Radio: Celtic Tiger titans do their community service

Review: ‘The Marian Finucane Show’, ‘The Pat Kenny Show’, ‘Sunday With Miriam’

Michael O’Flynn: concedes the “genuine, hardworking community” of developers made mistakes, but says bodies such as Nama have made things much worse. Photo: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision

Michael O’Flynn: concedes the “genuine, hardworking community” of developers made mistakes, but says bodies such as Nama have made things much worse. Photo: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

There’s a scene in the 1975 conspiracy thriller Three Days of the Condor where the fugitive hero, played by Robert Redford, asks a CIA boss who was responsible for the killing of his colleagues. When the spymaster says that it must have been someone from the intelligence “community”, Redford is contemptuous. “Boy, you people are kind to yourselves,” he says, mustering all his liberal outrage. “ ‘Community.’ ”

This scene comes to mind on Saturday, when the property developer Michael O’Flynn is on Marian Finucane (RTÉ Radio 1, weekends). During their talk Finucane’s guest uses the C-word about his profession with a frequency that causes one’s inner Redford to stir.

O’Flynn’s appearance is initially pretty straightforward. He complains that Nama, far from managing developers’ assets acquired from foundering banks after the crash, merely sought to sell them at any price. If it had worked constructively with professional developers, O’Flynn says, the agency would have had “an amazing opportunity to make money”. He also claims that Nama didn’t read his business plan. When Finucane pointedly remarks that Nama reject this, he qualifies that it didn’t “engage” with him.

O’Flynn is entitled to fight his own corner – and, having exited Nama, is clearly adept at doing so. But with so many from the property sector still in Nama, he feels he is only voicing the opinions of his peers: “I know what the developer community thinks.”

Clearly, the community thinks it was hard done by. Asked if he feels that developers were cast as archvillains, O’Flynn replies that, “as a grouping, we were castigated by society”. He concedes that the “genuine, hardworking community” of developers made mistakes, but he says that bodies such as Nama have made things much worse.

O’Flynn seems perfectly decent personally. He avoids too much self-pity and, unlike his community peer Johnny Ronan, he wisely resists equating his profession’s situation with the fate of Jews under the Nazis.

Finucane, meanwhile, handles the interview well. She lets her guest tell his side of the story but doesn’t allow him free rein, as when she suggests that the crash was partly fuelled by the developers’ “lack of prudence”.

That’s one way of putting it.

If developers have yet to be absolved of culpability for the crash, there are signs that some key players from the Celtic Tiger era are being quietly rehabilitated. Having observed a vow of omerta for several years, the former taoiseach Bertie Ahern is popping up on the airwaves more regularly. On Wednesday he appears on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays) to discuss the statement by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers that the IRA has maintained its structures, if not its capability.

Ahern is not unduly alarmed by this assertion, noting that even if the IRA exists it is committed to the peace process. But he is concerned by the alleged criminal activities of sometime republican paramilitaries, even if “there are frivolous enough links to the old IRA”.

Ahern also bemoans that, 18 years after the ceasefire, there remains that “constructive ambiguity” of turning a blind eye to the IRA’s existence. “Sinn Féin can’t complain if other political parties and the media continue to raise these issues,” he says. (Complain they do, however, with Gerry Adams accusing Áine Lawlor, the host, of “lazy journalism” when she has the temerity to raise this exact issue on RTÉ Radio 1’s News at One.)

It’s a notable contribution from Ahern. He spent so long negotiating the peace process that he clearly knows its nuances well. And by reminding listeners of his crucial role in the Belfast Agreement Ahern diverts attention from his stewardship of the catastrophically overheated economy. Kenny doesn’t revisit that topic with his guest. Ahern has a long time to serve before his reputation is restored, but he’s clearly doing community service to that end.

Another political figure from the past appears on Sunday With Miriam (RTÉ Radio 1), when Miriam O’Callaghan talks to the former tánaiste and Labour Party leader Dick Spring and his brother Donal. On O’Callaghan’s Sabbath chat show the conversation focuses less on political intrigue and more on personal matters, but the effect is arresting.

Much of the show concentrates on rugby, as both brothers played for Ireland. But the conversation takes a sharp turn as the Springs recall how their sister Kay killed herself in 2008. Donal’s voice clearly cracks as he remembers her, as he worries that suicide is “becoming an option” for many. O’Callaghan remarks that Dick seems “more reserved”. He admits it’s a reasonable observation, “but I don’t think anyone recovers from these events”. Asked if they found comfort in God, Donal is succinct: “No.”

Inevitably, the subject of politics comes up. O’Callaghan wonders whether Labour can survive the next election. “Yes, they’ve always come back,” says Donal. It’s a bullish end to a captivating programme. Of course, both brothers also predicted that Ireland would beat Argentina, but hope springs eternal.

Moment of the week: Murphy’s slippery stats

The Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy proves as adept at spinning as any mainstream politician on Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Speaking to Audrey Carville about the news that 55 per cent of people have paid their water charges, up from 44 per cent in July, Murphy says that the information is unclear, as Irish Water hasn’t disclosed how many customers have paid a second bill. But, Carville says, “the figures are going the wrong way” for Murphy. “That’s what I’m saying, we don’t know that,” he says. Carville puts it more simply: “More people are paying their bills.” “We don’t know that,” the deputy repeats. His obfuscation does the near impossible: it makes Irish Water look good.

radioreview@irishtimes.com

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