Saturday 24 March 2018

Radio: The good, the bad and the truly terrible - what a week

Thomas Flynn from Coolock was jailed for 12 years with three suspended at Clonmel Circuit court as he was one of seven men who broke into the home of Mark and Emma Corcoran
Thomas Flynn from Coolock was jailed for 12 years with three suspended at Clonmel Circuit court as he was one of seven men who broke into the home of Mark and Emma Corcoran
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

It's an overused phrase, I admit (I used it myself only a few weeks ago), but sometimes you just have to resort to quoting that infamous Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." Because this has been a week filled with headline-busting incidents, and some of it has been truly terrible.

On the bad side, a horrific fire which killed 10 people, rural crime-waves striking fear into many hearts, the shocking murder of a garda. On the better side, a Budget that gave more than it took, which is nice after so many years and so many cuts. (Us poor smokers still got it in the backside, though.) Somewhere in the middle, this year's PPI awards, which reflect to some extent the state of radio right now.

Where, even, to begin? That inferno at a halting site in Carrickmines, Dublin was the worst fire disaster in Ireland since Stardust, way back in 1981.

On This Week (Radio 1, Sun 1pm), we heard of crowds of people going to the site of the catastrophe to pay their respects, books of condolences being opened at several places, and a minute's silence planned for that evening's Euro qualifier against Poland.

Reporter Joe Mag Raollaigh described an ever-growing "shrine" at the site, with "dozens of people adding bouquets…parents and their children, elderly people… some stopping to say a quiet prayer… a real sign of the outpouring of sympathy and horror that people feel".

Shortly afterwards, Garda Tony Golden was shot dead in Co Louth. I'm sure most of us had never heard of the small town on Omeath before this truly shocking event, but we know it now.

The word 'Omeath' has joined a small but infamous group: those which denote the killing of an officer of the law.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan described it on the News at One (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 1pm) as a "sad and tragic day… an absolutely horrific incident… a very traumatic time, as you can appreciate." She expressed sympathy for Tony Golden's wife Nicola, his children, parents, family and friends.

Eighty-eight guards have now died, serving the state and serving us. Commissioner O'Sullivan added: "This brings into sharp focus the dangers faced by the men and women of An Garda Síochána, every single day, in going about their duty, and the dangers they face."

Meanwhile, thousands of people recently attended a public meeting in Thurles, Co Tipperary, to discuss rural crime after a spate of very scary attacks.

Talking Point (Newstalk, Sun 9am) discussed the matter with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, investigative reporter Nicola Tallant from our sister paper the Sunday World, John Tully of new pressure group Save Our Local Community, and retired Garda Sergeant Christy Galligan.

Host Sarah Carey asked at the intro: is the problem being exaggerated? It's hard to know, although Nicola Tallant pointed to an 8pc rise in this type of crime over the past year, and mentioned the recent Corcoran case in Tipp, where seven men received heavy sentences for a burglary of barbaric brutality.

She referenced that photograph, which made many front pages, of one of the gang baring his teeth at the camera (and, by extension, all of us in civilised society): "That picture said so much more than words can. It was just this thug, who had no regard for the law. They had committed such a horrendous crime on a family, but they didn't care."

This is the sort of vicious, feral, borderline-sociopath that brave, decent men like Tony Golden have to deal with on a regular basis. It's important to remember that. While I wouldn't be a member of the "hang 'em and flog 'em" brigade, I definitely wouldn't be all "aw the poor little lambs, what they need is understanding and a big cuddle" either. Judge Teehan, presiding over the Corcoran case, probably got it about right.

The Budget. The Budget! Are you one of those people who really cares about the Budget? I used to be, until someone pointed out in an article how, over the course of five or 10 years, you gain a bit, you lose a bit, but it mostly balances out in the end. The Budget, essentially, is a traditional pageant we hold each year, in which we pretend that we control our financial affairs, and aren't at the mercy of international money markets, the EU, IMF, ECB and a pile of other rather scary acronyms.

Also traditional is for the Minister for Finance to do an interview on Drivetime (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 4.30pm). Which Michael Noonan did, and it went along the customary lines: he outlined some things, explained some other things, defended a few things, emphasised a few things… you know how it goes.

Finally, the PPI Awards. Radio 1 took Station of the Year - no major surprise there, it's always either them or Newstalk.

More interesting was Cork Today, on local station C103, winning Best Current Affairs Programme. Proof, again, that local radio is alive and kicking in Ireland.

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