Radio: Gaybo grills the Garda while Sharon snaps back at the paparazzi

Gay Byrne’s Sunday anecdotes suggest the veteran host is as stimulating as ever; Sharon Ní Bheoláin proves her mettle on ‘Liveline’, hitting out at tabloid intrusion

Sat, Mar 1, 2014, 01:00

As so often before, the tension between Byrne’s innate personal conservativism and his querying instincts yields an intriguing clash of ideas, even if in this case the discourse is with himself. He may not always be consistent, but Byrne retains the ability to seize his audience’s attention.

As it happens, there are some kind words about the Garda on radio last week. On Monday, newsreader Sharon Ní Bheoláin appears on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), paying tribute to the support she has received from officers investigating the online harassment she recently suffered. Her praise for the force is surpassed only by the invective she heaps on the tabloid press, whose publication of paparazzi photographs taken outside her home has left her “sore, embarrassed and humiliated”.

It is the kind of item that presenter Joe Duffy revels in, taking in as it does celebrity, crime and human interest. But Ní Bheoláin avoids playing the victim, instead striking a fine balance between dignified fortitude about her stalker ordeal and undisguised loathing of the “rags” that intruded into her private life. “I’ve broad shoulders, I’m perfectly able to deal with this [harassment] on my own,” she says. “What I’m not equipped for are these low lifes who hide in a car on my street and pap me.”

It is a measure of the newsreader’s revulsion at the tabloids’ behaviour that she expresses sorrow for the man charged with stalking her, after he was named in one paper. “I don’t believe the prosecution will be successful,” she says, “and that’s deeply disturbing and upsetting.”

Normally publicity-shy, Ní Bheoláin carries herself admirably throughout. But she also displays a certain media savvy in choosing Duffy’s populist forum over a more conventional talk show to express her rightful unhappiness. (Her admission that she gets her morning news from rival station Newstalk rather than from her RTÉ colleagues on Morning Ireland is also striking.) By the end of her interview, Liveline ’s listeners are rallying to Team Sharon.

Faced with such a formidable backlash, resistance is futile: by the following morning, a tabloid picture editor is apologising for his paper’s actions on Breakfast (Newstalk, weekdays). It’s a rare victory for decency, won largely by Ní Bheoláin’s understated mastery of the airwaves.

radioreview@irishtimes.com

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