Darwinism, and personal finance checks, in the home

The deputies man the mikes in RTÉ, but there’s no such monkey business on Newstalk

Keelin Shanley: holding the fort on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’

Keelin Shanley: holding the fort on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:00

Even in a year like this one, which we can imagine will have to be spread across five episodes of Reeling in the Years, things still slow down in summertime. The summer months are the period when RTÉ experiments with (but never follows up on) allowing female broadcasters access to the personality-led slots of Ryan Tubridy and Sean O’Rourke, with Louise McSharry in for Tubs and Keelin Shanley in for O’Rourke.

Taking leave is how things work at Donnybrook, though gone are the days when the RTÉ stars’ holliers were so long that one wondered if they were actually vacations or, instead, the type of holiday the childhood dog took and never came home from. You also know it’s summer when the contributor takes centre stage, with long reports from Valerie Cox and other RTÉ heads ducking in for a chat.

Over on Mooney (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) on Thursday, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh takes a trip to St James’s Hospital. “I’m a domestic engineer,” someone says. “What does that mean?” Ní Chofaigh asks. “It means a cleaner.” No holidays for that lady.

On Today with Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), Keelin Shanley finds the one person in RTÉ that can make the ins and outs of personal credit ratings interesting. Conor Brophy is everything a business reporter rarely is. He’s animated, chatty, speaks in terms that people understand and, most importantly, possesses the best skill a reporter can have: he doesn’t talk like a reporter. If the essence of good radio is bringing voices into the listener’s room, then Brophy is practically staring over my shoulder at my bills, red ballpoint in hand.

The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays) is hosted by one man who has probably seen his summer leisure time considerably curtailed. On Monday, Kenny conducts a great interview with Karin Joy Fowler about her new novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. And Kenny is beside himself with enthusiasm to discuss the book, based loosely on the Kellogg experiment, which saw a chimp raised as a child with the Kellogg family.

“It’s one of the most elegantly written books,” he says, without sounding syrupy. Book reviews on the radio can sometimes be a little tedious, but Kenny focuses on the subject matter, the experiments in the home-raising of chimps, and wonders aloud if the intention was to demonstrate Darwinism in action.

Fowler counters that they were mostly language-focused trials. “They were very wrong-headed in a number of ways. In the original experiments they were trying to get the chimps to articulate verbally, to speak. Their facial and skeletal makeup makes that impossible,” she explains. You can almost hear Kenny nodding, and he offers: “They’re not equipped, unlike a parrot, who can, but doesn’t understand anything?” Fowler counters again: “I would not say that. I would not agree with that.”

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