Sporting cliches abound as Trump’s election kicks off a whole new ball game
Radio Review: ‘Morning Ireland’, ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’, ‘Documentary on One: Sin-é – Jeff Buckley’s Irish Odyssey’, ‘The Ray D’Arcy Show’
Ireland beat the All-Blacks: rugby triumphs provide cold comfort as RTÉ presenters discuss the Trump economy. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Barely a week has passed, and what only a few days earlier seemed unthinkable has become such an accepted fact of life that it’s already the stuff of cliche. The world may still be coming to terms with a Donald Trump presidency, but as Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) shows, the Ireland rugby team’s stunning victory over the All Blacks is well on its way to becoming a hackneyed conversational trope.
On Monday Cathal Mac Coille talks to Mark Redmond of the American Chamber of Commerce about the US president-elect’s promise to lure back US companies with tax cuts. Rather than providing concrete answers the interview yields a seam of trite motivational phrases.
US companies are here because “the talent they have found in Ireland is second to none”, Redmond says before wheeling out the chestnut that 60 million Americans claim Irish heritage.
When the terminally doubtful Mac Coille voices misgivings – “Yes, but” is practically his catchphrase – Redmond wheels out his trump card: “When Joe Schmidt saw his team beating the All Blacks in Chicago, I bet he didn’t start worrying that they’re angry now and are going to thump us in the Aviva. He said, ‘Let’s build on this success and kick on.’ ”
Patriotic ardour suitably stirred, Redmond carries on, albeit unconvincingly: “That’s what US multinationals do here.” For some reason this is not reassuring. The interview is also symptomatic of the blindly – not to say blandly – sanguine view of officialdom that what worked for lovable little Ireland in the past will continue to do so.
Still, the new reality seems to be sinking in, at least in some quarters. Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, avoids blinkered optimism when he says that “the game has changed” with Trump’s election. “There’s no point in saying, ‘We’re great people, we beat the All Blacks,’ ” Martin pointedly says.
Pressed by O’Rourke, he comes up with clear policy goals as an alternative economic strategy, proposing to increase investment in education and research. It’s a sensible suggestion, if a bit like rearranging the proverbial deck chairs on a sinking ship.
Not that things appear much better at home. O’Rourke talks to the former Irish Times editor Conor Brady about his latter-day career as a crime novelist, but the conversation soon strays into dispiriting territory. After hearing about Brady’s latest book about his Victorian Dublin detective, Joe Swallow, O’Rourke moves the discussion to contemporary policing.
The presenter asks his guest, who previously served on the Garda Ombudsman Commission, for his opinion about the recent strike threats that shook the force. Brady says that although he’s sympathetic – his father was a garda – he constantly encountered obstructionism while working on Gsoc.
And he’s horrified by the Government’s surrender to the strike threat. “No future group of Garda negotiators is going to be any less militant or any less subversive,” he says. It’s strong language, especially from a natural ally of the police. But Brady goes on, calling out the “bloodymindedness” and “aggressiveness” running through the force: “I think it’s as dark a cloud as there’s been.”
Even amid all the Trump hyperbole it’s the week’s most alarming piece of radio, all the more so given Brady’s otherwise understated style, even on matters of profound personal loss.
O’Rourke asks how his guest has been doing since the death of his wife, Ann, last year. “Ah, it’s not a linear thing,” Brady says, sighing, with the unsentimental realism of someone who has been painfully bereaved. “You get on.” It’s a fleeting glimpse of grief but is still as vivid a picture of loss as any in-depth exploration of the subject. For a moment the world’s woes seem small.
The spectre of loss courses through Documentary on One: Sin-é – Jeff Buckley’s Irish Odyssey (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday and Sunday), a lively portrait of the late American singer-songwriter. Narrated by Lillian Smith, the documentary follows the music journalist Steve Cummins as he travels to New York’s Lower East Side to discover the tale of Sin-é, a tiny cafe, founded by the Irishman Shane Doyle, that went on become one of the city’s coolest nightspots in the early 1990s.
Buckley first forged his talent at Sin-é, often in front of audiences of no more than five or six; he went on to release one cult album before drowning in the Mississippi river in 1997. It’s a poignant tale, but what really makes the documentary is an unexpected diversion to Ireland, where Buckley played the Trinity Ball while an unsigned artist.
The former record-company scout Michael Murphy talks fondly about Buckley’s visit, as do Murphy’s parents, with whom the singer stayed. Anecdotes about the young singer watching The Late Late Show bring him to life more than any posthumous accolade. And Glen Hansard’s observation about Buckley’s weariness towards the end of his life adds a melancholy coda.
It is a quietly uplifting programme, a timely story of how inspiration and hope can be found in the most unlikely places. At times like these, that’s worth remembering.