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Who needs talking therapy when you can talk to Joe?

AS THEY say, talk to Joe. On Tuesday they were up in arms over the cover of the current Food & Wine Magazine, which features a scantily clad young model in a photo shoot with celebrity chef Neven Maguire.

The question for Joe Public was: What does a scantily clad woman have to do with a plate of food?

And Joe's public was not amused.

"I'm very disappointed with Neven; I feel as if I know him from his programmes," said one caller.

"Yes, he does be on a lot," agreed Joe.

"This stuff drives me crazy; it's as if women are there just to please men . . . I'm disappointed in the women too,' said another caller.

Joe, the populist, was at pains to point out that he was not criticising the model.

"I'm sure she is a nice person -- has a nice personality," said Joe.

The Joe Duffy show did speak to the publisher of the magazine who was keen to abdicate any responsibility.

"I don't condone this and I didn't approve it; I was at home caring for a sick child with swine flu." She continued: "We have apologised to Neven."

"Why did you apologise to Neven? No one forced him to do it; he could have said no," said Joe, sounding as though he was becoming judge, juror and executioner.

Then an altogether more serious woman got on the phone.

"It's completely hetero normativity," said the caller, who felt it was depicting women as a "pieces of meat".

And it was manna from heaven for Joe when a young man phoned in to say that it was usually men who were the exploited ones. To back up his argument he referenced the chatroom-line ads on TV, where half-naked woman offer premium rates to vulnerable men . . .

"For €2.50 an hour you'd expect a lot more..."

A horrified caller responded: "Are you saying that these women should offer more for €2.50 an hour?"

He backed down -- "I'm just saying that it's as much women exploiting men." Joe was quick to point out that it was not the half-naked woman who got the money. Indeed. It never is. Then he reverted to the original question: "What has a semi-clad young lady got to do with food and wine?"

The answer is, of course, absolutely nothing. But that didn't stop the Joe Duffy show asking it, and answering over and over again.

You have to hand it to them -- the Duffy show manages to get to the underbelly of Irish society like few other shows. Directly after the furore over the woman on the cover, they made the leap to issues of mental health, and specifically the use of the antidepressant, Seroxat.

"The side-effects were terrible Joe; it was like I had electric shocks running from my head to my toes."

Joe made no suggestion that there was anything wrong with Seroxat, but said that an Irish psychologist in Wales had been on to say that doctors were too willing to prescribe pills. As if to emphasise the validity of the doctor's view, Joe pointed out that he was from Raheny -- like that makes a difference!

He listened like the Good Samaritan to the testimony of the depressed.

"Do you suffer from depression now?" . . . "How long can a bad spell last for?" . . . "What do you do on a bad day?"

Ironically, the callers were complaining of a lack of talk therapy for mental health patients in Ireland, and yet here they were happy talking to Joe, the therapist.

The switchboard had lit up and there was a cue of callers. Inadvertently, Joe had provided a service far better than anything the HSE could muster.

As they say, talk to Joe.