Darwinism, and personal finance checks, in the home

The deputies man the mikes in RTÉ, but there’s no such monkey business on Newstalk

Keelin Shanley: holding the fort on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’

Keelin Shanley: holding the fort on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’


Even in a year like this one, which we can imagine will have to be spread across five episodes of Reeling in the Years, things still slow down in summertime. The summer months are the period when RTÉ experiments with (but never follows up on) allowing female broadcasters access to the personality-led slots of Ryan Tubridy and Sean O’Rourke, with Louise McSharry in for Tubs and Keelin Shanley in for O’Rourke.

Taking leave is how things work at Donnybrook, though gone are the days when the RTÉ stars’ holliers were so long that one wondered if they were actually vacations or, instead, the type of holiday the childhood dog took and never came home from. You also know it’s summer when the contributor takes centre stage, with long reports from Valerie Cox and other RTÉ heads ducking in for a chat.

Over on Mooney (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) on Thursday, Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh takes a trip to St James’s Hospital. “I’m a domestic engineer,” someone says. “What does that mean?” Ní Chofaigh asks. “It means a cleaner.” No holidays for that lady.

On Today with Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), Keelin Shanley finds the one person in RTÉ that can make the ins and outs of personal credit ratings interesting. Conor Brophy is everything a business reporter rarely is. He’s animated, chatty, speaks in terms that people understand and, most importantly, possesses the best skill a reporter can have: he doesn’t talk like a reporter. If the essence of good radio is bringing voices into the listener’s room, then Brophy is practically staring over my shoulder at my bills, red ballpoint in hand.

The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays) is hosted by one man who has probably seen his summer leisure time considerably curtailed. On Monday, Kenny conducts a great interview with Karin Joy Fowler about her new novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. And Kenny is beside himself with enthusiasm to discuss the book, based loosely on the Kellogg experiment, which saw a chimp raised as a child with the Kellogg family.

“It’s one of the most elegantly written books,” he says, without sounding syrupy. Book reviews on the radio can sometimes be a little tedious, but Kenny focuses on the subject matter, the experiments in the home-raising of chimps, and wonders aloud if the intention was to demonstrate Darwinism in action.

Fowler counters that they were mostly language-focused trials. “They were very wrong-headed in a number of ways. In the original experiments they were trying to get the chimps to articulate verbally, to speak. Their facial and skeletal makeup makes that impossible,” she explains. You can almost hear Kenny nodding, and he offers: “They’re not equipped, unlike a parrot, who can, but doesn’t understand anything?” Fowler counters again: “I would not say that. I would not agree with that.”

This two-hander is a great example of an interview that might be gentle but instead interrogates both the book and its subject matter.

Much more distressing is the theme of antisocial behaviour, frequent topic on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) for Joe Duffy and Joe Public alike. On Tuesday, a woman called Elizabeth rings up to give her account of an assault she witnessed on O’Connell Street in Dublin. She saw a woman, with a little boy, punched in the face by her male partner. “There, in the middle of daylight, that something so awful and so violent can happen . . . There’s just this woman being punched in the face. She was crying, and I could see she was upset, but it was just how submissive she was. She was just so quiet in her upset.”

Duffy asks if she regrets not saying anything. Elizabeth says if she hadn’t had her young daughter with her she would have tried to alert a garda. “You just kind of think, What does one do? Find a guard? Report it? If you do confront it, what are you dealing with?”

Liveline returns to the topic on Wednesday, when Cllr Mannix Flynn calls in. Flynn describes an assault where 24 young people attacked a shop worker in Temple Bar: “We have a major problem on our hands. We have a situation with youth justice . . . ” And then his phone is cut off. Maybe it has been stolen.

It is sick days, not holidays, that colour much of Thursday’s Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays). D’Arcy raises heckles by sidestepping his usually well-intended populism and suggesting that sick days are linked to morale in various sectors. Well, Ray, the listeners don’t like that, texting in to let D’Arcy know that it’s because the public sector are a useless shower, paid to be on the doss.

A management consultant, Eddie Molloy, joins the consternation with Jonathan Healy on Lunchtime (Newstalk, weekdays): “It reveals a very casual attitude among the worst offenders, and the reason they can have that attitude is because there aren’t consequences,” he says, while everyone in Montrose definitely doesn’t move the dial. “Twenty years and not one” sick day, a proud – perhaps competitive – punter says in the accompanying vox pop. “I don’t get sick” he adds, as Healy questions the “entitlement” of sick days.

All across radioland, more holidays are planned as August creeps further in.

Mick Heaney is away

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