Radio: Irish unity elusive as Matt Cooper pushes the Brexit door

Review: ‘The Last Word’, ‘Liveline’, ‘Off the Ball’, ‘The Last Hook’

Matt Cooper: unexpected moments keep The Last Word interesting

Matt Cooper: unexpected moments keep The Last Word interesting

 

With the Brexit referendum campaign entering the final straight, there’s a wearyingly familiar chorus as the issue is raised on The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays).

When Matt Cooper asks listeners for their opinions on a possible influx of outsiders, the reaction is not, to put it mildly, welcoming. We have nothing in common with these people, says one texter. We have enough problems without bringing in those troublemakers, says another. If those people come in they have to join us on our terms, says a third.

But the target of this hostility is our fellow islanders living north of the Border. It follows Gerry Adams’s wishful suggestion that a British EU exit could precipitate a united Ireland. Judging by this evidence, it won’t just be unionists saying no in any Border poll to bring the North back into the European fold.

Unexpected moments such as this keep Cooper’s show interesting. Otherwise the discussion on the topic between the Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile and the columnist Newton Emerson falls squarely into a predictable pattern. Cooper invites on two guests with opposing positions and sets them up against each other, in the hope of on-air friction and, ideally, informative debate. Alas, this one yields neither.

Cooper’s coverage of the Brexit campaign does throw up a surprising voice in the shape of Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff, an Irish-born, Scarborough-based Tory councillor who supports Leave. She objects to Enda Kenny’s plea for Irish residents in the UK to vote to stay, which she says is “out of keeping with the spirit of 1916”, when “we chose our freedom”.

“As Taoiseach he is the heir to their achievements,” Donohue-Moncrieff continues, “but he is campaigning in our former occupier, to try and change a sovereign decision that they wish to make.” Claiming the 1916 leaders for Brexit is hardly the most cogent argument to be heard in this fractious campaign, but it’s surely the most original.

When it comes to ill-judged statements it’s hard to beat those of Bray Wanderers’ general manager, as listeners to Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) will attest. Joe Duffy hears from Bray businessman Darren Darker, who is outraged by posts on manager Martin O’Connor’s Facebook page, and with good reason.

In the wake of the murder of 49 people at an Orlando LGBT club, O’Connor has posted that the perpetrator “wasn’t a straight shooter”. He also shares a picture of an orangutan in a dress, joking that it’s a picture of black football player Raheem Sterling, adding that “maybe this is racist of me”.

Darker, for one, has little doubt. But Duffy is in a more forgiving mood. Noting that “people do stupid things”, the presenter hears from O’Connor’s brother (and club chairman) Denis, who concedes that the comments were “inappropriate”.

Denis attempts to explain his brother’s posts, characterising them as “banter”: “He was trying to be a comedian, which he’s not,” prompting a dubious hum from the host.

Duffy does a one-man good-cop- bad-cop routine to keep the pot boiling. One moment he is wondering what Darren wants from Bray Wanderers now that O’Connor has apologised, the next he is inviting on a caller who has reported Martin O’Connor’s comments to the Garda.

“Oh, good luck,” says an exasperated Duffy on hearing the last bit, but it’s hard to complain when the very lifeblood of your show is the taking of offence.

Oddly, the one sphere where tolerance, sympathy and solidarity can be found is on the football terraces of France (those not occupied by English and Russian hooligans). In the wake of the Republic’s draw with Sweden at Euro 2016, Joe Molloy, on Off the Ball (Newstalk, weekdays), talks to fellow broadcaster Colin Murray about the moment in the game when supporters of the Republic sang in memory of Darren Rodgers, the Northern Ireland fan earlier killed in an accident.

A Northern Ireland supporter himself, Murray sounds touched by the fans’ tribute and sees it as another sign that things have changed for the better in the Northern Irish game.

He notes that the once-poisonous sectarianism of Windsor Park has largely disappeared, and tells of both sets of supporters “having a right old laugh” in the bars of Nice. Fans from both North and South, Murray concludes, are “a shining light to inclusiveness and progressiveness”.

Sure, it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s also the kind of feel-good story that stands out in a week when fear and uncertainty are firmly on the agenda. Contrary to what some may say, people North and South do have something in common.

Moment of the Week: The wrong Hook

After self-styled Islamists murder gay clubgoers in Orlando and a French policeman and his wife in Paris, George Hook returns to one of his regular themes on The Right Hook (Newstalk, weekdays): immigration, specifically that of Muslims. “We are constantly being told by the liberal left we should take these people in,” Hook splutters, “and assume all of them are law- abiding citizens.” Leaving aside the many factors that led to these atrocities, Hook’s statement glides over one salient fact: the killers in both the US and France were born in those countries.

radioreview@irishtimes.com

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