Radio: Hazy ‘Liveline’ logic about why Labour isn’t working

RTÉ Radio 1’s phone-in, hosted by an election-fatigued Philip Boucher-Hayes, is high on opinion but low on coherence. For a quietly devastating talk, tune in to John Murray’s talk with Derry Clarke of l’Ecrivain Restaurant

Philip Boucher-Hayes: his air of patrician forbearance sounds close to breaking point at times

Philip Boucher-Hayes: his air of patrician forbearance sounds close to breaking point at times

Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:00

Tuesday afternoon, four days after the polls have closed, and Philip Boucher-Hayes, in common with much of the country, is struggling to disguise his ennui at the seemingly endless saga of the European and local elections.

“I would have thought that by this time yesterday you would all have had your fill of politics,” he says as he begins the day’s shift as guest host of Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). As Boucher-Hayes quickly admits, however, such an assumption is to underestimate the hardiness of the programme’s callers.

“If your calls are anything to go by, your appetite is undiminished,” he says, noting that particular attention is being paid to why the Labour Party got “a kicking”. The presenter then talks to James Kennedy, a Labour councillor in the Co Cork town of Mallow, who steps up to defend his party but instead seems to encapsulate why it has taken such a drubbing at the polls.

Asked to speculate about the reasons for the election results, Kennedy “sincerely and with respect” launches into a potted history of Irish political culture over the past four decades, before “respectfully” suggesting that the economic crash was inevitable.

All very interesting but, Boucher-Hayes suggests, rather missing the point: the real problem is that Labour failed in its mandate “to put a human face on fiscal rectitude”, a view that Kennedy, yes, “respects”.

Boucher-Hayes then hears from Denis, who launches a general tirade against politicians. Eventually, the presenter manages to pen off his guest’s fulminations enough to make the point that the Coalition parties had broken their promise not to follow Fianna Fáil’s policies. It’s a view that blames Fine Gael as much as Labour, but in the circumstances it has to do.

“That sums it up: Labour passed themselves off as the conscience of the nation,” says Boucher-Hayes, tidying up the point before putting it to Kennedy, who by now sounds sorry he ever went on the show.

The item may be light in coherent argument – Boucher-Hayes’s air of patrician forbearance sounds close to breaking point at times – but it somehow catches the atmosphere of helpless rage that fuelled the poll results.

Elsewhere, presenters are unable to contain their anger at the political process. But while Derek Mooney has his show (Mooney, RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) curtailed on Monday to allow coverage of Eamon Gilmore’s resignation, this isn’t why he is so agitated. On Tuesday he gives out to his on-air sidekick, Brenda Donohue, for “spoofing” when asked a direct question, before musing about what would happen if he took the same approach in other areas.

“That’s why they won’t let me do those current-affairs programmes,” Mooney says, full of what one hopes is mock outrage, “because, in my ignorance, I’d get the truth out of those politicians.” To underline the point he then gets confused about whether the news or nuacht follows next, before turning his attention to a children’s talent contest.

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