Saturday 16 December 2017

Radio review: Ireland doesn't treat migrants well either

Left to right: Sofie Grabol, Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon and Stanley Tucci star in Fortitude
Left to right: Sofie Grabol, Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon and Stanley Tucci star in Fortitude

Eilis O'Hanlon

Sometimes the little things make all the difference. On BBC Radio Four's World At One last Tuesday, an academic from Bournemouth University (a real place, apparently) explained how getting children to take off their shoes in class makes them work harder and behave better.

Going barefoot or wearing slippers makes the classroom so much quieter, for one thing. Schools who tried it also found that it cuts cleaning bills by a quarter.

On The Pat Kenny Show the same day, former headteacher Arthur Godsil likewise explained why piling homework on to children is counterproductive. His preferred solution of individually tailored learning programmes for each pupil is possibly unrealistic in a stretched system, but at least he's thinking outside that proverbial box. On nine out of 10 issues, most commentators are trapped inside it.

The election of Donald Trump as US President has proved that, if nothing else. Radio, like the rest of the media, is still not coping well with the change, so The Ryan Tubridy Show deserves credit for refusing to bow to the populist hysteria about Trump. "It's too easy," as Tubridy told a guest last week. His deep distrust of social media may be his saving grace in this regard.

Businessman Declan Ganley, talking to George Hook on Tuesday's High Noon, also avoided the cliches, not only about Trump, but Brexit too. Asked how Britain's exit from the EU would affect Ireland, Ganley dared to utter the words that many self-styled experts are too afraid to say: "I don't know." He then added that anyone who did claim to know for sure is "making it up".

The confusion over Trump was reflected in a News At One report on Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald's condemnation of the new US policy on migration as "morally totally questionable". The RTE Radio One show made no mention of Ireland's own poor record on refugees, languishing in direct provision on €19.10 a week.

Della Kilroy, thankfully, added damning detail on Drivetime later with a survey of the Government's failures in this area.

Whether by accident or design, this week's Drama On One from RTE also tackled the timely issue of migrants. Flight Risk by Kevin Brew featured refugee rights campaigner Ellie Kisyombe, originally from Malawi, as Elizabeth, a refugee from an unnamed country, who finds herself on a plane, "stateless and sleepy", as it circles Dublin waiting to land.

The flight was a metaphor for her immediate future, "travelling in no obvious direction, with someone else at the controls". Though as she said: "At least I'll be safe as my life goes around in circles."

In truth, this short piece was more documentary than drama; but it was still an important reminder that Ireland's refugee system is far from perfect.

Finally, Brendan O'Connor, standing in again as presenter of Sunday's Marian Finucane on RTE, surely coined the week's best phrase when he said of Fine Gael leadership contender Leo Varadkar that he is "not hugely encumbered by what you'd call the tyranny of consistency". File that one under the heading Harsh But Fair.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican


All 4, episodes 1-6

Case is an Icelandic psychological thriller in the mode of Scandi-noir, and part of Channel 4's Walter Presents strand. The first episode was shown on Channel 4 on January 24, and this, along with all episodes in the series is now available on All 4. Directed by Baldvin Zophoniasson, who directed some of the brilliant Trapped, on BBC Four last year, this begins with the apparent suicide of Lara, a talented teenage ballerina, who is found dead at Reykjavik's National Theatre. Enter Gabriela (Steinunn Olina Porsteinsdottir, also from Trapped), as the pleasingly normal investigating detective. From such beginnings are great dramas made. Lara's schoolfriends can't tell a straight story about what she did and wore when she was last seen, the official stories shift and dissolve, while a local newspaper seeks to discredit Lara's grieving adoptive parents. Soon, Gabriela begins to suspect foul play, and more. Something is very rotten at the heart of Reykjavik, with vulnerable children unprotected by the community they belong to, and a whole lot of drinking and drugging, even among the 'normal' folk. Settle in!

Generation F*d

RTE Player, until February 12, episode 1

This, it seems, is no country for young men. Or women. RTE's new docu-series looks at the realities of life for the generation aged 25-35, the ones we often call, sneeringly, millennials. These are the kids who grew up during the boom but came of age during our worst economic crisis ever, and may have been suffering from a skewed perspective on life. Often dismissed as a bit precious, sympathy has been in short supply for millennials. However, a good hard look at the realities of their lives might change that. Generation F*d was filmed over six months, with a cast from diverse backgrounds, as they go about trying to lead independent lives: buy a house, get married, get a decent job like newly-qualified teacher Luke McGahren (left). Seeing just how difficult these cornerstones are, is sobering.

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