Wednesday 19 June 2019

Rising star, reigning queen and the voice of the weekend airwaves

Claire Byrne on the set of her new show.
Claire Byrne on the set of her new show.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar with Miriam O’Callaghan outside RTE last week
Marian Finucane with husband John Clarke as the couple arrive at the ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ award in Dublin
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

We criticise, rightly, the lack of women in our media. Ironically, though, three of Irish broadcasting's biggest names are female - and they've all had seismic weeks.

Claire Byrne's self-titled TV show launched. Leo Varadkar made his ground-breaking declaration about his sexuality to Miriam O'Callaghan.

And Marian Finucane married her long-time partner John Clarke.

Of the three, Claire could fairly be described as RTE's rising star.

She's done TV before, of course, but this weekly current affairs slot puts her into the Pat Kenny or O'Callaghan bracket in terms of reach and influence.

While the opening edition (perhaps understandably) felt a bit flat, it's actually hard to find fault with Claire as a broadcaster, on TV or her weekly radio show. She's smart, articulate, level-headed and personable. She has a pleasant voice. Most importantly, and unlike virtually every other broadcaster on the planet, she has no annoying tics or habits.

Miriam, meanwhile, is the reigning queen of Irish broadcasting.

She's long proved herself in current affairs, on both radio and TV, here and in Britain.

Many people were sceptical, though, when her summer chat-show launched 10 years ago.

But Miriam's innate warmth, cheerfulness and emotional intelligence made her, as it turned out, a perfect fit for the format.

She has further proved her versatility by slipping easily into magazine-style radio with her Sunday interviews, and deputising for John Murray.

The only threat to Miriam's ascendancy, really, is that very versatility: she might be spread too thinly by RTE, as others have been before her.

But really, it's hard to see the audience growing tired of a woman who's become the metaphorical "mother of the nation".

Finally, Marian. Over the course of a long career she's stuck mainly to radio, although there was talk of her replacing Gay Byrne when his 'Late Late Show' tenure drew to a close in 1999.

It would have been interesting to see the results, had she got the job.

She didn't, the moment passed; and to be honest, you can't help feeling the moment has passed for Marian on radio, too.

She used to be one of the finest interviewers we've ever produced, but for a long time now, her weekend shows have felt very jaded and uninspired.

Irish Independent

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