A new arrival and not so fond farewells


IT’S THE TIME of year when the holiday exodus from the workplace kicks off in earnest, but there was at least one person who bucked the trend this week. Not only was Ray D’Arcy (Today FM, weekdays) back in the hot seat – unlike many of his peers in Montrose, whose collective flight left RTÉ Radio 1 doing its annual impression of the Marie Celeste – but he sounded happy about the fact.

“It’s great to be back for a break,” chirped the presenter on Monday morning. “It’s a lot easier here, I can tell ya, than it is at home.”

D’Arcy was not indulging in phoney patter. Rather, having been absent for two weeks following the birth of his second child, he had the guiltily relieved tone of a father escaping the chaotic home front for the tranquillity of the office.

The new arrival was nonetheless a talking point. “He is sleeping, he is eating and he is shiteing quite a lot,” said D’Arcy of his young son.

This set the tone for the show, as D’Arcy sought tips on how to counteract the upward micturition of male infants. “One of the first things he did was pee in the nurse’s eye,” said the proud dad. “That’s my boy.”

To be fair, D’Arcy was aware that his puerile side – always hovering in the background – was to the fore on the day. After snickering at a particularly obvious double entendre in a tabloid headline, he composed himself. “Sorry, I think it’s lack of sleep that has me giddy today.”

By Wednesday D’Arcy felt able to tackle more serious issues. He spoke to Orla McLoughlin, a Labour councillor in Limerick, who had an innovative solution to the problems gripping her hometown. Limerick would become “the best city ever” if Marks Spencer opened a store there, McLoughlin said, complaining that she had to travel elsewhere to buy the UK chain’s “unique” products, most notably its underwear. In making her plea, she said she was speaking “on behalf of all the women who love to shop”, a sector that has not hitherto featured prominently in Labour’s target demographics.

D’Arcy was less enthusiastic about his guest’s mission. “Please come to my city, Marks Spencer, because I don’t want to have to go to Cork to buy my bras: it’s not a brilliant argument,” he said sniffily.

McLoughlin’s approach to urban regeneration may have been silly, but being patronised by a man who had regaled the public about his baby’s urinary habits seemed a bit much.

A less frivolous but more dispiriting debate was heard on The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays), when Matt Cooper hosted a discussion about gay marriage. Prompted by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s statement in support of same-sex unions, Cooper spoke to Dr John Murray of the Iona Institute, who expressed his hostility to such a move. His opposition was largely based on the rationale that marriage provided a child with a mother and a father and that it was wrong to suggest an arrangement involving two men or two women was exactly the same.

Cooper was having none of it, pressing Murray far more than his other guest, Tiernan Brady of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. There were plenty of bad heterosexual parents, the presenter suggested, while doubting that many wedded couples would feel their marital status diminished if gay marriage were allowed.

Murray reiterated his basic belief that the special character of matrimony would suffer. But it was also odd, he added, to see people (supposedly) once against such unions now arguing for them. Marriage, Murray said, was now “being used as a way to socially engineer a change in public opinion with regard to homosexuality and homosexual acts”. It was an unpleasantly hostile coda, but an illuminating one. Cooper felt no need to press further.

Among those presenters vacating their studios last week were Baz Ashmawy and Lucy Kennedy, but in this case the move was permanent. As the final edition of Weekend Breakfast with Baz and Lucy (2FM, Saturday) aired, a perfunctory atmosphere prevailed, with the presenters betraying little of their emotions.

“I’m very bad at saying goodbye. The thought of saying goodbye to you at the end of the show is doing my head in,” Ashmawy said, during one of the show’s regular features called, originally enough, “Ouch, that does my head in”. “But I just really want to say thank you to you guys.”

Such platitudes, genuinely felt as they may be, hinted at why the duo had the plug pulled on them. Having made their names as broadcasters with cheeky charm, Ashmawy and Kennedy paired together on radio must have looked like a winning formula. But as their last outing emphasised, the resulting programme lacked the spark one might have expected. The banter was dutiful – tales about spilling apple juice in handbags, for example – and the humour laboured.

“This was like the date that would never end,” was Kennedy’s unintentionally telling assessment of her on-air partnership.

As the show fizzled out, she attempted to put a positive spin on the situation and the prospects for herself and Ashmawy, both of whom have young families. “In the greater scheme of things that’s all that matters, having healthy babies. If you’ve got your family and your friends, everything else is just gravy.”

But as D’Arcy would attest, it helps to have a show to retreat to.

Radio moment of the week

Much fuss is made about the impact of social media, but sometimes its significance can be exaggerated. On Thursday Kathryn Thomas, guest host of The John Murray Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), told the anecdote of a woman who had lost her dog on a train, only to be reunited after she tweeted about her loss. “That’s the power of Twitter,” marvelled Thomas.

Arab Spring, eat your heart out.

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