Friday 22 March 2019

Radio: RTE goes big on decriminalising drugs debate

Tony Geoghegan
Tony Geoghegan
Charity chief Tony Geoghegan
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Should we decriminalise drugs currently prohibited? The Government is proposing this for small amounts and personal use. They're also examining alternative tactics to reduce intake: from a criminal to a medical approach.

The story was widely covered, as is right - it's a big deal. Radio 1 alone saw it explored by Today with Sean O'Rourke (Mon-Fri 10am), which spoke to Tony Geoghegan of Merchants Quay Ireland and Grace Hill of Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Taskforce; Drivetime (Mon-Fri 4.30pm) had on Aoife Frances of the National Family Support Network and Trinity Professor Joe Barry; and News at One (Mon-Fri 1pm) welcomed Minister of State Catherine Byrne.

A good spread of views, expertise and standpoints. On a tangent, this shows how RTÉ, especially Radio 1, are particularly well-equipped to handle these complex topics. They have the budget, space, knowledge and experience, and generally do it well.

So should we decriminalise drugs? As we heard on these pieces, this is a very early stage of the discussion; they'll take their time, and here it's well-warranted. So the jury remains out on our question.

Speaking as someone who's only ever taken legal drugs - a bit too square in my youth, I'm afraid - I would say yes. Not so much to help poor forlorn drug users and ravaged communities over here, though I am sympathetic to them, but to help people "over there": where the stuff is produced.

Books like El Narco and Narconomics show, in shocking detail, what hell the drugs trade has made of parts of Latin America. You think it's bad in Dublin or Limerick? Certain cities in Mexico and Colombia resemble a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life, because of terrible, endless war between cartels and police, and gangs among themselves.

People talk all the time about the West's moral responsibility to help the developing world. Cutting the head off these ruthless bastards would be a start.

Under the Covers (Newstalk, Sunday 9pm) and Henry McKean looked at the vexed issue of Airbnb. For some folks it's a godsend: stay in a "home away from home" at half the price of a hotel. For others it's a nightmare, driving up rental rates by taking thousands of properties off the market.

Dublin councillor Mannix Flynn even reckoned authorities need to reduce the number of visitors to Dublin in the first place. Henry investigated it all in his customary low-key but quietly determined style.

Conor McGregor won't need low-cost deals on accommodation once he gets his fifty squillion or whatever share of the purse from that farcical fight with Floyd Mayweather. Two more unpleasant men you'd be hard-pressed to imagine; this is one of those sporting occasions when you wish it were somehow possible for both to lose.

But is McGregor racist? I'd have said "hardly", but according to US-based journo Dave Hannigan (The Last Word, Today FM, Mon-Fri 4.30pm), he is.

McGregor, he added, is crass, an ignoramus and a disgrace, with all the class of "one of the Kardashians getting knocked up by Donald Trump on Love Island".

I don't think McGregor is racist. He just talks a lot of obnoxious rubbish.

And that's free speech, folks, whether we like it or not (especially if we don't, actually). An Irish Times article on McGregor spoke, seemingly in agreement, of attempts "to eradicate language deemed offensive to sex and race from public discourse".

Not monitor, condemn, counter or mock - but eradicate.

Eradicate language? Whoa. You'd want to be very careful there.

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