Radio: Proud to be Irish on St Patrick’s Day? These new citizens are
When Ray D’Arcy meets people who have taken citizenship it’s a telling snapshot of Irish life. Shock jock Adrian Kennedy’s daytime talk show makes you want to emigrate
Mother’s pride: When the Today FM DJ Alison Curtis told Irish friends she was taking citizenship, they asked why
With St Patrick’s Day ensuring that the exodus from our shores is even greater than normal, what with most Government Ministers going off on jollies across the globe, it is no great surprise that Irish migrants should feature prominently on The Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays). But while some of the focus predictably falls on the diaspora – a phone competition involves expats from as far afield as Australia and Japan, testament to home comforts provided by radio in the internet age – more unexpected voices are in evidence, too.
Getting in the mood for the day “when everyone is proud to be Irish”, D’Arcy meets three women for whom the annual wearing of leprechaun hats was not a birthright but a privilege they had to apply for. Born in Germany, Sudan and Canada, Steph, Aprar and Alison are among the 59,000 or so people who have taken Irish citizenship in the past three years, whom D’Arcy terms “the new Irish, for want of a better label”, and whose motives for assuming their new national identity prove as diverse as their origins.
Steph, for example, has lived here since arriving as an au pair, in 1997, but even when she married an Irishman and had her first child, she felt no overwhelming need to “become Irish” – as an EU citizen, she faced no residency restrictions – until the sudden death of her two-year-old boy changed her mind. “This is my home,” she says in a strong rural accent. “My son was born here and is buried here.”
Aprar, on the other hand, came to Ireland as the 10-year-old daughter of a doctor, and applied for her passport out of necessity: as an architecture student, she previously had to renew her visa annually. “It was about making life easier,” she says. But she does not see herself staying here, largely because of the scarcity of work. In this regard the “new Irish” experience mirrors that of the native-born population.
D’Arcy uses his guests’ differing paths to citizenship to tease out contrasting aspects of Irish life, some of which inspire genuine pride. Remembering people’s kindness after the loss of her son, Steph says that “Irish do funerals and disaster like that extremely well,” adding, “You wouldn’t have got that kind of support in Germany.”
But D’Arcy doesn’t shy away from more troubling angles, asking Aprar whether she has encountered racism here. “Not me personally,” she says, “but I do hear stories.”
As the guests tell their stories, it is striking how important personal factors, rather than any admiration for Ireland, were in making the decision to become citizens. They may even indicate a wider national mood. Alison, who turns out to be Today FM’s long-serving indie DJ Alison Curtis, recalls that when, after the birth of her daughter, she told Irish friends that she was taking citizenship, “Everyone asked, why? I thought that was sad.” Like so much else in postcrash Ireland, national pride seems in short supply.
Another occasionally marginalised section of society comes into focus on Dublin Talks (98FM, weekdays), the new daytime show from the former late-night shock jock Adrian Kennedy and his sidekick, Jeremy Dixon.
Anyone who has had to endure a semi-coherent phone-in show blasting from the radio during a noctural cab ride home will have long harboured the suspicion that taxi drivers are a key demographic for such programmes. Sure enough, Kennedy and Dixon’s latest venture seems to provide comical confirmation of this.
Monday’s inaugural programme features a cab driver phoning in to chide the presenters about their new slot. “You have me up at 10am,” she complains before getting on to her main gripe, namely having “a pain in the arse with the rickashaws [sic]” that impede her on the capital’s streets.
Wednesday’s show features a full-scale pile-up of taxi-themed stories, triggered by a call from Kieran, a cabbie whose modus operandi involves smoking a joint before work.
Even Kennedy, a man not easily shocked, sounds taken aback, but his guest insists cannabis aids his concentration and “helps me put up with some of the nonsense I hear”, a claim that must have some listeners wishing they had something similarly soothing to toke on.
Either way, his contribution has the desired effect, for within minutes the air is thick with raised voices. One woman, Jacinta, says that she recently encountered a taxi driver so intoxicated he was “talking shite”. “Are you sure he wasn’t a foreigner?” replies the charming Kieran. “He was a [expletive deleted in print but not on air] Dub,” says Jacinta. All this proves too much for taxi driver Fiona. “Do you not think we get slated enough,” she asks Kieran, “without you coming on and making sh*t of us?” This, remember, is the voice of sanity.
None of this is particularly edifying, but it is par for the course on late-night phone shows. It all seems a bit too gamey for midmorning consumption.
The self-consciously outrageous banter between Kennedy and Dixon likewise seems less naughty in a daytime context than merely offensive. The latter’s idea for a nightclub for pregnant women, called Knocked Up, captures the level of wit on offer.
It’s enough to make you want to leave the country.
Moment of the Week: Pat Kenny’s jazz mix
On Monday The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays) carries a typically absorbing package by my colleague Fionn Davenport about the troubled life and death of the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, famously nicknamed “Bird”. As the item ends, Kenny waxes lyrical about “the extraordinary story” and “tough times” of that “strange man”. The man in question, in Kenny’s telling? “Charlie Bird.” Is there no end to the former RTÉ reporter’s skills?