Radio: Hazy ‘Liveline’ logic about why Labour isn’t working

RTÉ Radio 1’s phone-in, hosted by an election-fatigued Philip Boucher-Hayes, is high on opinion but low on coherence. For a quietly devastating talk, tune in to John Murray’s talk with Derry Clarke of l’Ecrivain Restaurant

Philip Boucher-Hayes: his air of patrician forbearance sounds close to breaking point at times

Philip Boucher-Hayes: his air of patrician forbearance sounds close to breaking point at times


Tuesday afternoon, four days after the polls have closed, and Philip Boucher-Hayes, in common with much of the country, is struggling to disguise his ennui at the seemingly endless saga of the European and local elections.

“I would have thought that by this time yesterday you would all have had your fill of politics,” he says as he begins the day’s shift as guest host of Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). As Boucher-Hayes quickly admits, however, such an assumption is to underestimate the hardiness of the programme’s callers.

“If your calls are anything to go by, your appetite is undiminished,” he says, noting that particular attention is being paid to why the Labour Party got “a kicking”. The presenter then talks to James Kennedy, a Labour councillor in the Co Cork town of Mallow, who steps up to defend his party but instead seems to encapsulate why it has taken such a drubbing at the polls.

Asked to speculate about the reasons for the election results, Kennedy “sincerely and with respect” launches into a potted history of Irish political culture over the past four decades, before “respectfully” suggesting that the economic crash was inevitable.

All very interesting but, Boucher-Hayes suggests, rather missing the point: the real problem is that Labour failed in its mandate “to put a human face on fiscal rectitude”, a view that Kennedy, yes, “respects”.

Boucher-Hayes then hears from Denis, who launches a general tirade against politicians. Eventually, the presenter manages to pen off his guest’s fulminations enough to make the point that the Coalition parties had broken their promise not to follow Fianna Fáil’s policies. It’s a view that blames Fine Gael as much as Labour, but in the circumstances it has to do.

“That sums it up: Labour passed themselves off as the conscience of the nation,” says Boucher-Hayes, tidying up the point before putting it to Kennedy, who by now sounds sorry he ever went on the show.

The item may be light in coherent argument – Boucher-Hayes’s air of patrician forbearance sounds close to breaking point at times – but it somehow catches the atmosphere of helpless rage that fuelled the poll results.

Elsewhere, presenters are unable to contain their anger at the political process. But while Derek Mooney has his show (Mooney, RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) curtailed on Monday to allow coverage of Eamon Gilmore’s resignation, this isn’t why he is so agitated. On Tuesday he gives out to his on-air sidekick, Brenda Donohue, for “spoofing” when asked a direct question, before musing about what would happen if he took the same approach in other areas.

“That’s why they won’t let me do those current-affairs programmes,” Mooney says, full of what one hopes is mock outrage, “because, in my ignorance, I’d get the truth out of those politicians.” To underline the point he then gets confused about whether the news or nuacht follows next, before turning his attention to a children’s talent contest.

As it turns out, Mooney’s snippy mood is down to the fate of a family of blue tits that he has been monitoring through a webcam. Four chicks in the nest have died overnight, and, given that the young birds “are kind of my babies”, he is understandably upset. (The last one dies by Wednesday.)

But talking to Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland, Mooney is admirably free of mawkishness. Instead he details the harsh survival rates of such fledglings, while commenting on the mother bird’s efforts to heave the carcasses out of the nest. “It’s not a pretty sight,” he says, “but this is what happens in nature.”

In fact, anyone of a squeamish nature may be more put out by Hatch’s cheerily graphic description of the way herring gulls regurgitate food for their chicks via a “vomit button” on their beaks.

Whatever else, Mooney doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to the truth about the natural world.

For truly gut-wrenching impact, however, nothing comes close to the restaurateur Derry Clarke’s appearance on The John Murray Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Clarke explains how, despite recent heart surgery, he is embarking on a 250km cycle in aid of the suicide-awareness charity Console. As he details how his son Andrew took his own life last year, Clarke does not succumb to his emotions, preferring terse understatement, which only underscores his appalling loss.

Recalling that he saw no signs that his son was suicidal, he says that his family now leads a “broken life”, which he is learning to live with.

Murray handles proceedings with sensitivity, by turns gently inquiring and tactfully stepping back when his guest baulks at going into too many personal details.

But Clarke’s main point, about the stigma that still surrounds suicide, is well made. “In Ireland, if you have mental illness, people have a thing about it. You know that yourself, John,” says Clarke, making the sole allusion to his host’s depression last year. Murray, alive to the issue, asks after his guest’s mental health. “I wouldn’t say it’s spectacular,” Clarke replies. “Talking to you now on radio, it’s difficult, to be honest.”

Sparse and stark, Clarke’s interview is a hard listen. But as he realises, if the taboo of suicide is to be tackled, silence is not an option, however painful it is to talk. Moment of the Week: Stand by your woman With attention focused on the whereabouts of the honeymooners Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, another media celebrity couple announce they are going their separate ways – on air, at least. On The Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays) the host announces that his wife, Jenny Kelly, is to leave her role as copresenter to look after their two children. “You’re going to be off for ever,” says D’Arcy, broaching the subject. When Kelly says she is happy with her decision, D’Arcy stands by his woman. “We’re not,” he says.

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