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A Covid bonus? Pat Kenny can’t hide his irritation

Radio: The Newstalk host also disapproves of sloppy attire and sloppy thinking

A broadcaster with a tendency to show off how much he knows, Pat Kenny  sometimes comes across as too clever for his own good. Still, it's a bit of a jolt to hear the host actually tell listeners just how smart he is.

"I'm wearing a cream-coloured jacket, a very elegant button-down shirt, some chinos and brown polished shoes," he says on Wednesday's Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays), sounding pretty pleased with himself. "That's your vision of me."

It sounds about right. Having been called wooden in his time, at least Kenny makes for a nice dresser.

Pat Kenny imagines the mortification of a PJ-clad driver involved in 'a prang' on the school run. 'If you dress sloppily, your thinking might be a bit sloppy too,' suggests the neatly attired host with a logic that bigs up his intellectual rigour

In his defence, Kenny isn’t describing his wardrobe for the sake of it. He’s replying to a question from Brenda Hyland Beirne of the Irish School of Etiquette during their discussion about wearing pyjamas outside the home, following an English school’s ban on parents wearing jim-jams at the drop-off. Unsurprisingly, neither host nor guest is a fan of nightwear as outdoor clothing, though Kenny thinks men have a better chance of getting away with it. “Women tend to wear the negligee with the dressing gown over it,” he says.


It’s not merely a question of aesthetics, according to Hyland Beirne. “Science has proven that clothes do affect our behaviour, our attitude, even our mood,” she says, vaguely.

Ever one to model worst-case scenarios, Kenny imagines the mortification of a PJ-clad driver involved in “a prang” on the school run. “If you dress sloppily, your thinking might be a bit sloppy too,” suggests the neatly attired host with a logic that implicitly bigs up his own intellectual rigour. It’s a flimsily enjoyable item yet telling, too. For Kenny, it seems, clothes make the man.

He returns to the theme during his interview with the Labour Party leader, Alan Kelly, when he jokily compliments his guest for looking "the epitome of political leadership" in a smart tie and blue shirt. "There'll be some puns on the blue-shirt thing," Kelly deadpans, wary of any sartorial association with Fine Gael after Labour's last spell in coalition.

It’s an instructive encounter, if lacking in fireworks, with the informed questions and calibrated answers enlivened only by an occasional slip. Asked if Ireland is ready for full reopening on October 22nd, Kelly replies: “Nobody has a silver ball to predict what is going to happen into the future.” Nor does he have a crystal bullet to solve the conundrum.

Kenny can't hide his annoyance at the suggestion that all public servants – 'People who had a very comfortable pandemic, thank you very much' – should receive a Covid bonus. Keep your shirt on, Pat!

Kenny avoids verbal gaffes but can’t hide his annoyance at the suggestion that all public servants should receive a Covid bonus: “People who had a very comfortable pandemic, thank you very much, get a bonus paid for by people who are working hard in the private sector,” he fulminates. Keep your shirt on, Pat!

Kelly objects to the host’s stereotyping of civil servants as being cosseted during lockdown. “People had to roll up their sleeves,” he insists. Disappointingly, Kenny doesn’t ask whether they were pyjama sleeves.

His habitual quirks notwithstanding, Kenny tackles diverse subjects in assured fashion. He's unfazed by his daftly diverting conversation with the writer John Banville, who sounds more excited talking about the price of wine in Spain than about his new crime novel, coincidentally also set in Spain.

Meanwhile, despite it being a “long time since I was a nightclub habitue”, Kenny handles a discussion about nightclub reopening with a confidence that would shame even the youngest swinger in town. He unpicks the commercial, political and public-health strands of the matter with the promoter Buzz O’Neill-Maxwell, who is frustrated with confusion about reopening rules, even at this late stage: “We’re just asking for some clarity here.”

Whatever else, Kenny remains a neat presenter, that much is clear.

There's no sharing of style tips on Newstalk Breakfast (weekdays). Instead its hosts, Shane Coleman and Ciara Kelly, are more intent on dressing down each other, as they continue to hone their chalk-and-cheese routine. The duo's exchanges on issues of the day are often spirited and even amusing, though precision of thought can sometimes get lost.

On Tuesday, after the sentencing of Daniel Murtagh for the horrific murder of Nadine Lott, Coleman and Kelly disagree about whether “life should mean life” in prison. Kelly is firm. “I am not liberal on sentencing: I believe in law and order,” she states. “If a member of my family was murdered I would like the perpetrator to pay for it significantly.” Coleman takes a more nuanced view, saying that although some criminals “should rot in prison forever”, he doesn’t think victims’ families should set jail terms. “We should trust the judges.”

Most people who deny the reality of climate change do so out of 'utter selfishness', says Sean Moncrieff. Rather than change behaviour 'you can sit on your lazy, cowardly arse and say it's all a fake'

The argument continues in this vein until Kelly delivers her coup de grace, proclaiming that she has no difficulty with more punitive sentences, “because, you know what, I don’t intend to kill anybody”. Well, that’s a relief. Coleman gently points out that lots of people don’t intend to kill, but he ruefully concedes that most listeners probably agree with Kelly. Though both try to avoid referencing the Lott murder for reasons of sensitivity, it’s an emotionally charged exchange, maybe too much so for early in the morning.

In truth, Coleman and Kelly aren’t that philosophically different: it’s not as if they’re arguing about bringing back hanging. Discussing Sinn Féin’s 10 per cent lead in Thursday’s Irish Times opinion poll, both agree that the party has successfully shaped a narrative that it has the solution to Ireland’s problems, helped by fatigue with the two main Coalition parties.

That said, there’s still the odd notable utterance. “I don’t object to a change in regime,” Kelly remarks, in a generous endorsement of the nation’s democratic electoral system.

Though such moments remain an essential component of the Newstalk Breakfast formula, they’re complemented by the solid interviewing skills of both hosts, particularly when they play to their strengths: Coleman on politics, Kelly on social issues. For all their argumentative style, they both bring substance to their show.

Moment of the Week: Moncrieff’s merciless mockery

On Wednesday, Sean Moncrieff (Newstalk, weekdays) proves right-wing shock jocks don't have a monopoly on withering invective. Following a discussion on climate change, the host reads a listener's text expressing scepticism about the cause and "mooted" effects of the phenomenon, as well as the unanimity of experts on the issue. Moncrieff sighs deeply, then unloads on the texter.

“Well, the reason people say all the experts agree is that ... all the experts agree,” he says. “If you get a mole on your skin, you go to a doctor about it. You’re not going to look it up on Facebook.”

Moncrieff then opines that most who deny the reality of climate change do so out of “utter selfishness”: rather than change behaviour “you can sit on your lazy, cowardly arse and say it’s all a fake.”

Woah. Never mind carbon emissions, the soaring temperature of Moncrieff’s microphone adds to global warming.