Milking the moment with bare cheeks and the bum's rush


RADIO:A couple of Kerry men made the most of their naked ambition for national publicity

This week the radio waves were alive with the sound of men with strong Kerry accents trying to justify highly irresponsible gestures as legitimate deeds in the local interest. Wednesday’s edition of The John Murray Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) was typical of broadcasters’ response to the naked publicity stunts emanating from the Kingdom, as the presenter rewarded dangerous foolishness with more airtime for the attention-seeking culprit.

Trying to explain away his outrageous actions to Murray, Kerry native Jason O’Sullivan exhibited a shameless candour, cheerfully admitting it had all been an exercise in gaining exposure, literally and metaphorically. As it happened, O’Sullivan had far less reason to be embarrassed by his behaviour than those on Kerry County Council who this week voted in favour of rural drink-driving, though his own feat of striding nude through the snow-capped slopes of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks was hardly prudent.

O’Sullivan’s frosty striptease, undertaken to promote his local walking club in Glenbeigh and immortalised in a widely circulated photograph, was grist to the mill for Murray, who treated the matter in the earnestly analytical style that is his show’s trademark. “I feel your cold,” he said with a chuckle as he introduced his guest. After knowingly describing the view in the photograph as “spectacular”, he clarified to his guest that there was “no comparison between your bum and the majestic Macgillycuddy’s Reeks”, lest anyone not catch the subtle humour.

It was a good-natured but gossamer-thin segment, one to which Murray, who regularly organises walks under the auspices of the show, added a disturbing coda. “We’re all for new ideas here. I might lead a naked walk in Co Kerry some time soon,” he said. “I know it might offend people, but would it be against the law?”

One can only hope so. As it was, five minutes on nude hillwalking was a stretch.

But for all that his shtick occasionally dipped into witless 19th-hole banter, Murray helmed a show that underlined his solid talents as a broadcaster.

The presenter’s interview with the animator Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, whose short film has been nominated for an Academy Award, seemed in danger of becoming a bland chat, with the overjoyed young guest speaking mainly in upbeat cliches. Murray rescued the situation by inviting Cronin O’Reilly’s father, Patrick, to join the conversation on the phone from Kerry.

Soon the item took on the gently joshing atmosphere of a family occasion, fleshing out the young film-maker’s back story and drawing her out of her shell. When Murray said he would put €5 on the film winning the Oscar, Cronin O’Reilly was cheekily incredulous: “Only a fiver, John?”

Murray was similarly adept during an item on people who decided not to have children, covering the topic in an unpatronising, adult manner. When one guest, Vivienne, said that ongoing mental-health issues were a factor in her decision, Murray tackled the matter head on. It was welcome proof that Murray’s mix of light discussions, human-interest tales and novelty items need not be a blokey parade of forced jollity.

Otherwise, much of last week’s news schedule featured the self-serving tones of Danny Healy-Rae, the Kerry councillor behind the motion that called on the Garda to permit drivers in country areas to exceed the alcohol limit.

Whatever else, one could not fault Healy-Rae for his industry as he sought to milk his moment on the national stage – sorry, highlight the issue of rural isolation.

He was on air throughout the day, from Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), where he made light of Rachael English’s pertinent point that three of the five councillors who supported the motion were publicans, to Lunchtime (Newstalk, weekdays), pushing the pernicious argument that allowing people to drive home after “two or three pints” in a local pub could help combat rural suicide.

But he met his match on The Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays). Invited to outline his proposal’s rationale, Healy-Rae started his by-now-familiar spiel only for his host to cut across him. “Danny, I have to stop you there, because I’m getting a headache,” said D’Arcy. “Where have you been for the last eight or nine years, as the country talked about road safety, and a definite link between drinking and driving and road fatality was made by everyone?”

Faced with such fierce indignation, Healy-Rae’s lame defence that his plan was limited to back roads “where you couldn’t be doing more than 30 miles an hour” sounded particularly weak. This was met with more withering disdain by the presenter, who suggested his guest request speeding permits while he was at it, before sympathising with those Kerry residents who had paid the household charge to fund such “hare-brained ideas”.

After two minutes of this venting, D’Arcy’s exasperation got the better of him. “I have to say goodbye,” he abruptly told his guest. “This is my show. Good luck.”

Exhilarating as this was, it also felt like a set-up, a gotcha moment clearly playing to D’Arcy’s gallery. Had he not been so crassly courting attention, one might even have felt sorry for Healy-Rae. In this case, however, he merited the bum’s rush.

Moment of the week Irony-free Coleman

Marc Coleman presents himself as a scourge of the liberal media elite on his show Coleman at Large (Newstalk, Tuesday and Wednesday), but he has his own blind spots. On Tuesday, after he played a clip from Donegal radio decrying the Kerry drink-driving nonsense, he approvingly noted that this was “not condemnation from the usually superior tones of a Dublin 4 commentator”. If Coleman, a professional pundit, noted the irony of uttering this in his haughtily opinionated metropolitan accent, he did not voice it.

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