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'Tis the season to be jolly - or perhaps not


Ian Dempsey: Breakfast host shines on Today FM Photo: Sunday Tribune

Ian Dempsey: Breakfast host shines on Today FM Photo: Sunday Tribune

Sunday Tribune

Ian Dempsey: Breakfast host shines on Today FM Photo: Sunday Tribune

Gay Byrne had a question for fellow Lyric presenter Aideen Gormley as she finished her Sunday Matinee and handed over to him last weekend: "Are you going all Christmassy next Sunday?"

"I am," she confirmed. "Big time. I'm just going for it."

"You mean it's Jingle-y Bells and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and all that sort of thing? Well, we'll probably have to follow suit," the veteran broadcaster said, with the mordant air of a man who knew his duty but wasn't looking forward to it at all.

Festive radio breaks down into these two camps. On the one side are those who embrace the season. On the other, a less enthusiastic crew who do Christmas radio because it's expected. Ryan Tubridy straddles this divide more awkwardly than most. On Tuesday, he hosted a festive party at the Shelbourne Hotel with comedian David O'Doherty; on Wednesday, presenting a less jolly item on being single at Christmas.

On shows such as Today With Sean O'Rourke, this dilemma tends to express itself in earnestness, such as Wednesday's item about Christmas stress. Evelyn Rourke tried to lighten the mood on Monday's show by talking to people who go the whole hog and beyond when it comes to decorating their houses each December, but the emphasis again was on the money those who do this raise for worthy causes.

RTE's Cian McCormack covered the same ground on day one of his "This Is Ireland" inserts, broadcast jointly by Morning Ireland and Six One News, speaking to Seamus Staunton in Cloonfad, who has been lighting up his house for 20 years in aid of cancer.

The stated aim of the mini -series was to "gauge the national mood", though the floods somewhat overshadowed the original concept. Still, McCormack is an adroit journalist, and gave each item

a touching shape around the theme of resilience; of people "doing the best they can" in the face of adversity.

Today FM embraced the Christmas spirit on Wednesday by switching around its presenters for "Trading Places" day. Matt Cooper kicked it off by taking over The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show, managing to say "good evening" to his very first guest, as well as making a mess of pressing the right button to play the songs, prompting sports reporter Paul Collins to quip: "This is as bad as The Ray D'Arcy Show used to be."

Even the Gift Grub regulars were taking the mickey, with 'Eamon Dunphy' coming on to review Matt's performance: "This is a sad day for Irish broadcasting when we witness the humiliation of a great, no, a good broadcaster. You've been found out, baby. You're like a budgie on speed, trying to get down with the kids."

Later, Dermot and Dave took over The Anton Savage Show, and Savage and Louise Duffy fronted Dermot And Dave, which was fun, too, though neither show was hugely different from usual. The highlight was Ian Dempsey, who was terrific on The Last Word. Simple ideas, perfectly executed, never fail.

Sunday Independent