Radio: Absence has made Ivan better, but Tubs still has the presence
The former TD and minister Ivan Yates sounded subtly different on his return to Newstalk, but 2FM’s Ryan Tubridy was the week’s unheralded star
Ivan Yates: we may have missed him more than we knew. Photograph: Sam Boal
A debatable piece of wisdom at the best of times, the adage about absence making the heart grow fonder has been put to a particularly stern test on mornings of late. Having been off the air for a year while he dealt with personal financial affairs, Ivan Yates’s return as co-anchor of Breakfast (Newstalk, weekdays) may have been welcomed by those drawn to the overbearing banter, sweeping editorialising and alpha-male swagger that characterised his previous tenure. Other listeners, who enjoyed the more welcoming style of his replacement Norah Casey, may have had a due sense of foreboding.
On Thursday, Yates was in vintage form, unabashedly loosing off fusillades in favour of more building and development in the property market, a position most might think akin to urging bigger bonuses for bankers.
But Yates also provided glimpses of the talents obscured by his on-air persona. Chief among these is his heavyweight political experience as a former Fine Gael TD and minister, assets which he brought to bear on Wednesday when he skewered both sides of the debate on the abolition of the Seanad. When Fine Gael TD Simon Harris denounced the second house as “elitist” and spoke grandly of the Dáil’s legislative prowess, Yates was dismissive. “Really, backbenchers don’t have much power,” he said, with the casual authority of one who knows.
Indeed, it eventually sounded as if Yates’s demeanour had undergone a subtle but palpable shift. On a purely presentational level, he appeared less eager to dominate his partnership with co-host Chris Donoghue, ceding to his younger colleague on issues such as Syria. And while he has spoken elsewhere about the lonely year he spent in a Welsh flat for bankruptcy purposes, it was refreshing when Yates showed the more reflective side of his personality.
On Tuesday, World Suicide Prevention Day, he spoke about the benefits of staying positive and talking to people when “stress turns to distress”. When Donoghue tellingly observed that he had not once asked his co-host how he was since his return, Yates came close to dropping his armour. “In this world we have to be tough guys,” he said. “And sometimes things happen when it’s just not that way. Really bad things happen in people’s lives.”
It would be trite to say that we were hearing a kinder, gentler Yates – he remains a meaty presence – but his virtues as a broadcaster were more obvious than before. Or maybe we just missed him more than we knew.
Absence of a more profound and permanent nature was discussed at length on Monday’s Tubridy (2FM, weekdays), when Ryan Tubridy spoke to Tom Lenihan, the son of the late minister for finance Brian Lenihan. It was an interview of almost unbearable honesty, during which the young Lenihan, the president of TCD Student Union, spoke not only of his relationship with his father but also of his own struggles with depression.