Thursday 22 March 2018

Some opinions are more equal than others

George Hook
George Hook

Eilis O'Hanlon

It's only when certain views are expressed that one realises, as a listener, how rarely they're heard on air.

Monday's Dublin Talks on 98FM was a case in point. Shane was on the line complaining at the Christmas bonus paid to "lazy" social welfare recipients. As far as he was concerned, "people sitting on their arse shouldn't get more money" than he does, and, like most late night callers, he wasn't shy about expressing that view forcefully.

He didn't have it all his own way. Adrian Kennedy challenged him strongly. So did Ciara, a mother of three who described the bonus as a "godsend". Interestingly, though, when asked about others on benefits, she too ended up agreeing that many "wouldn't work in a fit" and would rather spend their time going to Premiership matches.

Kennedy revealed, with some unease, that 90pc of calls coming in to the station were on Shane's side, adding: "My god, we've touched a raw nerve here."

The point is not who's right or wrong, but about how these moments expose the absence of certain views in normal media debate. Shane's isn't a view that one would normally hear on Morning Ireland.

The same goes for the discussions which followed the proposal by minister for children James Reilly to remove the defence of "reasonable chastisement" from parents who smack their children.

Today with Sean O'Rourke spoke to Grainia Long, chief executive of the ISPCC; Newstalk's Jonathan Healy's guest on Lunchtime was child law practitioner Caroline Ghent.

Those invited to speak all shared a particular point of view. There was no official counter argument, unless one includes George Hook's belligerence on the issue when he argued the toss on The Right Hook with Newstalk regular, Fergus Finlay of Barnardo's.

Finlay admitted that he had smacked his own children on occasion and was now "deeply ashamed" of it.

"Well, I'm not deeply ashamed," growled George. "I am absolutely certain in the righteousness of my act."

Again, it's not about who's right or wrong. If it was, then Finlay's view that it's indefensible how small children are "the only people we're allowed to hit and get away with it" should surely prevail. As he put it, turning to George's beloved rugby, "you're not allowed to hit a 17-stone man on the football field".

The contentious part was the Barnardo's man's insistence that "everyone agrees".

Today FM's Last Word did open the subject to callers, and, interestingly, most were against changing the law to protect children from physical punishment. Which may be regrettable, but the airwaves shouldn't belong only to those with the "right" opinions.

Elsewhere, the schedule was dominated by news of the resignation of Billy Walsh as coach with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, but I'd be lying if I said I understood what all the fuss was about.

Man leaves one job and starts another. Since when did this herald the apparent end of civilisation as we know it?

Sunday Independent

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