In the wettest week of the year, nothing is cut and dried

Sat, Nov 28, 2009, 00:00

RADIO REVIEW:‘THERE’S A wild wind blowing,” reporter Jonathan Clynch said on News At One (RTÉ Radio One, weekdays). And he wasn’t talking about the ill wind of industrial discontent. If the flooding in the west wasn’t bad enough, the roof blew clean off an apartment block in Carrickmines in Dublin on Wednesday. It was as apt a metaphor as any for a country that has seen its fairytale turn sour, helped by the misbegotten deeds of a small coven of developers, bankers and politicians, writes QUENTIN FOTTRELL

“I heard a loud bang,” said Hazel Melbourne, who lives in the now-roofless building off the Glenamuck Road in Dublin 18. “I was just sitting in my living room and, as if I was in The Wizard of Oz,the roof flew by my window.” Later, Niamh Sweeney spoke to a traumatised Mike Finn, who owns a furniture shop in Gort, Co Galway, a business that is now flooded and all but ruined. A 17-acre lake had appeared behind his shop. “Omigod!” Sweeney declared. Twice.

“You have three days of rain to come down from the mountains yet,” Finn said. “My livelihood is gone. I’m numb. I don’t know what to do. I need help now from Mr Cowen. They’re talking about €10 million (in State aid). We need €10 million in South Galway. They need €100 million in Cork. What’s he raving about?”

Reporter Henry McKean caught up with Brian Cowen on Monday’s The Right Hook(Newstalk 106-108, weekdays). He asked, “Is this our Hurricane Katrina?” That was a dramatic comparison. But Cowen went into autopilot. He started with his usual patter about how this – just like the financial crisis – is “unprecedented”.

“The response in local areas has been magnificent and, at the end of the day, that is the most important thing, a strong community spirit.”

Hearing Cowen, rather than someone else, talk like this stung. Vast flood plains were rezoned and turned into housing estates under successive Fianna Fáil governments and sold onto unsuspecting families. There have been similar floods in Lucan and elsewhere. I’d like to hear him talk less about “unprecedented weather” and “community spirit” and talk more about his own Government’s failed policy of rezoning land instead.

On Wednesday’s The Ray D’Arcy Show(Today FM, weekdays) there was a collision of two worlds when Ryan Tubridy arrived. This kind of cross-pollination would likely give the RTÉ brass conniptions. But it’s nice to see a radio station with the confidence to invite on a competitor.

It was a case of who could be Mr Nicest. Tubridy, who was promoting The Late Late Toy Show,said he was nervous. “You guys probably think I’m a complete RTÉ horror show,” he said. This inadvertently alluded to a key difference in their presenting styles. D’Arcy is the guy next door. Tubridy is a showman who doesn’t appear to have an “off” button – on-air at least. Tubridy said Gordon Ramsay was his least favourite television guest. (In an interview earlier this year Ramsay poked fun at Tubridy’s ears, though this came after Tubridy asked Ramsay if he had any work done.) “I thought he was a bit, em, British for my liking,” Tubridy said. D’Arcy didn’t pursue that, but I wondered what exactly he meant. Does a generous sprinkling of Anglophobia get you into the good graces of the Irish public? I thought we were over all of that. “I won’t be buying the books,” Tubridy added. “In fact, I didn’t take the free one.” RTÉ’s Mr Nice Guy kept it real by revealing a more vulnerable and sensitive side; either that or he allowed the audience to see a more unforgiving one.

Some perspective on the Toy Showat one end of the spectrum and winds and floods at the other: Cathal Póirtéir’s must-hear 16-part Famine Echoes(RTÉ Radio One, Saturdays) was first broadcast in 1995 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Famine.

Using the manuscript collection of the National Folklore Collection in the Delargey Centre, UCD, actors narrate stories. One involved a woman who gave a stranger a plate of porridge. She and her husband had to share a bowl that night. “It was said that from that day on everything prospered with that family, stock, crops, milk . . .”

Given the week that was in it, maybe An Taoiseach had a point, after all.