The west's awake, and Hector doesn't let you forget it
Other than a few quotes, O’Donnell said, most of the material had been “disregarded”, particularly in regard to working conditions in the institutions. She contrasted this with the written evidence of nuns, included in the report “on face value”, leading to a “skewed picture” of life in the laundries.
Calm in voice, Carville knew how to ramp up the atmosphere. “Nowhere in the report does McAleese say that what the women told him was true,” the host remarked to O’Donnell. “Would you expect that?”
“I expected he would have honoured their stories,” replied O’Donnell.
The discussion eschewed emotional exchanges for considered debate that opened up the issue. The Labour TD Ciarán Lynch said that while the report did not consider some of the nun’s nonphysical punishments abusive, such behaviour would be classified as abuse under current legislation. For all its reasoned tone, The Late Debate had more surprise and impact than many of its noisier daytime counterparts.
Outre topics do not in themselves deliver great radio, as shown by Paddy O’Gorman’s report on prostitution in Dublin on Monday’s Today With Pat Kenny (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). O’Gorman spoke to a prostitute whom he characterised as a “professional”, in that she was not a drug addict, justifying the interview on the basis that such voices needed to be heard in any debate on issue. But the item still had a troubling, even voyeuristic quality.
O’Gorman’s questioning veered between the prurient – “Would the men ask you for strange things?” – to the ickily personal: “I’m presuming you’re not married. You would have made a man happy.” It turned out she once had a boyfriend who was unaware of her profession: had he known, she casually said, “he would have cut my bloody throat”.
The prostitute did not see herself as a victim – her motivation was mainly monetary, adding that she liked sex – which made it her choice as subject seem the more disturbing.
However unintentionally, O’Gorman presented a skewed, airbrushed picture of prostitution in Ireland. Radio remains a powerful medium. It needs to be handled with care.
Moment of the week: Love is on the air
St Valentine’s Day had listeners to The Ian Dempsey Show (Today FM, weekdays) suggesting suitable songs for the presenter to play, but proceedings were not as trite as feared. Dempsey, whose enthusiasm for music remains obvious, read out a request from one listener.
“He says this is a real love song – and you know what? I agree with him,” said Dempsey, before playing the Undertones’ pop-punk classic Teenage Kicks. You don’t have to be soppy to be romantic.