Declan Ganley, Michael Healy-Rae and Joe Brolly are the spice of Newstalk

Radio: They’re not to everyone’s taste, but they add flavour to Kieran Cuddihy’s show

The Hard Shoulder: Kieran Cuddihy’s Newstalk show sometimes plumps for spice rather than sustenance

The Hard Shoulder: Kieran Cuddihy’s Newstalk show sometimes plumps for spice rather than sustenance

 

As host of The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, weekdays) Kieran Cuddihy is used to dealing with all manner of unpalatable subjects. Even so, one item on Tuesday’s edition must leave a particularly bad taste in his mouth. As part of his Fact or Fable slot, Cuddihy ponders the veracity of the “five second rule”, which his regular guest Shane Hannon pithily defines as the “permission to eat something that fell on the floor as long as it’s picked up within five seconds”. 

The host, for one, subscribes to this practice. “It’s a rule that I use myself almost on a daily basis. I think it’s totally legitimate,” he cheerfully admits, in the process surely tarnishing his reputation as a dinner-party host, were dinner parties allowed any more. At any rate, Hannon explains that the rule is a myth, bacteria not having got the memo about waiting an allotted time before attaching to spilled food. 

Cuddihy doesn’t sound particularly bothered by this revelation, suggesting he possesses a strong stomach. (He presents a news digest show, after all.) Moreover, over the course of the week he hears things that are even harder to swallow, such as claims that the Government is so prejudiced against Catholics as to warrant a campaign of civil disobedience.

Declan Ganley’s calm tone changes sharply when the discussion is joined by the Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae, who objects to the ban on Mass-going with all the subtlety of a blunderbuss and about as much accuracy

On Wednesday, Cuddihy speaks to the businessman Declan Ganley, who is opposed to the Level 5 ban on attending Mass and is calling for churches to open in defiance of the prohibition. Ganley calmly frames his argument in legal terms, although his outrage is also apparent: “The criminalisation of attending Mass is an affront to our Constitution.” Cuddihy wonders why such action is necessary with restrictions to be loosened, but his guest is unbowed, speaking of an “ever-receding finish line”.

Still, Ganley also stresses that any public worship should follow Covid-prevention protocols. “It’s not like we are all going in there and singing Kumbaya,” he says, adding that three friends have died from the virus. It’s a bracing contribution from the conservative political advocate, who makes his case in an articulate if not completely convincing manner.

This calm tone changes sharply when the discussion is joined by the Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae, who objects to the ban with all the subtlety of a blunderbuss and about as much accuracy. “It’s obvious there is a strong anti-Catholic religion bias against us in this Government,” he says, citing the removal of religious emblems from hospitals as evidence of practising Catholics being “picked on”. 

When Cuddihy notes that such emblems were removed on foot of religious orders no longer running hospitals, Healy-Rae makes a baffling reply about people shouting “God help me” if involved in an accident. He then delivers his clincher, in the form of a statement that he claims many TDs would “despise” him for making: “This is a Catholic country predominantly, and there is nothing wrong with saying that.” This is factually true yet somehow completely misses the point. But then one suspects Cuddihy has invited Healy-Rae on the show for spice rather than sustenance.

If Healy-Rae is prone to hyperbole – in a radio appearance some time back, he called Killarney the tourism capital of the world – he’s positively Delphic compared with Joe Brolly

If Healy-Rae is prone to hyperbole – in a radio appearance some time back, he called Killarney the tourism capital of the world – he’s positively Delphic compared with Joe Brolly. The outspoken GAA pundit and former Derry footballer is invited by Cuddihy to give his thoughts on Arlene Foster’s enforced exit as DUP leader, and, sure enough, a floridly opinionated conversation follows. “It’s difficult to give her a glowing reference,” Brolly says of Foster. But his real vitriol is reserved for the DUP, which he describes as “a cruel and inhumane party” driven by “sectarianism, creationism and homophobia”.

While it’s hard to disagree with this characterisation, Brolly’s spiel is short on nuance, making no reference to the role of the Northern Ireland Protocol in Foster’s departure. Equally, however, he’s less concerned with old sectarian issues than the DUP’s social views being at odds with the “flourishing city” of Belfast, as well as “the middle ground of Protestant Ulster”. 

Rather than bombard his guest with inconvenient questions, Cuddihy lets him hold forth. It’s a smart move, allowing a different picture of the North to emerge. It’s also indicative of Cuddihy’s broader approach, alternating between straight news analysis and more contentious commentary. Brolly and Ganley may not be to everyone’s taste, but they certainly add to the flavour of the show.

So random is the content on The Ray D’Arcy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) that it can be hard to discern any coherent programme strategy, but it’s clearly not in keeping with WC Fields’s famous advice never to work with children and animals. On Tuesday, for instance, D’Arcy speaks to an 11-year-old boy from Co Meath who started building birdhouses from “leftover timber” for pocket money, and has since expanded his carpentry business.

‘The calmer a mother is, the calmer the baby is,’ the midwife says, her voice so soothing it even affects Ray D’Arcy. ‘I can see why you’re good at your job. I’m already going into a relaxed state,’ he says. ‘Someone wake me up at half-four’

The young lad, memorably named Jesse James, displays impressive entrepreneurial spirit, though the host may be concerned that this quirky item is more memorable than his interviews with the better-known likes of the comedian Pat Shortt and the campaigner Adi Roche.

D’Arcy then turns his attention to animals. Having started the week idly musing on pictures of people walking unusual pets, from rabbits to ferrets, on Wednesday he takes this theme to its natural conclusion. He speaks to Claire, who has been spotted taking her pet goat for walks in Dundalk. Once again, it’s meant as a daft throwaway, but even still, the five minutes D’Arcy gamely spends discovering the goat’s name (Doris) and habits feels excessive. 

His next item returns to the infant theme, as he discusses home births with two parents, Linda and Danny, and their midwife, Brenda. Linda explains why she chose to give birth to her third child at home, while Brenda outlines how she uses hypnosis to place mothers in a meditative state. “The calmer a mother is, the calmer the baby is,” Brenda says, her voice so soothing that it even affects the host.

“I can see why you’re good at your job. I’m already going into a relaxed state,” he says. “Someone wake me up at half-four.”

Ironically, it’s the most compelling conversation on D’Arcy’s show; it drifts off otherwise.

Moment of the Week: Minister’s mixed metaphor 

On Tuesday, Cormac Ó hEadhra interviews Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1) in an encounter that grows increasingly prickly. Quizzed on the machinations already surrounding the byelection to replace his fellow Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy, the Minister snipes at the predictive powers of “the great intelligentsia of the commentariat”, a twist on the tedious “metropolitan elite” bogeyman.

When the host wonders if there’s “any difference between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil at all”, O’Donovan judges it a “ridiculous” question: “Wouldn’t that be like me saying why would there be difference between RTÉ and Newstalk?” Not the best analogy, though the usually lethal Ó hEadhra fails to give the obvious reply: as yet, the two rival radio stations haven’t formed a partnership.

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