Forecast for the future not too bright on ‘Morning Ireland’
Review: ‘The Anton Savage Show’, ‘Morning Ireland’, ‘Liveline’
Morning Ireland: Cian McCormack’s interview with Kim, a homeless single mother, is essential radio
With the country basking in a heatwave this week, one group of broadcasters have been enjoying their moment in the sun. Normally tucked away at the end of news bulletins, alternately taken for granted or cursed for bringing bad tidings, the nation’s meteorologists suddenly find themselves as in-demand guests.
Whether it’s Harm Luijkx popping up on The Anton Savage Show, on Today FM, John Eagleton appearing on Drivetime, on RTÉ Radio 1, or Gerald Fleming talking on Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Monday-Friday) it seems that everyone wants to hear something extra from our weather forecasters. But after informing listeners that the sunshine is to last a bit longer, the conversations soon run out of steam.
Much like making small talk with the boss at the Christmas party or trying to chat casually with a taciturn taxi driver, awkwardness soon creeps in as the subject reaches its limits.
Even the garrulous Anton Savage sounds as if he’s struggling to bring a light touch to his discussion with Luijkx. For something we talk so much about, the weather proves a curiously fallow topic on radio.
Otherwise the Morning Ireland team are doing what they do best, forensically removing any spring from the listener’s step before the day has begun. As the Government launches its housing action plan, Tuesday’s edition is broadcast from a Dublin cafe run by the homelessness charity Focus Ireland.
For all the clattery atmosphere and the obvious dedication of the staff interviewed on the programme, any optimism about the Government’s target of 47,000 new social housing units over the next six years is dissipated by the bleak testimony of those whom the plan aims to help.
The reporter Cian McCormack hears from Kim, a single mother who has lived with her two daughters in a suburban Dublin hotel room ever since her landlord sold the house she rented. As the interview progresses, Kim’s quiet desperation at her situation becomes more palpable.
With no cooking or garden facilities, she is forced to feed her girls at fast-food joints and spend most of her time with them in the park. The nearest public space is a roundabout. She shares the same bedtime – and bed – as her young children. She won’t enter the uncertain private rental sector again, not least because she will lose her place on the council housing list.
“I’m very stressed. I’m never happy any more,” Kim says. All she wants is for the girls to have a front door through which they can go out to play and for herself to be able to “chill out in a pair of pyjamas”. The despairing laugh that Kim gives at this thought is perhaps the item’s most poignant moment. That such a simple aspiration should seem so unattainable sums up the social policy failures of recent years.
The good news on offer doesn’t make one feel much better. Fran McNulty talks to Linda, who, after 20 years living on the streets, is residing in a supported housing complex in Dublin. The substance of the piece is positive, as Linda explains how, after initial uncertainty in her new apartment, her self-confidence has grown to the point that she’s ready to move into a place of her own.
But it’s her past experiences that leave the biggest impression. It’s frightening being a woman sleeping on the streets, she says, especially when it gets dark. “I’ve been robbed, I’ve been abused, everything happened to me,” she says, without going into details. The tone of her voice is such that she doesn’t need to. Her closing words are stark. “Everybody deserves a home.”
McCormack in particular has a tendency to ask leading questions – but it’s an essential piece of radio. As a jolting reminder of the scandal of homelessness it sets the agenda in a measured yet effective manner, as a flagship news programme should do.
But building new social housing is only one part of any solution, albeit a crucial one. On Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) Joe Duffy hears from Paul, a Dubliner who is in a different kind of housing trap. Although Paul and his wife work, they are constantly refused a mortgage, and they have been removed from the “safety net” of the housing list for earning more than €38,000 between them. Amid all this they pay more than €2,000 a month in rent and for childcare.
As Paul wonders where all this leaves him and his family, Duffy gets to the point. “Sorry to jump to this question so quickly, but it’s in my head: would you be tempted to declare yourselves homeless?” Paul admits he and his wife discussed it before rejecting the idea. But he adds, “I know two families who are doing it just to get a house, and that’s between you, me and everyone listening”.
Paul’s situation is so manifestly unfair that Duffy doesn’t need to add any emotional embellishment, though he ramps up the atmosphere by reading out the Government’s list of housing promises in a tone that borders on the taunting. That aside, Duffy again reminds us that his show isn’t just about mining personal misfortune but can bring a new dimension to pressing issues.
That Paul’s choice now is between buying a mobile home or emigrating is a sad indictment of where we find ourselves. Far from sounding sorry for himself, or even angry, Paul seems perplexed. “They’re pushing people like me away. Is that good for the country?” On this evidence, the future doesn’t look too bright.
Moment of the Week: Going undergroundWritten by Rory Duffy, a newcomer, Drama on One: Paulo in the Underworld (RTÉ Radio 1, Sunday) is a blackly comic chamber piece. Peter Coonan and Paul Ronan play two Dublin criminals who have been buried alive in a container by rival gangsters. As they try to solve their plight they squabble and fight. The drama’s influences are obvious, but amid the Beckettian comedy, Love/Hate sensibility and didactic sociopolitical theorising, Coonan and Ronan forge a slapstick comic chemistry as they fire off one-liners. “I’m trapped 10 foot underground,” says Ronan, forlornly pondering his lot in life, “and now I’m after figuring out I’m trapped in this life too.” It’s fun being trapped with them, though.