Pat Kenny witnesses a street brawl in Dalkey: ‘30 or 40 people at it full pelt’

Radio: ‘Thinking about this reopening,’ the Newstalk presenter says. ‘Are we really prepared?’

Pat Kenny fretted about ‘depressing’ scnes of loutishness in Dalkey.   Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Pat Kenny fretted about ‘depressing’ scnes of loutishness in Dalkey. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The latest stage of reopening may have provided a fillip for a population deprived of hairdos and recreational retail, but the optimistic mood isn’t shared on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays). On Monday morning, as salons and shops invite customers back for the first time this year, the presenter is in pensive form, as he ponders the coming weeks. “I’m thinking about this reopening,” he says, in a forebodingly uncelebratory tone. “You wonder are we really prepared for what lies in store.” 

Kenny’s concern centres on the hospitality sector, specifically its outdoor iteration. For all the talk of al fresco dining, he suggests, the streets have instead been turned into bars, only without any facilities. “No toilets, no policing worth a fig, no litter control,” he says, before darkly adding: “And gougerism as well.” 

The drunken, loutish scene Pat Kenny describes sounds more like a typical night in prepandemic Temple Bar than the apocalyptically dystopian vision he implies

By way of illustration, Kenny describes the scenes he witnessed in Dalkey, the south Co Dublin suburb where he lives, the day before: a teenage girl passed out drunk, a male youth groping a young girl (who Kenny, rather too graphically, describes as having “her skirt up around the cheeks of her bottom”) and, by way of finale, a street brawl, with “30 or 40 people at it full pelt” before Garda public-order units intervened. 

It’s a depressing catalogue of loutishness, especially for a Sunday afternoon in a picturesque neighbourhood. In truth, however, it also sounds more like a typical night in prepandemic Temple Bar than the apocalyptically dystopian vision implied by Kenny: “What is going on, what are we doing to our country?”

Kenny is right to be disturbed by such scenes, which echo similar accounts of antisocial behaviour heard by the likes of Joe Duffy on Liveline. But it’s another thing to link such incidents to reopening, as opposed to lockdown, which closed so many sporting facilities and social supports.

As it is, the week’s other news ensures the wider feelgood factor is short-lived. As the familiar problems of the pre-Covid world return with a vengeance, from the Israel-Palestine conflict to the housing crisis, one almost feels a perverse nostalgia for the dull certainties of pandemic restrictions: come back, new normal, all is forgiven!

But Kenny sounds comfortable discussing these issues. His conversation with the journalist Patrick Cockburn about the Middle East violence is coolly informative, outlining the huge disparity between the Israeli military and Hamas, as the resultant casualties make clear. 

Meanwhile, the host’s discussion with the political correspondent Sean Defoe about older second-time buyers unable to secure mortgages highlights a lesser-known aspect of the housing problem. Even those with good jobs face different hurdles from younger buyers, such as shorter-term mortgages with higher repayments; as 54-year-old Gerry tells Defoe, “We don’t have time.” Throughout all this, the host sounds engaged and curious. Kenny mightn’t be looking forward to the future, but bad news brings out the best in him.

Prof Bryan Fanning points Matt Cooper to the relative lack of political backlash against immigrants, noting that far-right messages aren’t clicking with the electorate

Matt Cooper delves deeper into factors exacerbating the housing crisis on The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays). Items on young and single people being shut out from the market cover the usual obstacles of rising prices and unattainable mortgages, but his discussion with the economist Barra Roantree also connects the situation with broader trends of falling wages and job insecurity for under-30s, who now have a lower standard of living than their parents had at that age. It’s not wildly revelatory, but the host’s discussion reminds his audience that the housing mess is bound up with a global economy more concerned with financial priorities than human needs. (See also: cuckoo funds.)

But Cooper also finds room for optimism. His interview with the UCD social scientist Prof Bryan Fanning about the impact of immigration on Irish life has an unexpectedly hopeful slant, given the downbeat stories that often surround the topic. Fanning thinks that “in many ways we have done a fine job” in welcoming immigrants. He points to the relative lack of political backlash against immigrants, noting that far-right messages aren’t clicking with the electorate despite voters’ dissatisfaction with the status quo.

It helps that Irish political parties are unwilling to play the race card; Fanning suggests “most Irish politicians are fairly decent people”. It’s a measure of where we are that this is perhaps the most controversial statement on Cooper’s show.

With neither Brendan O’Connor nor Richard Dawkins famed for holding back opinions lest he offend, expectations for a zingy encounter are high, but proceedings are disappointingly polite

Flashpoints abound when Brendan O’Connor (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday & Sunday) interviews the biologist, author and “world’s most famous atheist”, Richard Dawkins. With neither host nor guest famed for holding back opinions lest he offend, expectations for a zingy encounter are high, but proceedings are disappointingly polite.

Dawkins certainly doesn’t stint on the curmudgeonly rationality. When O’Connor suggests people have taken comfort from faith during the pandemic, his guest concedes this but adds: “You can even get comfort from something that’s false if you believe it sincerely enough.”

Despite hopes of a scrap being raised when the line suddenly drops out – “Did Richard Dawkins just put down the phone?” O’Connor asks – the tone remains civil and articulate.

Eventually, however, O’Connor finds a real point of contention, asking about a tweet in which Dawkins suggested it would be “immoral” not to abort a foetus with Down syndrome if a mother had a choice. O’Connor, whose daughter has Down syndrome, insists he isn’t offended at his guest’s assertion, but there’s unmistakable steel when he asks, “I’m interested: how do you think it is immoral?”

In response, Dawkins stresses that he doesn’t think parents don’t love children with Down syndrome but notes “the vast majority” of such pregnancies are terminated in countries where it’s possible. O’Connor doesn’t judge such choice, but he isn’t satisfied with his guest’s answer. “Why is it immoral not to abort?” he repeats.

Dawkins doesn’t come out of the interview particularly well. As for O’Connor, he can’t be faulted for sticking to his convictions, nor for being able to produce riveting radio

Dawkins sounds rattled – “That was probably putting it a bit too strongly,” he says – but sticks to his argument that such births add to suffering in the world. O’Connor disagrees – “My experience is that you’re not necessarily right” – before asking what other “imperfections” his guest would “screen out”. (Pretty much any life-changing disabilities that can be detected in very early pregnancy is his all-too-honest answer.)

It’s a charged exchange, all the more so for its calm tenor, which raises all sorts of uncomfortable issues. Dawkins, for his part, doesn’t come out of the interview particularly well. As for O’Connor, he can’t be faulted for sticking to his convictions, nor for being able to produce riveting radio.

Moment of the Week: Celebrity cetaceans

On Tuesday’s Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), Audrey Carville interviews the “citizen archeologist” Anthony Murphy about his discovery of two medieval logboats in the River Boyne. In a brief but fascinating conversation touching on carbon dating and historical trade, Murphy explains how he was flying a drone when he spotted the logboats: “I was actually looking for Kevin Costner, a bottle-nosed dolphin from the Shannon estuary.” Carville passes over this information until the end. “This is a memorable interview, but the thing people will remember most is you saying there’s a dolphin in the River Boyne called Kevin Costner,” says Carville. Alas, Murphy doesn’t explain the origin of the nickname, whether by accident or – wait for it – on porpoise. As Carville remarks: “Fungi who?”

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