Saturday 24 February 2018

Final storey as the last Ballymun tower comes crashing down

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The last of the notorious Ballymun towers was pulled down this week, so Newstalk's timing was good with its documentary The Lifts Are Broken Again. Reporter Henry McKean travelled to Ballymun and did what he does best: letting people tell their own story in their own words.

This, I'd imagine, is not as easy as you'd think. You can't just stick a mike in someone's face and hit 'Record'. The reporter has to guide, cajole, encourage, clarify, direct. The programme also, in post-production, must edit the footage into something coherent and thematic.

The Lifts Are Broken Again did all that, and gave a very interesting insight into this perceived trouble-spot. For many outsiders – especially from the country or swankier city areas – Ballymun is synonymous with social deprivation, decay, urban blight, drugs, crime, a community falling apart.

Naturally, this isn't anything near the full story. The interviewees came across as regular folk, really, with the usual aspirations, fears and dreams.

There was a certain chippiness about some of them, which is probably understandable: when you and your area are constantly lambasted, who wouldn't get a little defensive? Less comprehensible was how some people declared, on the one hand, that Ballymun was fine and reports of trouble were exaggerated; yet on the other called for state aid of a fairly significant magnitude. Which is it: does the place need help or not?

Anyway, another good show from Newstalk's admirable Different Voices. Also admirable is the same station's Coleman at Large, though I don't expect everyone to agree.

Marc Coleman is regarded as something of a right-wing firebrand, though this is relative: right-wing in Ireland would be considered quite leftist in other countries. But even by Irish standards, I don't think he's right-wing: he seems libertarian more than anything, advocating personal rights and responsibilities.

What I like about Coleman is that he speaks his truth.

Personally I don't agree with him on many things.

But he seems honest, unguarded and not afraid of the prevailing consensus.

He doesn't couch his opinions in waffle, vagueness or the safe option of obfuscation. This, of course, is a refreshing – but also depressing – contrast with some of the politicians who appear on his show.

Irish Independent

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