Let's take a good look in the mirror
RADIO REVIEW:THE OUTCOME OF the Michaela McAreavey murder trial, in Mauritius, may have evoked an understandably indignant public reaction here, but it also called to mind the proverb about people in glass houses thinking twice before lobbing missiles.
The sound of Martin McGuinness berating a police force for its inability to secure a conviction on Thursday’s Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) was the sort of moment that leaves satirists under threat of redundancy, but it was representative of the rush to judge another small country without first checking ourselves in the mirror.
As the former TD Jim Glennon noted on Monday’s edition of Lunchtime (Newstalk, weekdays), Ireland’s forces of law and order did not “cover themselves in glory” in the still unsolved Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder case. But, he added to Jonathan Healy, we would feel aggrieved if French politicians called for a tourism boycott over the matter, a sanction the Fine Gael Senator Seán Kelly had rashly suggested for Mauritius. Glennon’s considered call for perspective was a welcome exception to the intemperate tone that pervaded discussion of the topic.
Another voice was heard this week asking whether Ireland’s justice system was itself up to scratch. But as is often the case with George Hook (The Right Hook, Newstalk, weekdays), reflective analysis was ditched for fuming tirades. The object of Hook’s ire was the supposedly light sentencing habits of Irish judges, a topic triggered by the terms handed down for two particularly egregious crimes: 16 months for a woman who sexually exploited her four-year-old daughter by filming her with a semi-naked man; and 10 years for a burglar who brutally sexually assaulted a woman in her home.
There was no doubting Hook’s sincere interest. He told listeners to Tuesday’s show that, having read newspaper reports about the sentences, he had told his production team he was going to tackle the subject. Talking to Dr Conor O’Mahony of University College Cork, the presenter set out his stall. “You’re going to tell me it’s a complex issue,” Hook said, “and I don’t buy that at all. It’s a simple issue.” When his guest opined that it was indeed complex, involving judicial discretion and mitigating circumstances, Hook dismissed this as “old guff”. “I have no problem with judges having latitude,” he said, “but if you get a hanging judge, you get absolutely abused by the media.” This sounded odd from a media figure who was using his platform to lash the bench for liberal bias.
When O’Mahony, who agreed the sentences seemed very lenient, speculated whether the abusive mother’s punishment was lessened because she had already lost custody of her daughter, Hook had enough of this legalistic nonsense. “Let’s imagine you and I are two guys in a pub, sharing a bottle of beer, sitting on a stool, talking about this case,” spluttered Hook. “Should a woman who uses her daughter for a sexual video have custody at all?” It was a legitimate question, but that Hook apparently views the pub as the ultimate arbiter of common sense suggests he is not the man to reform our legal system.