Faced with a declining audience, is there anything Ray D’Arcy won’t stoop to? Apparently not. For those who suspect the presenter’s past outbursts of on-air profanity have been as much headline-grabbing stunts as impassioned expressions of outrage, proof seemed to arrive last week from an unlikely source: his wife.
On Monday, as Jenny Kelly returned from maternity leave to resume her copresenting duties on her husband's programme (The Ray D'Arcy Show, Today FM, weekdays), she admitted she was anxious about being back at work, worrying that she might cry at the thought of being away from her young son. "Tears are good," said D'Arcy, not entirely sympathetically. "Yeah, you'll do anything for ratings," came the acerbic reply.
So it can appear. D’Arcy’s first interview of 2014 featured a housewife who had posed in a saucy photographic shoot for her husband, the item laced with sexual slang. Yet this was no cynical smutfest. Instead, a potentially gratuitous item actually ended up being rather sweet.
When he spoke to Elizabeth, the woman who had given her husband a set of boudoir portraits of herself for Christmas, D’Arcy asked the inevitable questions about the skimpiness of her attire in the photographs but sounded genuinely happy as his guest said her husband loved the gift. The nearest thing to dirty chat came when Elizabeth noted that for their fifth wedding anniversary she was going to give her husband the traditional gift of wood, prompting a helpless fit of the giggles from D’Arcy. Even here, it was difficult to be anything other than amused.
On Wednesday D'Arcy showed off his occasional talent for skewering institutional hypocrisy, when he mused on former president Mary McAleese's unfavourable remarks about the Catholic Church's view of homosexuality as a sin. As well as perceptively discussing the issue with the broadcaster Anna Nolan – a former nun who said she knew of five women, including herself, who had left holy orders and were gay – the presenter also quoted a church spokesman who had said "the Catholic communications office does not respond to the reported comments of individuals".
"It's odd he [the spokesman] says that," D'Arcy continued, "because I made a comment about the Catholic Church here, and he went and commented about my comment to the Sunday Independent, so obviously they've changed the way they do things. Or else it depends on the story and who's involved." It was a nicely judged twist of the dagger on clerical double standards, though, lest anyone miss his true feelings, the broadcaster added that it was "sickening, sickening, sickening". In this instance, there was nothing calculated about D'Arcy's outrage.
For those who like their radio speckling with splenetic foam, this week brought bad news in the form of George Hook's announcement that he is to retire from radio. Hook elaborated that he isn't actually vacating his seat on The Right Hook (Newstalk, weekdays) until 2016.
Still, as he settled into his first show of the new year, on Monday, Hook sounded almost elegiac. “I must say, 12 years ago, little did I think we’d still be here,” he sighed. Later, he expressed the hope that “God might spare me to year 13.” Such outbreaks of reflection were rare, however. For the most part, Hook was his usual subtle self, as when he despairingly described the teen habitues of Dublin’s Wesley disco as “children” who were “dressing up like tarts”. He showed similar sensitivity in relation to the McAleese story on Wednesday, when he talked about homosexuality as “sodomy”.
On the face of things, his interview with the columnist David Quinn fit into this same pattern of reflexive indignation. Quinn complained about Enda Kenny's visit to Saudi Arabia, contrasting the Taoiseach's reticence on the oil kingdom's appalling human-rights record with his vocal condemnation of the Vatican.
Saying that the Irish State was only loud about people “who cannot hit back”, Quinn recalled that the Taoiseach had “condemned the Vatican as dysfunctional, narcissistic and elitist” but had now gone to a state “that is the very definition of those three things”, before concluding that “we will only defend human rights if it doesn’t come at a price”.
Hook ultimately agreed with this dispiriting verdict. “Commerce trumps human rights,” he said. Overall, the item was provocative but expressed uncomfortable truths. Much like Hook himself.
Moment of the Week: Avoidance masterclass
When Angela Kerins, chief executive of Rehab, addressed the issue of State-funded charity bosses' pay on Monday's Morning Ireland (RTE Radio 1, weekdays), she gave a masterclass in how to avoid answering a simple question. Repeatedly asked by Gavin Jennings what she was earning, Kerins gave several variations on the mantra that "the most important thing about salaries is that they should be properly evaluated and should be transparent". But as to her own salary, she remained silent. Breathtaking.