Go ahead, make my day: Pat Kenny gets all Dirty Harry about street ‘yobs’

Radio: The Newstalk host hears lurid tales of ‘urban terrorism’ on the streets of Dublin

Pat Kenny: tales of societal breakdown are grist to the Newstalk broadcaster’s mill. Photograph: Frank Miller

Pat Kenny: tales of societal breakdown are grist to the Newstalk broadcaster’s mill. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The reports that Pat Kenny hears from the beleaguered city confirm his worst fears. With the situation out of control, people are being intimidated by marauding groups, and there are killings on the streets. “Urban terrorism is what’s going on,” is the stark verdict delivered by Kenny’s guest.

But enough about Dublin. Though Cllr Mannix Flynn’s account of delinquency and crime in the capital on Monday’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays) is hair-raising, Kenny also gives extensive coverage to the week’s big story, the fall of Kabul. But while the terror and uncertainty surrounding the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan is discussed at length by Kenny and others, antisocial behaviour in Dublin is a hot topic as well.

The issue is highlighted by the unprovoked attack on the Irish taekwondo Olympian Jack Woolley at the weekend. As Flynn tells it, such outrages have become the norm in Dublin. He calls the Liffey boardwalk a “no-go area” and compares the situation in some estates to terrorism – loaded language in the light of developments in Afghanistan. Flynn adds that “a Disneyland approach to policing” has allowed crime to flourish.

‘I don’t feel afraid of gardaí in the way I would be wary of the tourist police in Paris,’ Pat Kenny says, wistfully evoking the squadrons of riot police that have long defined the French capital’s romantic image

Such tales of societal breakdown are grist to Kenny’s mill, as he asks if gardaí have “the appetite” to crack down on “yobbery”. “Walking around in their short-sleeve shirts, I don’t feel afraid of them in the way that I would be wary of the tourist police in Paris,” the host says, wistfully evoking the squadrons of riot police that have long defined the French capital’s romantic image.

Similarly, when talk turns to drug addicts and “feral children” menacingly hanging around the streets, Kenny remarks that “loitering with or without intent used to be a crime”. At times his musings sound more like a Dirty Harry-style revenge fantasy than a considered discussion. Which is a shame, because for all that host and guest portray the problem in lurid terms, the core point – that street crime has got worse in Dublin over the past 18 months – chimes with evidence on the ground.

The story rumbles on when Dublin City Council’s chief executive, Owen Keegan, is interviewed by Kieran Cuddihy on The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, weekdays), though the tone here is decidedly different. Keegan stresses that Dublin is “very safe” compared with other cities but admits that antisocial behaviour is a “legitimate concern”, resulting in a perception that the city is unsafe: “That’s something we have to be very concerned about.” Random violence aside, the city official has concerns of his own, as he turns the conversation towards “the proliferation of tents” in the city.

“I’ll get into trouble for saying this, but we don’t think people should be allowed sleep in tents,” Keegan says, pointing to the “abundance” of hostel accommodation and bemoaning “the whole industry” that “sustains” rough sleepers. (That’s homeless charities to you and me.) Cuddihy sounds genuinely surprised at what he’s hearing, suggesting that the reasons for sleeping rough aren’t so straightforward. But the upshot is that his guest shifts the focus away from, ahem, “perceptions” of rising crime. Either way, it’s an unedifying discussion.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin is candid when asked if she would walk along the notorious Liffey boardwalk. ‘To be perfectly honest, if it was dark, no, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t feel safe.’ As Cormac Ó hEadhra notes, this says an awful lot

There’s no downplaying the perils of urban life on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Its host Cormac Ó hEadhra says the show has been inundated with texts from listeners recounting their experiences of violence in Dublin. The reporter Fergal Keane talks to some of these people, one of whom narrowly escaped serious injury in a firework attack, another who was mugged in a coffee shop at 11am.

As well as these upsetting stories, Keane reveals some intriguing factors behind the spike in offences, such as the use of face masks preventing the identification of perpetrators. It’s an enlightening report, underlining the harsh facts that lie behind the “perception” of rising street crime but laying out the often prosaic reasons that drive it.

A particularly telling moment comes during Ó hEadhra’s interview with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, about the state of the city. Asked if she would walk along the notorious Liffey boardwalk, where Woolley was attacked, Gilliland is candid. “To be perfectly honest, if it was dark, no, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t feel safe.” As Ó hEadhra notes, this says an awful lot. Coupled with Ryan Tubridy’s revelation on his RTÉ Radio 1 show about being verbally abused on the street in Dún Laoghaire, it completes the glum portrait of the capital presented on the airwaves throughout the week.

Of course, reports from Kabul provide jolting perspective. Ó hEadhra hears various assessments of what Taliban rule might look like, from the grim predictions for Afghan women from the human-rights activist Pashtana Durrani  to the optimistic hopes of an incongruously chipper Unicef official. (Durrani’s hard-earned wisdom seems more realistic.)

Most striking is the contribution of John Bolton, the former US national-security adviser to Donald Trump. An uncompromising hawk – even Trump apparently joked about his belligerence – Bolton doesn’t buy the more tolerant image projected by the Taliban in press conferences: “They’re wearing their smiley faces.” Instead, he’s “very worried” for the Afghan population: “Look at the fear in their faces.”

The mercurial movie star Bill Murray is in a minibus touring Irish golf courses with a motley crew of relatives and writers: when he takes Kathryn Thomas’s call he is as phlegmatically enigmatic as one expects

Not that Afghanistan’s welfare is uppermost in his calculations. Bolton is bracingly honest that the American military presence wasn’t a “humanitarian intervention” but, rather, one to protect the United States. “We weren’t there doing charity for the Afghan people,” he says, adding that “they enjoyed collateral benefits”. There were other collateral things too, of course.

As the host presses his guest on the efficacy of US military actions, from Vietnam to Iraq, Bolton grows more irritable, griping about criticism of the United States, “a favourite sport around the world”. Things come to a head when Ó hEadhra asks if the US should maintain foreign aid to Afghanistan because “people on the ground need assistance”. “Let Ireland satisfy that need,” Bolton snaps. Sometimes it takes a grouchy American conservative to remind us that there are people worse off than here.

Moment of the Week: Bill Murray holds court

There’s no disguising the excitement of Kathryn Thomas, guest host of The Ray D’Arcy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), as she conducts a suitably idiosyncratic phone conversation with Bill Murray. The mercurial movie star is in a minibus touring Irish golf courses with a motley crew of relatives and writers: when he takes her call Murray is as phlegmatically enigmatic as one expects.

He free-associates wildly, whether discussing his favourite roles or – ever the iconoclast – sounding nonplussed about the appeal of Tayto crisps. Most unexpectedly, he summons the former US poet laureate Billy Collins to read a poem. “I can’t say how lucky you are that he read a short one,” Murray adds. Thomas – whom Murray calls Kathleen – deems all this “bonkers”, which seems about right. It’s also poetry in motion.

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