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
Having had his first suicidal thought at age 13, Lenihan recounted that he attempted to end his life when he was 18. But, he said, the hardest thing of all was telling his dad about his problems, because he “didn’t want to break his heart”; on hearing of his son’s depression, Lenihan senior broke down in tears. “He was quite sensitive,” said Tom, “he felt he was letting me down.” He also showed poignant consideration during his father’s terminal illness, trying to avoid adding to his burdens as minister. “I was suicidal, but I wanted him to die peacefully.”
Although Tubridy did ask the odd stock question from the emotive interview playbook (eg how did he feel when he learnt his father was sick) there was no sense of prurience or voyeurism. Mainly, the host took a light-touch approach, allowing his guest to speak about his state of mind and, indeed, his political beliefs (“I can’t really reconcile my views with Fianna Fáil”). It was a remarkable interview, which reflected well on both participants.
Nor was it a flash in the pan. While other broadcasters have hogged the headlines of late, Tubridy has produced some of the best radio of his recent career, as was underlined when he spoke to the novelist Marian Keyes on Tuesday, her 50th birthday. Keyes, whose sprightly humour has always co-existed with an appreciation of life’s darker hues, was initially in giddy form, laughing about how her birthday gifts were mainly pink in colour. “I misunderstand, are you nine or 50 today?” joked Tubridy, before gently changing tack by asking about his guest’s health.
Keyes responded with an openness that was bracing. Since her breakdown four years ago, “the old me is gone,” she said, adding that she had days of “terrible blackness”. Such frankness can risk tipping into depression porn but, thanks to the chemistry between host and guest, it was an honest exchange, never more so than when Keyes spoke of the “tyranny of positive thinking” and said she now had to “graciously accept” her situation. Like the Lenihan interview, it was human interest radio of the highest order, compelling and illuminating without being glib or pat.
Moment of the week: Pat paints the town red
On Monday’s Today With Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), the gloves came off in the host’s duel with Newstalk defector Pat Kenny. Speaking to the team behind the Second Captains sports show, who used to work for Newstalk, O’Rourke made a jibe about the rival station and its promotional campaign for Kenny. “We don’t need to name the station,” he said, “because they have the town so decorated with posters it looks like Pyongyang.”
It was a spiky line, though perhaps lacking in self-awareness: it is RTÉ the public has to pay fiscal tribute to, not Newstalk. People in glass houses and all that.