‘Gnashing of teeth’ as Ryan Tubridy grills Gerry Adams
Radio review: Tubridy’s stern interview with Adams is perplexing, but unintentionally revealing
The former Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, spoke to Ryan Tubridy about his cookbook. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
When Ryan Tubridy is gauging contentious subjects, one would imagine that an interview with the author of a celebrity cookbook would come in at the lower end of the scale. Listeners may lick their lips at the recipes or, more likely, stifle a yawn about the bland fare. But on Wednesday’s edition of the Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), the host’s conversation with the latest famous figure hawking a cash-in culinary volume elicits a different reaction in the mouths of his audience.
“There’s a lot of gnashing of teeth,” Tubridy tells his guest. “Whenever I say Gerry Adams is going to be on the radio, people say, how can you talk to him about a cookbook when he had this past?”
How indeed? One of the more unsettling side effects of the peace process has been the former Sinn Féin leader’s efforts to nudge his public image from scheming republican mastermind to avuncular eccentric, whether by tweeting pictures of teddy bears or telling a stunned Seán Moncrieff that he trampolines in the nude, an admission that evoked unexpected nostalgia for the Section 31 era of Irish radio.
Presumably hoping to avoid similar outrages, Tubridy adopts a sterner posture than usual when he talks to Adams about his latest publication, The Negotiators (sic) Cookbook. (One mooted title was Turkey ár Lá.) The results are perplexing but also revealing, albeit unintentionally.
Adams starts by explaining that the book’s origins lie in one of perfidious Albion’s lesser-known misdeeds. “The British were terrible at feeding negotiators down the years,” says Adams, describing peace process talks in London that would go on late into the night without any food appearing. (Adams says he would quip about Ireland’s “ancestral hunger”.)
Accordingly, the Sinn Féin team developed an informal “diners’ club” during the Good Friday negotiations at Stormont, from whence these recipes came.
After this opening riff, Tubridy lobs his softball questions with slightly more velocity. “What do you say to people who are furious about us talking today?” he asks. “They need to get a life,” replies Adams. “The more we talk, the more we listen, the better off we’re going to be.” It’s a worthy sentiment, even if he sounds more irritated that people are still harping on about the Provos.
Adams is happier talking about some subjects rather than others. He thinks Sinn Féin “called it wrong” during the presidential election and “regrets” the Troubles killed so many and went on so long, though he still thinks some kind of conflict was inevitable. But when Tubridy asks about Máiría Cahill, who charges that an IRA member raped her, he says he won’t comment on the case any more.
Along the way, there are flashes of his intelligence, insight and even reflection. Ultimately, however, Tubridy is no more successful than anyone else in getting his guest to open up. In closing, Adams talks fondly about the late Martin McGuinness, saying how much he misses his friend and comrade. But, he adds, McGuinness would be “a wee bit embarrassed by this cookbook”. Somehow, that says more than anything else.
Elsewhere, discontent with living conditions in contemporary Ireland may be reaching a French-style tipping point. On Monday’s edition of Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), one unhappy listener even urges people to take to the streets in hi-vis yellow vests. Joe Duffy hears from Monaghan resident Maureen who, having accumulated many penalty points for minor speeding violations, is annoyed with what she sees as “unfair” measures used against motorists.
Maureen details how she was clocked by hidden vans, a practice she deems “sneaky”. “They’re just out to get you,” she says. The simple phrase nearly articulates the sort of disaffection that has driven the gilets jaunes protests in France. Right on cue, Maureen advocates the wearing of yellow vests. Not, however, as a means of dissent. Instead, she feels pedestrians should be obliged to wear them at night.
Other callers feel that Maureen is mainly aggrieved because she got caught. Fiachra, who runs a transport company, offers his own advice: “Obey the speed limit.”
Meanwhile, John and Brian phone from a car in Germany to explain how there is no sympathy for people caught speeding unless they’re on the autobahn, where drivers regularly hit speeds close to 300km/h. Duffy, who has appeared somewhat asleep at the wheel throughout the discussion, perks up at this news. “What’s that sensation like when you hit those really high speeds?” the host asks, in a tone that suggests envy rather the disapproval. The point of the call, that Germany has far more stringent traffic rules, gets somewhat lost as Brian describes the experience of speeding down the motorway.
Duffy returns to the theme of anger and alienation in the face of official indifference on Wednesday, when he talks to another Monaghan caller, Elizabeth, who returned home from New Zealand six years ago but is so now disgruntled that she wants to go back. Specifically, she is annoyed about proposed new speeding penalties, calling them “the last straw”. But, more generally, Elizabeth thinks Irish citizens have been “devalued”.
“We’re being stripped back like an onion, peeled bit by bit since the 2008 fallout,” she says. “I’m just feeling worn down, and wanted to get the pulse of the people.”
Possibly miffed that Elizabeth seems to be usurping his role as barometer of national opinion, Duffy takes control of the conversation, framing his caller’s complaints in a wider context. “One of the things that featured in the yellow vest protests was all the stuff you were talking about,” the host comments, pointing to rural isolation, post office closures and more stringent drink-driving laws. “I’m not saying I’m for or against,” he adds, lest anyone accuse him of rabble-rousing.
But for better or worse, Duffy may be onto something. For those jaundiced with inequities of Irish life, the yellow vest may be coming into fashion.
Radio Moment of the Week: Nit-picking nativity drama
On Wednesday’s regular parenting advice slot on Seán Moncrieff (Newstalk, weekdays), clinical psychotherapist Joanna Fortune deals with a common festive problem. Contacted by a mother whose young son wants to play Joseph in the school nativity play but is disappointed with his role as a sheep, Fortune offers tips on how to help the boy. The consoling advice from listeners that Moncrieff reads out is much better, however. “I’m so sorry for the little boy who wanted to be Joseph, my daughter wanted to be Mary,” says Moncrieff, quoting one text. “The day was saved when the play was cancelled because Mary had nits.” Talk about turning on the Christmas lice.