Monday 19 February 2018

Hang tight, folks. Only two more weeks to go

* Prime Time, RTE One
* The Late Late Show, RTE One
* The Enfield Haunting, Sky Living

RTE Prime Time debate on marriage referendum
RTE Prime Time debate on marriage referendum
The Enfield Haunting
The panel on Prime Time
The Late Late Show debate
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

How many times have you been on radio and television talking about gay marriage in the last few weeks?

I don't mean to pry or intrude or anything, but it seems as if just about everybody in this country has an opinion on this incredibly divisive and polarising upcoming referendum, which, as far as I can make out, will give gay 21-year-olds the right to marry the President.

I might be a bit sketchy on the details, but because we've endured such a deluge of bickering, point scoring and hysteria, I'm just not sure any more.

Since the referendum was first announced, which feels like it was about 28 years ago, both sides have been busy getting stuck into each other and if we've learned anything from the plethora of TV items, discussions, debates and slagging matches, it is that... we haven't learned anything at all.

And, in a country with a population as small as ours, dealing with an issue as large as this one is always going to cause problems for programme makers. David Quinn? Ah jaysus, he was on another show this morning, can we not book someone else?

Una Mullally? For feck's sake, she has been on two radio spots and three TV shows by lunchtime.

Breda O'Brien? John Waters? Panti? Noel Whelan? Frances Fitzgerald? Aaargggh!

I've seen more of these people in the last few weeks than I've seen of my own wife and while she probably finds that quite an agreeable situation, there's something rather disconcerting about turning on the telly and constantly seeing the same faces saying the same thing and having the same arguments with the same people in front of the same presenters.

Even last week's Heated Debate slot on The Late Late failed to really catch fire simply on the grounds that both sides now know each other's thrusts and parries so well that they simply cancel each other out.

The Late Late at least offered the always entertaining Paddy Manning, a relatively conservative gay blogger who is going against his herd by advocating a NO vote.

Manning has been the most interesting character to appear on our screens simply because he is the one with the most interesting story to tell. After all, if you talk to any of the Yes campaigners, gay or straight, they will tell you that everybody who is everybody is definitely voting YES, darling.

The fact that Manning was relegated to a place in the cheap seats with the rest of the audience rather than taking his place on the podium shows that neither side knows exactly what to do with a free thinker like him.

After all, every bigot is going to vote NO, but not every NO voter is a bigot and Manning's position as an enthusiastic homosexualist (I'm guessing he won't be offended by such a description because he has a thick skin) at least means he can't be accused of being a homophobe, that laziest of slurs which is used as a pink cudgel to silence dissent.

Quinn, Waters, Whelan, Fitzgerald and the usual suspects turned up on Tuesday night's Prime Time and it doesn't really matter whether you saw it or not - you know all the arguments by now.

As regular readers will know, I agree on very little, particularly when it comes to social matters, with my colleague David Quinn. But even though I'll be voting YES, I can still admit that he has managed to come across as the most level-headed of the campaigners on either side, even if I thought his decision to threaten to sue RTE over 'Pantigate' was, frankly, a bloody disgrace.

Allow me to make a public appeal of my own, however, and we can thank the relentless, blanket coverage of what is essentially a niche issue for forcing me into this request.

Pollsters who gauge the public opinion offer the following options: are you voting YES, voting NO, or Don't Know?

Why not add a fourth box to tick? One for YES, one NO, one for Don't Know and an extra, new one marked simply I Don't Care.

I've a sneaking feeling both sides of this never-ending circle jerk would be rather disappointed with the results if people were allowed to pick that option...

As someone who has repressed virtually every memory of early life in the 1970s, I approached The Enfield Haunting with more than my usual degree of trepidation, although that was more to do with the fact that it reminded me everything was beige when I was growing up, and this sparked several nasty flashbacks.

Where was my trigger warning?

Based on Britain's most famous poltergeist case, it featured Timothy Spall as a parapsychologist alongside Matthew McFayden, who looked like an extra from Garth Marenghie's Darkplace, even down to his brilliant name, Guy Leon Playfair.

You have to admit, kudos to the real life Mr and Mrs Playfair for giving their son perhaps the best name ever.

What makes this case so interesting is that Janet, the young girl attracting the advances of a mean old poltergeist, is alive and living in relative seclusion and still maintains her story was real. Despite the fact that there is obviously no such thing as poltergeists, this still managed to raise the hairs on the back of the neck.

If you missed the first episode, this is one to find on your On Demand service.

Irish Independent

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