It is, according to Ray D’Arcy, the final straw. An astute reader of the popular mood, or at least the texts from his listeners, D’Arcy is confident that this is a tipping point, the long-awaited moment when a controversial decision from on high finally backfires. “They can tax my water, they can charge me for living in my own house, they can even kill Nidge,” he says, quoting one text, “but they cannot take my jelly star.”
There's no hiding the disappointment of the presenter, on The Ray D'Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays), at the news that jelly stars have been removed from the Afternoon Tea biscuit selection. And although his grumbles are clearly ramped up for comic effect, he cannot help relating this minor gripe to bigger issues, drawing parallels between Jacob's unilateral biscuit withdrawal and a more general disregard for public opinion in other spheres.
“See, it’s about consultation,” he says. “And if Irish Water and Phil Hogan and the Government had consulted people before they launched into this whole Irish Water thing, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
That even a simple story about baked goods can become a metaphor for the Irish Water debacle indicates how much the issue continues to dominate the airwaves, particularly after last weekend’s disorderly protests against the charge.
On Monday D'Arcy deals with the matter more straightforwardly, by talking to the Independent TD Paul Murphy, who helped organise the demonstration in Jobstown that left Tánaiste Joan Burton stuck in her car. The interview brings out the balanced but persistent interrogator in D'Arcy, a role he's not renowned for. He opens in emotionally charged manner, asking Murphy if he condones "keeping a woman in her 60s in a car for two and a half hours". The TD replies that the Tánaiste is "hamming it up" to appear to be a victim, adding that it was a peaceful protest. "When you throw something, it's not peaceful," says D'Arcy. "When you hold them against their will, it's not peaceful." Murphy later talks of the spin put on incidents of objects being hurled at the Minister, "It's not being spun, it happened," says D'Arcy, firmly. The sparky exchange is surprising given the way D'Arcy otherwise flirts with populist sentiment on the water crisis.
On Tuesday he gives a more sympathetic hearing to Fiona Healy, a demonstrator filmed being thrown on the ground by gardaí at another protest. On Wednesday, commenting on Murphy’s television encounter with the “weary” Labour TD Pat Rabitte, D’Arcy acerbically notes “the contrast between the new guard and the old guard”, before concluding that “there’s something happening here, there’s change afoot.”
It's not as if the usual diverting diet of celebrity-ish guests and quirky items is forgotten. D'Arcy also talks to the comics David McSavage and Neil Delamare and covers the wildly improbable but true story of a gay bull in Mayo being saved from the abattoir thanks to the philanthropy of the terminally ill cocreator of The Simpsons. But in attempting to play the honest broker in interviews while making rousing forecasts about imminent upheaval over the water issue, D'Arcy strikes an ambivalent pose that at times uncomfortably smacks of opportunism.
There's no ambiguity on where Ryan Tubridy (2FM, weekdays) stands about the scenes in Jobstown. "You made a bags of that," he tells any protestors who may be listening, "and you disgraced yourself." The presenter stresses that he is not condemning the protestors' cause but feels it has been set back by the Tánaiste "possibly being made a martyr", which may be slightly overstating the situation.
Tubridy’s tone is less establishment thunderer than disappointed schoolmaster but nonetheless draws a sharp response from one annoyed listener. Although Jaz, a mother of four, declares herself to be nervous on air, she betrays no shyness. She says Tubridy is “pompous and smug”, adding he is “representing the media, the rich people in society”.
Her host is clearly taken aback by this tirade. When Jaz says she doesn’t wish to personalise the matter, a wounded-sounding Tubridy replies, “You’ve done that already, unfortunately.” “I don’t think I did,” responds the caller. “You did,” says Tubridy. “I’ll Iisten back to it,” Jaz says. “You should,” Tubridy says.
Despite his initial irritation, the smart broadcaster in Tubridy recognises the radio value of the contretemps, and endeavours to keep his guest on the line, even when she feels she has had her say. She starts to apologise for “ranting”, but Tubridy tells her not to be sorry: “It’s all good. It’s a passionate subject.”
Given the (somewhat unfair) charges of blandness routinely thrown at him, the presenter benefits from the injection of some venom. After all, when things are too sweet they become hard to stomach. A little bitterness is never a bad thing.
Moment of the week: wrongly convicted?
After Stuart Gilhooly, solicitor for the Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland, posts a blog musing on the possible innocence of the convicted rapist and former Sheffield United player Ched Evans, he is interviewed by Mary Wilson on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Gilhooly says there's "a good chance the jury got it wrong." "But when you look at the text of your letter you could suggest you've already made up your mind," says a steely-sounding Wilson, "because you don't talk about a conviction, you don't talk about a rapist, you talk about allegations." Gilhooly says he has an open mind, but Wilson turns up the heat: "How do you characterise the victim?" The response seems mealy-mouthed: "Whatever you say in a situation like this comes across wrong". Wilson doesn't need to ask if her guest was right to compare Evans's case to that of the Birmingham Six: as it is, Gilhooly's unapologetic appearance does his cause little good.