Wednesday 22 November 2017

Radio: Narconomics: Bad men and big business

Chris Donoghue
Chris Donoghue
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Riggs and Murtagh. Batman and Robin. Ernie and Bert. To this list of odd couples that were just crazy enough to work, we could add Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue - and this week was the first without them.

Chris has left Newstalk's Breakfast (Mon-Fri 6.30am) for an evening drivetime show, coming in September. Ivan has left radio altogether, for a year of travelling the world. Their double-act will be missed.

I wouldn't have predicted Yates would be such a good fit for radio when he started. Donoghue was always going to do well - he's too smart and talented not to. But Ivan? An ex-Fine Gael TD, a bookie, one of those men who are always yammering on about sport?

Inauspicious, to say the least, but he was pretty damn good, wasn't he? They were good together, a funny and playful alternative to Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am), their sparking and snarking embellished by the inherent likeability of both.

Anyway, onwards we go. The ever-reliable and easily versatile Shane Coleman - one of four new Breakfast hosts in autumn - did stand-in this week, aided and abetted by Nora Owen and the station's own Kieran Cuddihy. (The first half-hour was devoted to business, with Vincent Wall, as will be standard operating procedure after the reshuffle.)

Actually, Owen - a former Fine Gael Minister, like Ivan - ain't too shabby on radio either. Whether discussing something light, like Icelandic soccer fans, or serious stuff like the HSE and water bloody charges, she's comfortable and reasonably adept. A decent option to bring in off the subs' bench.

Journalist Tom Wainwright spoke to Moncrieff (Newstalk Mon-Fri 1.30pm) about his new book Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel. And it was gobsmacking.

The illegal drug trade makes north of $300 billion in profits every year. As Wainwright pointed out, that's a huge amount of money which - if drugs were decriminalised and controlled by the state - would be going back into society… and, just as importantly, it would take away the power and influence of these lunatic narco-criminals.

Cartels like the Sinaloa and Zetas have ruined large parts of Mexico. Other Latin American nations - most infamously Colombia - have suffered as badly. And ultimately, Wainwright says, with the odd exception like FARC, they're all doing it for the grubbiest, most predictable reason of all: money.

The Mexican cartels have even branched out into a sort of franchise system. For instance, a kidnapping gang somewhere can pay the Zetas to use their "brand-name", the better to terrify victims' families into paying up quick-smart.

It's all madness really, a bloody tangle of horror piled upon horror. And almost as mad is the fact that the so-called 'War on Drugs' is causing a lot of this, by making these animals rich and powerful. Is it not time to take the money and power back from the traffickers? The people of cartel-dominated Latin America might argue so.

The Business (Radio 1, Sat 10am) had an interesting little bit on that familiar oddity of the Irish summer: the summer school. Do they have these in other countries - events where, as Richard Curran phrased it, people "sign up… to discuss history, politics and cultural topics late into the night"? Evelyn O'Rourke described it as seeming "quaint, that idea of heading off to some village around the country to listen to someone talk".

We heard that Joe Mulholland of the MacGill summer school in Donegal - one of the biggies - works six months every year at this, voluntarily; it wouldn't be financially viable otherwise. A labour of love, indeed.

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