Thursday 14 November 2019

No white-wash of horrors of the Magdalene Laundries

The Magdalene Laundries report dominated radio all week, and rightly so, but how difficult it was to listen to. One of the saddest, most depressing and awful stories in ages, a stark reminder of what a horrible country this used to be, at least partly.

Not all, of course – there were and are lots of good things about Ireland. But the Laundries were surely the nadir of society's narrow-minded ignorance, hatred of women, and craven abdication of power to an unelected cabal of zealots. Sanctimonious bullies, the lot of them, not worth a fraction of any of those poor women.

Radio, as always, covered the topic in great depth and breadth, giving us the information, teasing out subtleties and examining all sides; special mention to The Last Word (Today FM), Morning Ireland (Radio 1) and Today with Pat Kenny (Radio 1). This excellent work didn't make it any easier to stomach, though.

Also looking back to the past was novelist John Banville, subject of an extended interview on Marian Finucane (Radio 1) about his life and books. It was a strange sort of interview, because the writer came across, alternatively, as two quite different people.

On the one hand he was unpretentious and "normal", for want of a better word, reminiscing about his youth, nights as a sub-editor, his working week and so on. But on the other, he sometimes seemed arch, self-important and beset by some of those annoying "literary" affectations common in authors.

He even referred to himself as "Banville" once or twice, and speaks with that clipped, quasi-English accent so beloved of Irish writers (the man is from Wexford and lives in Dublin), which doesn't help. Still, a fascinating life and impressive canon, and a fine interview.

Moving down the artistic scale, we come to action movies, discussed on Orla Barry's arts show The Green Room (Newstalk). Academic and writer Dr Harvey O'Brien grew up on such films and has written a book about them, Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back.

As a fellow fan, it was great to hear these sagas of huge guns, huger muscles and even huger explosions being taken seriously for once. And a nice, fun interlude in a very heavy week.

Irish Independent

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