Monday 16 September 2019

Radio: Politicians who don't know whether to spin or to waffle


Presidential runner-up Peter Casey. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Presidential runner-up Peter Casey. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

If last Friday's election taught us anything, it's that you should never underestimate the sheer, obdurate crankiness of the Irish people.

Handed an election few of them wanted - and even fewer cared about - there was always the chance that someone would come along and steal some thunder.

That it happened to be Peter Casey explains why, on Pat Kenny's Election Special (Newstalk, Saturday, 9am-1pm), the mood of the politicians was mixed.

The increasingly forlorn-looking Brendan Howlin seemed keen to keep attention on the victor rather than the runner-up, but all roads lead back to Casey.

Listening to the Labour leader, an undeniably decent man respected even by his opponents, was a reminder of why so many people decided to make a protest at the polling booth last week - waffle.

Frankly, the punters are sick of it, but Howlin had enough for everyone in the audience as he fluttered on about the importance of maintaining a 'floor of decency' - whatever that is when it's at home.

As Howlin and Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell engaged in an on-air non-aggression pact and tutted disapprovingly about the Irish deplorables, it was hard to escape the impression that mainstream politicians are actually rather freaked out...

Few literary creations have freaked out quite so many people over such a long time as Dracula, and Myles Dungan's consistently wonderful History Show (Radio 1, Sunday, 6pm) spoke about Bram Stoker's early life in Dublin's Buckingham Street.

Dungan admitted to only ever associating the author with Clontarf, but local historian Hugo McGuinness and Mary Muldowney brilliantly shed more light on the background of a man who, for years, was barely even considered an Irish writer.

The history of Stoker's early years is, in many ways, a history of the city itself, albeit seen through a glass very darkly.

We learned of the cholera epidemics which terrified the population and was seen as a mysterious 'invader from the East', and both McGuinness and Muldowney spoke about the author's sickly childhood, which involved repeated bloodletting, chronic sickness, fears of disease and a mother who was obsessed with telling her son the most terrifying ghost stories she could think of.

As Muldowney said, he was never going to become a romantic novelist after that sort of formative upbringing.

It was a wonderful piece of radio, warm and witty with the presenter and his guests wearing their knowledge lightly and engaging in a genuinely interesting conversation about a man who still remains a mystery to many.

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