Radio Review: You could have powered continents with listeners’ rage
Frustrated despair has been replaced by a vengeful tang after the release of the Anglo Irish Bank tapes
Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Anger is an energy, at least according to the terminally seething John Lydon on Rise, his Public Image Ltd hit. But that it were such a valuable commodity: our fiscal troubles would surely cease. The country must have had the capacity to power continents with the rage that crackled over the airwaves this week.
From the moment the taped conversations between Anglo Irish Bank executives were first heard on radio, to the regurgitation of many a breakfast, on Monday’s Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), it was almost impossible to escape the affair and, no matter how often the clips were replayed, the teeth-grinding emotions it provoked.
Unsurprisingly, one of the chief conduits for this ire was Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), which for the past five years has been channelling – or generating, depending on your point of view – public fury at our collective calamities.
But as Joe Duffy fielded one livid call after another, the wider mood seemed different this time around. The frustrated despair that accompanied previous waves of outrage was replaced by a more vengeful tang. A caller named Shirley, whose family had moved to the US after her husband lost his job, made her solution clear by evoking the example of Marie Antoinette, beheaded for her (supposed) indifference to the suffering she presided over.
Other contributors were less viscerally inclined but still sought retribution against the executives whom Duffy, tweaking the Bunsen burner with a customarily expert hand, habitually referred to as the “laughing bankers”.
A retired senior civil servant called to say that a criminal investigation was needed – not that he was hopeful. “If a young fella stole a jumper from Dunnes, would it take five years to
get them to court? Yet here we are, not a single one of the people who wrecked the country is in jail.”
If such sentiments suggested that frustrated resignation had not been fully purged from the national humours, others were proactive in their anger. One woman, Nicola, said she phoned Garda headquarters to make a formal complaint about the tapes, only to be told that many others had already done so.
Colm, a barrister, thought that the tape of John Bowe, Anglo’s former head of capital markets, saying he had deliberately obscured the extent of the bank’s losses was grounds for charges of fraud. “It’s very difficult to see how this could be anything other than a deliberate attempt to obtain a pecuniary advantage by deception,” he said in lofty tones rarely encountered amid the earthy vernacular that is Liveline’s lingua franca.
As ever, there were moments of unintentional comedy, as when Eddie Hobbs chipped in his two cents on the matter. The ubiquitous financial pundit dubbed the offending bankers “vankpires”, repeating his clunky phrase for effect when his host failed to collapse into laughter.
But Hobbs also made the damning point that virtually none of the many revelations of financial misdeeds had arisen from regulatory enforcement. Instead they were the result of journalistic spadework.