Friday 19 July 2019

Mourning a death in the RTE family

RTE LEGEND: The late Derek Davis
RTE LEGEND: The late Derek Davis

Eilis O'Hanlon

With the recent UK election proving that opinion polls are about as accurate a bellwether of the public mood as a list of trending topics on Twitter, this probably isn't the best time to give undue weight to unscientific snapshots of attitude.

All the same, it was interesting to note Chris Donoghue's remark on Tuesday's Breakfast on Newstalk that "the text machine has exploded" in response to the resumption of public sector pay talks between the Government and trade unions.

It costs 30c to text Newstalk. No one does that unless they feel strongly.

The fallout from the UK election continued on Sunday's History Show on RTE Radio 1 with a segment exploring parallels between the SNP surge in Scotland and the 1918 election in Ireland, which saw Sinn Fein also sweep the board.

It was an interesting topic, but the position of modern Scots in the Union is hardly on a par with the historical experience of the Irish, and such parallels merely encourage that country's growing, somewhat melodramatic grievance culture.

Take BBC Radio Scotland, where Sunday's Good Morning Scotland featured a round-up of election night, set to a rousing version of a civil rights anthem. Come on, seriously?

BBC Radio 3's short season devoted to the work of Franz Kafka featured a new adaptation of the author's best known novel, The Trial, about a man condemned for an unknown crime in a nameless totalitarian state.

This version, by dramatist Mark Ravenhill, restored the tale's original title, The Process, while updating it to the world of modern management consultants; and that was the problem.

Kafka's story is easy to adapt in such ways, but nothing much is added as a result. Rather, the existential terror of the situation is diminished and trivialised.

Having said that, it was definitely a novelty to hear a show on well-bred Radio 3 being preceded with a warning that it "contains scenes of violence".

The death of the much underrated, under-used broadcaster Derek Davis was announced on Wednesday's News At One, prompting a warm tribute on Liveline, which he'd often hosted.

"You don't have to be solemn to be serious," was how friend and fellow Northerner Sam Smyth summed up his broad appeal. Another friend, Tom McGurk, praised Davis's range, from light entertainment and daytime TV to hard-hitting current affairs. Philip Boucher-Hayes on Drivetime added his own heartfelt tribute, as did Hugh Linehan, standing in for Matt Cooper on Today FM's Last Word.

Thursday, though, felt strange. There was nothing on Morning Ireland about Davis's death, save for a touching round-up of the coverage elsewhere on It Says In The Papers with Caroline Murphy.

The John Murray Show, for its part, preferred to interview a man with a hundred hats, and there was nothing on Today With Sean O'Rourke either.

Why the silence? Derek Davis was a part of listeners' lives for decades. He deserved more time, more words.

Sunday Independent

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