Radio: Hidden horror stories of gangland crimewave

On-air analysis of killings prefers sensation to perspective, as Joe Duffy and Aine Lawlor hear

Faced with the prospect of squabbling politicians clogging the airwaves for the rest of the month, one might think that any distraction from the election would be welcome. But so depressing is the saturation coverage that follows the gang murders in Dublin that the listener soon pines for the soothing sound of candidates shouting over each other.

As if the violence of the killings isn't grim enough, the ensuing discussions leave even the most sanguine drained of optimism. It doesn't help that much of the analysis comes from tabloid crime reporters, hardly a species famed for their sense of proportion. To hear the Sunday World journalists Alan Sherry and Nicola Tallant talk to Joe Duffy on Monday's Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) is to enter a Hobbesian world where the Garda has ceded all authority to the capricious rule of crime bosses.

Duffy hears plenty of disturbing details, from flagrant displays of criminal wealth and apparent failures of Garda intelligence to death threats against the journalists. On Tuesday, following the murder of Eddie Hutch snr, the air of crisis is fanned further.

Veronica Guerin's brother Jimmy appears on The Anton Savage Show (Today FM, weekdays), saying that the gangland situation is now worse than it was when his journalist sister was murdered, 20 years ago. But, harsh though it is, the evidence does not suggest we're all about to board the proverbial handcart to hell.


Amid all this there are some truly terrifying stories about the impact of gangland crime. On Wednesday Anne appears on Liveline to tell of her life as the one-time wife of a leading Dublin criminal. Anne recounts how the "charismatic" young man she fell for would beat her after they married. She also says that she didn't know of his gangland activities, thinking he was a mechanic. Even as their house was regularly raided, her husband would claim he was merely being victimised.

In retrospect she realises her family life was effectively a cover story for her husband. Despite his criminal proceeds he never gave Anne any money. In the end she escaped to England, but along the way she became estranged from her daughters, whom her husband took from her, and her son, who died of a drug overdose. As Duffy notes, it's a long way from the glamour of Love/Hate.

Joan Byrne of the Citywide Drug Crisis Campaign describes the insidious impact of gangland drug-dealing on local communities on News at One (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Byrne tells Áine Lawlor how criminals use the debts of drug users as leverage, whether to bully younger siblings into working for them or to extort money from family.

“There’s a gender dimension to this,” adds Byrne, who notes that mothers or sisters are usually the ones who try to pay off the drug debts.

The hopelessness of this situation is compounded by the fact that the debt doesn’t die with the drug user. Byrne has heard users say that “even if I kill myself they’ll still come after my mother”. Lawlor sounds particularly shaken by this, with good reason. Equal parts despair and resignation, it’s perhaps the most terrifying quote of an already fearful week.

The question of gender is at the heart of Anton Savage's interview with the author Louise O'Neill, about reports of a private Facebook group on which 200 male students at University College Dublin allegedly shared photographs of female partners.

It’s a revealing interview, less for the facts of the story, which the college is investigating, than for the attitudes it draws out.

O’Neill is excoriating about those in such an online group. These men, she says, show a “sociopathic disregard for basic privacy”, adding that “this kind of behaviour is the kind of building block to sexual violence”. When Savage wonders whether the latter statement is “a leap” O’Neill robustly stands by her assertion, while acknowledging that “not all men” are so inclined.

If the exchange between host and guest is respectful and constructive, the discussion prompts texts claiming that the women whose images were shared should have known better: one listener claims that those who allow such photographs to be taken have “no self-respect”. O’Neill rightly counters that such attitudes “smack of victim-blaming”.

Still, so loaded have gender-based topics become that the normally confident Savage approaches the interview with all the carefree abandon of a minesweeper. Addressing the wisdom of nude selfies, he tentatively ventures that “it does seem to be a very intimate thing”. O’Neill says it’s simplistic to tell people not to take such photographs. She goes on to cite theoretical terms such as “agency versus structure”, suggesting that she’s not one for easy populism.

When Savage then raises the apparent existence of groups where women share intimate photographs of boyfriends, O’Neill suggests that, because “there’s not the same amount of shame attached to male sexuality”, the consequences are unequal. Savage is palpably uncomfortable at this generalisation, which veers close to suggesting that some victims are more equal than others.

If nothing else, the discussion shows up the uneasy fault lines that run through debates on gender, sexuality and equality. Political bunfights can be light relief in comparison.

Moment of the Week: the 40th anniversary of punk

The Tom Dunne Show (Newstalk, weekdays) reminds us that it is 40 years since punk rock burst forth with debut releases by the likes of Sex Pistols and the Ramones. To mark the event Dunne hears from the American punk singer Henry Rollins. What follows is less an interview than a radio essay. With Dunne largely confining his contribution to the odd "wow" or "absolutely", Rollins mixes his personal experiences as an angry young man with a deep knowledge of punk. Every time he comes across an old heroes, Rollins says, "I want to stand up and salute, or cry in gratitude." Not all rebellion need be violent, lest we forget.