Thursday 5 December 2019

Whine, beer and the end of our civilisation

Pat Kenny's passionate delivery wins out over Sean O'Rourke's increasingly bland interviewing style
Pat Kenny's passionate delivery wins out over Sean O'Rourke's increasingly bland interviewing style

Eilis O'Hanlon

ANOTHER week, another whine, as Monday's Liveline waxed indignantly over a shot of teetotal trade unionist Jim Larkin's statue being used to advertise beer. Or something. It was as if Christmas had come early for the show's usual 'End Of Civilisation As We Know It' act.

Of course, civilisation as we know it will allegedly be coming to an end soon anyway, thanks to climate change. On Monday, Today With Sean O'Rourke talked to a journalist in Japan for the launch of the latest IPCC report on global warming, signing off with: "Thank you very much for that update and analysis." Which would be fine, if there'd been any analysis. But there wasn't. The journalist merely repeated what the report said. On The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, Sean's counterpart was at least attempting to get a discussion going, pointing to "anomalies" in the official version of global warming, as well as evidence suggesting that the world was just as warm during parts of the medieval period as it is now.

Not being a scientist, I've no idea who's right; but as a listener, I know which coverage I prefer. Passionate engagement wins out over O'Rourke's increasingly bland News At One-esque style every time.

Kenny was also responsible, in a previous life, for one of the best April Fool's Day spoofs in recent years when interviewing David Norris about his upcoming wedding to a woman. I was expecting a similar thing this year, with Newstalk announcing that Pat was resigning and returning to RTE. Instead they went with a story about George Hook becoming Irish Ambassador to the US – to which one listener responded later on The Right Hook with the text: "Ireland 1 America 0." (Not a fan then, huh?)

The show was presented that day by Bobby Kerr, chairman of Insomnia, who often deputises in George's absence. Kerr's fine, but hearing another middle-aged male voice just exacerbates our disappointment that the grump himself isn't there. Why not give Sarah Carey a call instead? She does a terrific job on Talking Point, and it would help redress the overwhelming male bias on Newstalk. (Tara Duggan did present Moncrieff last week, to be fair, but it's not enough).

Over on BBC Radio 2, the ebullient veteran actor Brian Blessed was in studio with Jeremy Vine midweek, and proved to be an unexpectedly touching guest as he recalled his childhood in a tough English mining village in the Forties, where his father would appear each evening caked in coal dust, "like Hector at the gates of Troy"; and how he had to watch, as a boy, his mother being given electro-shock treatment for mental illness. Blessed remains, for all that, an unrelentingly optimistic fellow whose thoughts on the Meaning Of Life (for which he was this week's contributor) is that "we need to get out there" in the stars because "we're at our best when we're exploring".

Finally, Bowman Sunday 8.30 contained a clip from the RTE sound archives of Provincial News Round-Up from 60 years ago. This one was about a survey of smokers which found that it was mothers taking up the habit which was the key to whether children became smokers. "I hope mama will listen," concluded the presenter back then. You'd never get away with that these days. Nor, indeed, with the show's sign off: "Love and kisses from all of us here to all of you there, cheerio."

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