Green Party's Catherine Martin was nicknamed Pocahontas in college? Or that Lucinda Creighton's signature dish is chilli and she wanted to be a showjumper? Or that the teenage Joan Burton used to stick up posters of "moody people like Leonard Cohen" back in the day?

Well, now you do. Does this sort of thing make people change their vote? Almost certainly.

Meanwhile Socialist Paul Murphy, surprisingly, named The History of the Russian Revolution by Trotsky as his favourite book. I would have put money on that being an Andy McNab thriller.

Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am) had the strange case of the missing election leaflets. That sounds like it could be one of the less-exciting Sherlock Holmes stories, but in actuality, as reported by Ciarán Mullooly, it happened at a housing estate on the outskirts of Ballymahon, Co Longford.

Sinn Féin candidate Paul Hogan - presumably not the Crocodile Dundee fella - was canvassing door-to-door when he noticed a supporter of James Bannon (Fine Gael), coming along in his wake and allegedly removing Hogan's leaflets from letterboxes.

Tempers flared and two tribes (sort of) went to war. Bannon arrived and said his man was "only reading a leaflet and immediately replaced it".

The Sinn Féin people countered that the guy's "pockets were bulging with leaflets of other candidates, including Labour's Willie Penrose" - which should make for lively conversation if the Coalition is returned.

The Guards were called - though not Sherlock Holmes - as Hogan demanded the return of his leaflets.

The member of Bannon's team who allegedly grabbed the election literature, meanwhile, had disappeared from the area.

These, let me remind you, are grown adults.

Veering off slightly from the election - but this may be relevant to politicians - Dave Fanning (2fm, Sat-Sun 9am) brought in station stablemate Ciara King to talk about "some of the best excuses we use."

For any elected candidate who now finds they can't possibly deliver on all those campaign promises, I recommend you use "I had a doctor's appointment", "I needed to catch up on sleep", "my 12-year-old daughter stole my car" or "I got a bat stuck in my hair."

You're welcome.

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