Radio: Roma kids get a new bogeyman for Halloween. David Norris gets a clean shave
Armageddon, abduction and aliens: amid the scary stories on The Last Word and Drivetime, the senators appearance on The Ray D’Arcy Show to talk about his cancer provided unexpected relief
Sen David Norris at the Today FM studios on Monday, after he had his beard shaved off in aid of the Irish Cancer Society. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
As if to remind us that Halloween beckons, the air was thick with scary stories this week. One could scarcely tune in without hearing hair-raising accounts of impending Armageddon or creepy evocations of parasitical alien monsters. Most harrowing of all were the tales of terrified children being whisked away from their families by costumed bogeymen – or, as they are colloquially known, the guards.
The story of the two Roma families whose blond children were taken away for DNA testing because they did not look like their parents dominated the news, though much of the discussion on the matter was furtively understated, particularly while investigations continued. Fortunately, some were prepared to put their head above the parapet to talk about the worrying ramifications of the matter.
On Wednesday, Siobhán O’Donoghue of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland spoke to Matt Cooper on The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays), describing the case as “a form of ethnic profiling”. This practice, she said, was outlawed by the UN, although “unfortunately there’s still a legal basis for it in Ireland” – the complaint against the Roma family, effectively, was “that the child had blond hair and blue eyes”.
For those who see the law as a form of protection, it was frightening to hear the case put in such stark terms, particularly when O’Donoghue cited examples of people being taken off trains because they looked different.
Cooper, ever the journalist, stressed that he wanted to see what the outcome was before passing judgment, though by then a degree of outrage was permissible, given that a two-year-old boy from the midlands had already been taken from and returned to his parents on similar grounds. In an interview with the reporter Ciaran Mullooly on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), the boy’s father recounted how the guards had called around to his house, “talking about what happened in Tallaght”, before requesting they take the child away for the night.
Aside from the father’s surprisingly calm tone, the most striking aspect of the piece was the interviewee’s strongly accented and occasionally halting English, which allowed an insight into how things could easily get lost in translation during difficult encounters with those in authority. Mary Wilson, the Drivetime host, then provided an unwittingly ominous reminder of where ethnic targeting has led in the past when she followed Mullooly’s interview with an item about an exhibition on Anne Frank.
As Ray D’Arcy noted on The Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays), the scandal had left the children traumatised, their parents feeling victimised, the Garda not looking good, and Ireland making “a complete hames of it” in front of the world. And that seemed a generous assessment of the situation. It says much about the glum shadow cast by the story that light relief was provided by David Norris talking about his cancer on Tuesday.