Ivan Yates complains about people who complain all the time

Radio review: “Do people ever stop bitching?” asks Yates. Has he met Mr Pot and Mr Kettle?

Ivan Yates is frustrated at this outbreak of reasoned analysis, chiding his guest for forgetting his journalistic imperative as the silly season beckons

Ivan Yates is frustrated at this outbreak of reasoned analysis, chiding his guest for forgetting his journalistic imperative as the silly season beckons

 

As a presenter, Ivan Yates has made a virtue of his provocative style and sceptical mindset. So it’s something of a surprise to hear him start the Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, weekdays) on Monday by urging people to accept their lot. “I hear people bitching and moaning and complaining, do they ever stop?” he asks plaintively, not bitching or moaning or complaining at all. Mr Yates, have you met Mr Pot and Mr Kettle?

In mitigation, Yates is targeting those malcontents who grumble about the good weather being too hot, a complaint too perverse even for a professional devil’s advocate like himself. But otherwise, Yates is as happy as ever to take contrarian positions so long as it keeps the conversation crackling along.

His discussion with journalist David Davin-Power about the possibility of President Michael D Higgins running for re-election is a case in point. Yates keeps positing scenarios in which the President will face a challenge to a second term, from his age to party political opposition, only for Davin-Power to play down such possibilities.

The host is frustrated at this outbreak of reasoned analysis, chiding his guest for forgetting his journalistic imperative as the silly season beckons. “We need a story, we need to inflate this balloon,” says a chuckling Yates.

So determined is the presenter to have a contest that he applauds Senator Gerard Craughwell for seeking a presidential nomination, while adding that the Senator is “not the world’s greatest gift to democracy”. This seems unkind, but Yates insists that “I’m building him up”. If that’s the case, I’d hate to hear him putting anyone down.

On Wednesday, Yates is again decrying those who complain, at least if they involve calls for boycotts of next year’s Eurovision in Israel or “empty chair” protests against the Pope’s visit to Dublin. Such actions do not count as dissent, Yates suggests, but are the “illiberal” manifestations of “an echo chamber”. Rail against things by all means, he says, but “live and let live”.

This seems as good a summation of Yates’s own philosophy (though he’d probably scoff at such a highfalutin term), in which robust debate is healthy but people should be respected. For all that he will disagree with just about every guest, there is virtually none of the acrimony that can accompany ideological jousts involving station colleagues such as George Hook or even Pat Kenny.

Even so, Yates’s commitment to unexpected positions reaches new levels when he sympathises with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s criticism of Minister for Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan for leading prayers at a Dublin church in a priest’s absence. “Someone has to speak up for the traditional church,” says Yates, of the Catholic church’s opposition to ordaining women. “Them’s are the rules.” This is surprising, given that Yates not only remarks that he’s a member of the Church of Ireland but also adds that his local rector is a woman. Rules are great so long as you don’t have to follow them: no wonder he’s not complaining.

Emotional impact

It’s a different story on the Documentary on Newstalk: All Mine (Sunday, repeated Saturday), which features the voices of those who every day encounter rules that go against their very nature. Produced by Maurice Kelliher and Shaun O’Boyle, the documentary eschews narration, instead featuring seven transgender people recounting their experiences. 

What this simple approach lacks in finesse or originality is more than made up for in emotional impact and educational value, not least for those unfamiliar with what being transgender actually means. “Trans is such a huge spectrum,” says Aoife, a 48-year-old trans woman (and parent) who came out as trans later in life. Though she says that being trans is “a difficult place to be in”, hers is a positive tale: she recounts getting flowers from her co-workers the first day she came to work as a woman.

Others are not so lucky. Louise talks about the “complete sea change” she encountered at work after expressing her real gender identity. After being asked to leave her job, she took a discrimination case against her employers, which she won. But Louise, a grandparent, feels much more needs to be done before trans people are accepted easily.

For those making the physical transition across genders, the Irish health system provides a particularly punitive and demeaning environment. Noah, a transgender man, explains that trans people seeking hormone replacement therapy must undergo psychiatric evaluation. The result, says Kila, a trans woman left stressed by the experience, is that “I feel I have been infantalised”. This theme, that the health system does not allow people to exercise “informed consent” over their bodies, recurs throughout the documentary. It’s a rare insight into the emotional and physical cost of an overly rigid official approaches to people’s lives.

The unfiltered accounts provide insights in other ways too. To the uninitiated, the terms used by the interviewees – “gender dysphoria”, “cis women” – may sound like abstruse buzzwords. But by the end of the documentary, one begins to grasp the importance of this language for trans people. New definitions are needed in a world where people uncomfortable with the gender they were born with (or assigned with, if you prefer) are able to change but cannot entirely shake the echoes of their past.

Lee, a “non-binary” person who uses the third-person plural as their personal pronoun, puts it simply: “If you don’t have a map, there are no pathways.” “Some people think all I do is talk about being trans,” says Lee. “I wish I could forget about it.” This is understandable. But until that happens, such insightful, unvarnished testimony makes for a memorable documentary.

Radio Moment of the Week: Thirsty Tubridy’s top tips

Given the hot weather, it’s not surprising Ryan Tubridy has a thirst on him. On Tuesday’s programme (The Ryan Tubridy Show, RTÉ Radio 1), he opens his monologue by discussing the forthcoming Irish trip of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. “Hopefully they have time to maybe go and have a pint somewhere,” he muses, as though angling for an invite. Tubridy then reads out an online report giving advice for the heatwave. Drinking water is advised: “A great tip, if you’re really close to a toilet,” he says, speaking from experience. He then spots the advice for people to avoid alcohol in hot weather. “Right, that’s me out,” Tubridy says. He’s not ready to give up on that royal pint.

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