Sunday 17 December 2017

Radio: We'll drown in a Rising tide - but RTÉ Road was good

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The Easter Rising centenary is a year away, but true to form for Ireland, the rowing and arguing is already well under way. (At least in the media; you do suspect that the general public doesn't care that much one way or the other.)

Honestly, we couldn't open a crisp packet in this country without someone giving out about it on radio, someone else abusing them, and a third person saying "we need to broaden the parameters of this debate" or some such soul-killing nonsense.

Get used to it, though: that's what it'll be like across the airwaves for the next 12 months, with ideologues on both sides going at it hammer and tongs. (And both sides do have 'em: "Brits out and blood sacrifice" merchants on one end, "nothing good came of it and we should have stayed in the UK" whiners on the other. You, dear reader, being a normal human being, are probably somewhere in the grey-shaded, muddy middle.)

Something to look forward to, anyway. For now, join me in raising a congratulatory toast to RTÉ Radio for their excellent Road to the Rising series of events in Dublin on Monday, some of which were carried on-air.

Regardless of where you stand on the thing itself - oh God, don't start giving me your opinion, please - I think we can all appreciate imaginative, creative, intelligent work, well done. And this was certainly that.

An absolute rake of stuff took place on O'Connell Street this Bank Holiday, with the capital's main thoroughfare transformed, whooshed back through history to Edwardian times.

From the radio perspective, we had things like The Poetry Programme (11am), where Rick O'Shea and some young assistants explored work of the pre-revolutionary period; a special Sunday Miscellany (1pm), one day late, with guests including that fine author Christine Dwyer Hickey; and an interesting Drama on One (4.30pm), in which a long-forgotten play about 1916 was reworked from its original stage setting to audio theatre.

Pick of the bunch, perhaps ­unsurprisingly, was The History Show (6pm), which both reported on the day itself and examined the past: Irish life as it was in 1915, and the people and historical currents which had led to the Rising. It was very good; the show's apparent obsession with the early 20th century was a boon in this case, not a fault.

PS Production deadlines last week prevented me mentioning the tragically early death of our colleague, and veteran of the Irish airwaves, George Byrne. His most recent radio gig was a humorous double-act with Tom Dunne on Newstalk - ostensibly reviewing ­movies, but very often, the ­entertaining sound of two old pals shooting the breeze. RIP.

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