Turning the tables to drive the show

Sat, Aug 14, 2010, 01:00

RADIO REVIEW:COME BACK, Marian. We miss you. Charlie Bird has been filling in on Marian Finucane(RTÉ Radio One, weekends). Bird’s interview with Independent councillor Michael Healy-Rae, son of the cartoonish Jackie, was anything but cute.

Both Healy-Raes wear flat caps as Michael did in studio, apparently. In politics, as in showbiz, you gotta-get-a-gimmick. The Healy-Raes punch far above their weight and always tailor their message to the voting public of Kerry.

Bird asked Healy-Rae about the €70,000-plus expenses as Mayor of Kerry. “That’s a lot of money,” Bird said. Healy-Rae also said other mayors would have got a lot more during their tenure. “It’s a fair point,” Bird replied. When asked to detail the mayoral expenses, Healy-Rae decided to ask himself the questions.

“Let you ask me another question, ‘What am I getting right now?’” he said.

“What are you getting right now?” Bird asked laughing. (He gets a modest €18,151 a year.) Bird asked him if he had a job. It was a weird question. Most local councillors do. Healy-Rae used his family’s stagecraft: backing into the spotlight with theatrical humility.

“I’ve a small shop at the side of the road . . . Should I close down that because I’m in politics?” he asked, playing an béal bocht. No, Bird replied. But no one asked him to. This interview should have been broadcast on shopping channel QVC, not RTÉ. At least then we would see the votes ticking up in the corner of the screen.

Rather than ask Healy-Rae what he actually believes in – he is standing in the next general election when his father steps down, after all – Bird treated him like some class of political oracle.

“The Healy-Raes, you’re wily people, you watch what’s happening every place,” he said. “Do you think there’s going to be a change of Government?” Healy-Rae said, “Anything is possible.” This interview was evidence of that.

On to more important matters. Davinia Douglass neé Turrell gave her first broadcast interview to Jenni Murray on Tuesday’s Woman’s Hour(BBC Radio 4, weekdays). The image of Douglass, aged 24, holding a ghoulish strip of gauze to her burnt face and being led away from the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London by fellow commuter Paul Gadge led to her being called “the woman in the mask”. Of course, it was what we imagined lay beyond the mask that was most chilling.

Douglass was given counselling to help her stop reliving the experience of that day. She described a loud bang like a firework “only probably a hundred times louder” and the fireball that appeared to rush passed her left side. Speaking to Murray, she even found time to make a joke: “My burns are akin to a chemical peel, so I should look 10 years younger on my left side.”

She said of Dadge: “I accused him of stealing my shoes!” (He had advised her to take off her high heels.) Five years on, her physical scars are gone and she is helping to raise funds for London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where she was treated. The bomb went off in her carriage as the Tube pulled out of Edgeware Road. “It was very quiet,” she said of the aftermath. “It was very still . . . it was very dusky and dirty because of the bomb. It was nothing like on the television. Nobody was running around screaming. I guess people were in shock.” When she had bad days after she was released from hospital, she would ask herself, “How can I be feeling so bad when I’ve been so lucky?” Murray asked why she felt that she was lucky. Douglass said, “Because . . .” And then her voice suddenly broke, “. . . I survived.”

She quietly, almost silently, wept. “You do feel guilty and you do have to make the best of what’s happened,” Douglass added. Murray told her she was doing her best. Douglass replied, simply and softly, “Thank you.”

A different kind of trauma at home: the family of Larry Murphy, not least his victim and her family, must maintain some semblance of normality with his release from prison on Thursday after serving just 10 years for the rape and attempted murder of a woman in the Wicklow Mountains. There was blanket coverage. Writer Eoin Ó Broin criticised the tabloid coverage of the case on Wednesday’s Coleman At Large(Newstalk 106-108, Tuesdays and Wednesdays), saying it helped instil fear in women.

Murphy’s sister-in-law Helen was quoted on Wednesday’s The Last Word(Today FM, weekdays). She longed for her privacy, and said he was not welcome to stay with them, contrary to rumours in the media. “If he comes out tomorrow the media will follow him wherever he does go,” she told reporter Sinéad Hussey.

In the absence of electronic tagging or any attempt at his rehabilitation, the media as watchdog is both a poor and regrettable consolation.