Ewe say it best when you say nothing

Sat, Jun 30, 2012, 01:00

RADIO REVIEW:LAST WEEK CAME with a stark reminder of how far we have come in 20 years. Moncrieff (Newstalk, weekdays) carried an item that harked back to the horrors of yesteryear, now thankfully consigned to history. Sean Moncrieff’s weekly natter with Mairead Lavery of the Irish Farmers Journal evoked unpleasant memories of a bygone Ireland, when radio audiences lived in constant fear of graphic advertisements purveying treatments for livestock maladies.

Many’s the listener in the 1980s who lost their appetite as the breakfast-time airwaves were filled with messages about the symptoms of liver fluke and the menace of bovine mastitis. One of the few positive legacies of the boom years is that we are spared such aural emetics these days.

Or so it seemed. As Lavery spoke to Moncrieff about the Sheep 2012 open day in Athenry, in Co Kildare, the ghosts of agri-terrors past came flooding back. She began by giving an upbeat assessment of the sheep-farming sector. “The good news is that people are eating more lamb.” So far, so inoffensive, though presumably lambs do not view this development in such a positive light.

Then Moncrieff asked about the ovine affliction of blowfly. His guest explained how this insect lays eggs on the sheep, with grim consequences for the animal and, indeed, the listener. She cheerfully described how the eggs turn into maggots that bore under the ewe’s skin. By the time Lavery cautioned, “If you’re eating your tea, don’t listen,” it was too late.

Lavery then outlined the way that unshorn fleeces can cause sheep to roll helplessly on to their backs, causing crows to “pull out their intestines and take out their eyes”.

For those enjoying their postprandial afternoon slump, this was gamey fare indeed.

Leaving aside the perils of nausea, however, Lavery’s jovially visceral slot was one of those unexpectedly engaging items that make Moncrieff’s show worth tuning into, providing a glimpse into a world otherwise overlooked by daytime radio.

In contrast, it was hard to escape the subject of soccer, even after the Republic had long returned from Euro 2012. The appearance of John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, on Tubridy (2FM, weekdays) was more revealing about Ryan Tubridy’s interview technique than it was about the Irish team’s campaign, however.

As he gently lobbed one softball query after another in Delaney’s direction, Tubridy sounded desperate to avoid anything that might offend rather than to get answers about Ireland’s dismal performance. “You know I’m not great at the [soccer] lingo; I’m a supporter in the best sense of the word,” the presenter said. “But what I was hearing was that Trap should have taken a chance with some of the younger lads.”

Strangely, this vigorous interrogation failed to shed much new light on Trapattoni’s puzzling team selections.

When it came to Delaney’s much-criticised socialising with boozy Irish fans – including profane speeches and crowd-surfing antics – Tubridy teed up another soapy line of questioning. “I’m in the camp that says go for it; I think it’s fun,” Tubridy said. “Yet there are those who have the higher horse, or the higher moral ground, and say they don’t like seeing you having fun.”

Delaney responded that his main regret was that the incident was recorded.

Tubridy had hardly committed a broadcasting sin: the cosy quizzing of a sports official on talk radio is not the same as interviewing a public representative on a news programme. But it only reinforced the air of bland chumminess that too often pervades his show. If Tubridy wants to arrest his declining audience, he needs to be a bit less pally.

Judging by the harrowing anecdotes that last week flooded Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), good manners – or any sort of basic civilised behaviour, come to that – are at a premium on the nation’s streets. Spurred by the fatal assault on the journalist Eugene Moloney in Dublin, a succession of callers spoke about their experiences of random violence. Such urban scare stories are a hardy staple of Liveline, but this time even Joe Duffy sounded taken aback by what he heard.

On Tuesday the presenter was called by Michael, whose daughter Aoife had half her nostril bitten off by a woman outside a Dublin pub the previous weekend, a story that caused Duffy to recoil audibly: “Ah, for God’s sake! Oh my God.”

Later the presenter spoke to the victim herself, asking when she realised what had happened. “When the blood started spurting out,” said Aoife. “Huh-ahhh!” Duffy yelped.

Aoife’s tale made the news bulletins over the next day, which provided a crumb of comfort in suggesting that this kind of vicious assault may not be the norm, even in drunken nocturnal Ireland.

But it was a shocking tale nonetheless. Listening to the radio still requires a strong stomach.

RADIO MOMENT OF THE WEEK

Given RTÉ’s recent libel woes, it is understandable if an air of caution pervades Montrose at the moment. Even still, Myles Dungan, guest host on Today with Pat Kenny (RTÉ Radio 1), was perhaps overly careful when discussing the leaders of ancient Rome with the author Matthew Dennison. “Tell us about the alleged activities of Livia, the wife of Augustus,” said Dungan, before adding, “I probably don’t need to use the word alleged: she’s dead; she can’t sue.” Still, better safe than sorry.

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