Radio: Standing up to Trump – a story of Scots resistance
Moncrieff is back to his offbeat best while Joe Duffy glumly hears tales of rural desperation
Scotsman David Milne: The Aberdeenshire homeowner has been standing up to the Trump organisation for some years now. Photograph: Michal Wachucik/AFP/Getty Images
‘It can’t happen here.” When Ryan Tubridy utters these words on his show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) three days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, he is neither drawing comfort from our own body politic nor expressing optimistic confidence in it. Rather, he is referring to the title of a book: Sinclair Lewis’s darkly satirical 1935 novel chronicling the rise of a dictatorial American president.
Tubridy says that he was reminded of the book by the “Orwellian twists” surrounding the already-infamous “alternative facts” brouhaha about attendance numbers at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony. Ever one who aspires to impartiality, however misguided that hope is, Tubridy hastily adds that it is “hysterical” to suggest Trump is a dictator. But one needn’t hold a professorship in semiotics to figure what he really wants to say.
When it comes to the new US president, Sean Moncrieff (Newstalk, weekdays) would rather say nothing. “I think we’re all sick of talking about Donald Trump at this stage of the game,” he says plaintively at the start of Monday’s show. Which, almost inevitably, is the cue for an item about Trump.
At least the story in question takes a slightly different angle. Moncrieff talks to David Milne, a Scot who has been in conflict with Trump since refusing to sell his seaside home in Aberdeenshire to make way for a golf course owned by the businessman-turned-president. In the greater scheme of things, Milne’s tale could be seen as a larky sideshow. But as he recounts his experiences with Trump’s company in quietly laconic fashion, a familiar pattern of pettiness and bullying emerges.
After Milne and others turned down offers for their properties, which he said were worth half the market value, Trump’s organisation “tried to chase us off and sicken us of the site”. There were threats of compulsory purchase orders (the local council favoured the development of the golf course) as well as physical barriers, in the form of earth banks, trees and misplaced fences, with Milne billed for the cost of the latter.
Not only did Milne refuse to budge from his plot of land, he started to fly a Mexican flag in solidarity with another of Trump’s most celebrated targets.
As he hears how the golf course has provided less than a 10th of the promised jobs, Moncrieff moves between gleeful laughter and informed curiosity. It’s the kind of story he excels at, but which seem to have been in less supply in recent months: slightly cheeky, addressing big issues in a fresh and unexpected way. Maybe he should talk about Trump more.
Meanwhile, if Milne’s act of resistance is more Ealing comedy than Braveheart, it’s still quietly inspiring. And in standing his ground on his small piece of land against the man who is now the leader of the world’s most powerful country, Moncrieff’s guest recalls the name of another dystopian novel about a fascistic presidential campaign, this time by Philip Roth: The Plot Against America.
Whatever has actually happened in the US, the same kind of resentful populist uprising could certainly happen here, if Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) is anything to go by. Tuesday’s edition provides a glimpse of the tensions and divisions that can simmer undetected (or untended) until they boil over.
Joe Duffy hears from Billy, an unemployed inhabitant of Castletownbere, Co Cork, who tells of having to make a long and fruitless journey to attend a jobs information meeting in Bantry or having his dole payments cut. The item is initially concerned with callously officious bureaucracy, but soon turns to the broader situation that has left Duffy’s caller without work.
Billy previously had a cleaning job in the local fishing co-op, but says those seasonal posts have been filled by workers “brought in” from other EU countries. He is in fact very positive about the multicultural cast of his local community, thinking it “fabulous” that people “of every creed and colour” live there.
Still, the overall impression is one of despair. Duffy’s guest says that, as a nondrinker with no job, there is “nothing for people like me” in rural communities. “That’s a very bleak picture,” Duffy remarks glumly. He’s right.
As he describes his “life of quiet desperation”, Billy isn’t the kind of angry extremist currently powering populist insurgencies across the west. But it would be wrong to ignore the apparent mundaneness of such problems: when such well-intentioned people are left so disillusioned that they think all politicians “psychopaths”, alarm bells should be ringing.
The exchange shows off Liveline at its best. Duffy’s forum may not be an accurate overview of the broader social landscape, but it can provide telling snapshots of everyday Irish life.
On the same show, Anne-Marie recounts the depressing experience of a young Colombian woman who lodged with her. The woman, an English-language student, worked for several weeks in a Dublin restaurant without being paid.
One reason after another was given: she initially lacked a PPS number, then was told she needed an Irish bank account. But in the end, according to Anne Marie, the restaurant manager not only refused to pay, but suggested the young woman had only obtained the PPS number for illegal reasons, in order to sell it.
The young woman has since returned home, but her tale has a dispiriting ring to it. Maybe, to quote Bob Dylan, something is happening here.
Radio Moment of the Week: Nazi crimes remembered
As the title suggests, Auschwitz: An Echo Trapped Forever (RTÉ Radio 1, Sunday) is a tough documentary to listen to, but is essential listening. The story of how 1.2 million people, mostly Jews, were gassed in the Nazi extermination camp may seem familiar, but this low-key retelling in travelogue form brings forth fresh horrors, as producer Kevin Reynolds visits Auschwitz with guide Pawel Sawicki. There is minimal embellishment as Sawicki describes the possessions left by the Nazi’s victims and talks about life in the camp: archive recordings of poets TS Eliot and Derek Mahon provide a haunting refrain. A grim but vital reminder about the perils of extremism.