Joe Duffy left stunned by ‘Home Alone’ booby trap tale

Liveline host alarmed by crime experiences, while Kingsmill exercises Sean O’Rourke

‘Liveline’ host Joe Duffy is upset, but surely part of the frustration is that he knows his outrage is futile in the face of statutory processes. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

‘Liveline’ host Joe Duffy is upset, but surely part of the frustration is that he knows his outrage is futile in the face of statutory processes. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

After two decades of listening to people’s woes, one would imagine nothing can surprise Joe Duffy any more. It’s not that he’s totally unshakeable, but he appears so immune to jolts that he could launch his own range of shock absorbers. (Cue drum roll.) So when, on Monday’s Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), Duffy declares that “my jaw has just hit the floor”, one has to keep listening to find out what can cause such a reaction.

Duffy hears from Kevin, who recounts how his shop in a rural town was burgled two years ago. Three raiders were chased by gardaí and, after breaking back into the business, were apprehended, for which they received suspended prison terms. It’s not the lenient sentences that Duffy finds surprising, but rather the revelation that Kevin is being sued by one of the burglars for injuries sustained while raiding his premises.

If that isn’t enough to ensure Duffy’s attention, he learns that the raider sustained a cut to the scrotum, an injury that the presenter somewhat superfluously informs listeners is “not nice”.

It seems that the burglar, who is in jail for another offence, has lodged a complaint to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), which will cost Kevin €600 to address. Duffy draws on his full arsenal of indignation, sarcastically complimenting PIAB for its helpful letter. It is indeed a horrendous situation, the very embodiment of the hoary old chestnut about the law being an ass. Duffy is upset, but surely part of the frustration is that he knows his outrage is futile in the face of statutory processes. 

Intrigued

Still, the discussion has some effect. Duffy also talks to Tadgh, who has installed “special security precautions” in his business after a previous break-in. The presenter is intrigued. “If a ne’er-do-well broke in is there a possibility they’d be injured?” “Oh there is,” Tadgh replies. “I have everything designed to ensure it would happen.” The more Duffy tries to discover, the more ominously evasive Tadgh’s answers become. The presenter is audibly startled – “Is this Home Alone 2? Do you have traps for them?” – but his caller is adamant that the law allows him implement any measures to prevent illegal entry.

That is, until Duffy talks to Terry, who runs a fencing company. “Tadhg is taking a very grave risk, he’s entrapping someone,” says Terry, who paints scenario in which a young raider gravely injures himself on hidden traps. “I must look up that legislation again,” says Tadhg, suddenly sounding chastened. If nothing else, Duffy may have prevented a much messier legal row than the one that initially left him uncharacteristically stunned. That the threat of crime has increased so much that people feel the need to set booby traps seems even more alarming, however.

One of the most dreadful crimes from the Troubles era, the 1976 Kingsmill massacre that left 10 Protestant workmen dead, dominates the airwaves, to inevitably dispiriting effect. Following West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff’s three-month suspension from Sinn Féin for tweeting a selfie photograph with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on the anniversary of the atrocity, the party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald puts in a fractious appearance on Tuesday’s News At One (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). 

'Stupid', 'unforgivable'

McDonald rejects the suggestion by presenter Justin McCarthy that a temporary suspension from the party is “not much of a punishment”, instead calling it “significant”. She also repeatedly characterises McElduff’s actions as “crass”, “stupid” and “unforgivable”. But the tone of the interview is more defiant than contrite. 

For one thing, McDonald says that she believes McElduff’s explanation that he wasn’t intentionally malicious. She calls his social media output “quirky”, which is one way to describe the mockery of 10 murder victims. (Then again, she has said she believes Gerry Adams was never in the IRA.) McDonald also portrays the affair as a sideshow in Sinn Féin’s ongoing dispute with the DUP over the collapsed Stormont executive. “It’s very wrong to pretend that is the core issue,” says McDonald. Instead, she wants to focus on “dealing with legacy issues”, which presumably don’t include the Kingsmill massacre. 

Later, McDonald suggests that McCarthy’s questions amount to “a very strange agenda, if that is what is being pursued by RTÉ”. It’s a depressing spectacle when a usually articulate politician who aspires to “decent standards in society” retreats to prickly defensiveness when pressed on the violent legacy that her party still stands by, despite the peace process. 

‘Inexcusable’

The practical effects of McElduff’s supposedly jokey tweet were articulated on Wednesday’s Today with Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), when the presenter talks to Colin Wharton, whose brother Kenneth died at Kingsmill. Unsurprisingly, Wharton thinks McElduff’s actions are “inexcusable”. He points to the MP’s praise for the late IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh, who was linked to the murders, as exemplifying Sinn Féin’s “mindset”. Wharton’s mood isn’t helped by the vile phonecalls his mother has received from people taunting her about Kingsmill loaves missing 10 slices. Even O’Rourke, as unflappable in his own way as Duffy, sounds shocked. 

The item contains a sliver of optimism. Wharton says that after his brother’s murder, he was “totally ruined” and had “bad thoughts” about his Catholic neighbours. “I’m proud to say I’ve moved on from that,” he says, pointing to the “decent Catholic people out there”. It’s a welcome conciliatory sentiment. But that expressions of neighbourliness should still be noteworthy 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement is truly jaw-dropping.

Moment of the Week: Hook’s common touch

Back on air after a brief exile for his ill-judged comments on rape, George Hook’s new show, Saturday Sit-In (Newstalk), is an uneven, underwhelming affair, with the presenter a more genially cranky old buffer than provocative firebrand. Hook’s populist affectations remain however, when he listens approvingly to pro-Brexit guest Gwythian Prins’s swipe at “snooty” remainers being out of touch with “ordinary people” in Britain. Hook shows his own common touch during an item on travel. When in Hong Kong, Hook cheerfully tells guest Barry Kenny, “you have to buy a suit”. Down with those snooty elites, indeed.

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