When you’re in a hole, Ryan Tubridy, stop digging

Radio Review: The RTÉ host’s interview with Orla Brady turns cringeworthy

  Ryan Tubridy usually isn’t one to get flustered

Ryan Tubridy usually isn’t one to get flustered


Ryan Tubridy usually isn’t one to get flustered during embarrassing or awkward situations – he hosts The Late Late Show every week, after all – but on Tuesday’s Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) he is left discombobulated by the mother of all slip-ups.

After greeting his audience in customarily cheery fashion, his tone abruptly changes. “It’s the 20th of June,” he says, “and now I’m going to be in a bit of bother, because it’s my mother’s birthday and I forgot to call her. Sorry. I love you,” he adds, sheepishly. 

Although he hams up his contrition for the microphone, Tubridy is obviously devoted to his mother: he sounds mortified at his lapse in filial duties. It’s a rare exhibition of discomfiture from a presenter who habitually projects an easy certitude, whether interviewing guests or holding forth in monologues. 

In the latter case Tubridy’s confidence in the value of his experiences means he can convincingly extol the virtues of renting a fishing boat on a summer’s day or, less winningly, talk at length about attending an Elton John show. When he talks to the actor Orla Brady his approach yields an interview that veers between the topical and the cringeworthy, with the occasional overlap. 

Brady talks about being encouraged by the young women she sees on marches for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. His antennae twitching at mention of this contentious issue, Tubridy smooths over any potential partisanship by remarking that a referendum on the abortion issue “should settle it one way or another, regardless of the outcome”. He adds that the matter has gone “on and on” but elides the reasons why.

Tubridy is less alert to a possible faux pas when he suggests to Brady that “physically, you’re comfortable where you’re at”. Noting that his guest has pulled a face at his question, the presenter keeps digging a hole for himself: he is referring to “cutting and pasting the face up”, he explains. Brady sounds flabbergasted, before Tubridy rescues the situation, slightly, by quoting an old interview in which his guest rules out cosmetic surgery. Still, it seems unlikely that he would ask a man such a question. Tubridy’s breezy style is made for carefree sunny days, but sometimes it’s better to keep mum.

An indictment of the health system

There’s little brightness on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), where proceedings are dominated by the dreadful story of Thomas Power, a 40-year-old Waterford man who has died. On Monday, having warned listeners that “this is a very distressing story”, Joe Duffy hears from Power’s sister, Catherine, who recounts how her brother suffered a heart attack the day before and had to be taken to Cork by ambulance for a procedure, as the cardiac catheterisation laboratory at University Hospital Waterford was closed for the weekend. Power died of cardiac arrest en route, leaving behind his pregnant wife. 

It’s an awful tale, not least because events are so fresh. Calmly lucid for much of the time, Catherine breaks down regularly as she talks about her brother’s death. But as well as being a human tragedy, it’s an indictment of the health system. Catherine is calling to highlight the fact that the medical facility that could have saved Powers’s life operates only during weekday office hours. “This can’t go on,” she says. 

Duffy is alive to the sensitivities of the story. He sounds upset as he hears more about Power – “Oh my God, oh my God,” he gasps at one stage. But the presenter is also aware of its wider significance. Before Catherine has finished her account the host is speaking to another Waterford woman who survived a similar experience. Duffy also hits on the line that encapsulates the situation: that the Waterford cath lab is closed four times as long as it is open. 

With this statistic repeated at regular intervals, the issue unsurprisingly dominates the programme for the week. Former firemen and current cardiologists decry the report by Dr Niall Herrity, a consultant cardiologist, that advised against operating the lab full time, while former patients recount near misses where they fortuitously arrived just before the cardiac facility closed. 

After this accumulation of evidence, not to mention Duffy’s constant air of indignation, the situation seems intolerable and untenable. It’s particularly damning that it has taken an unnecessary death to bring the matter to a head. Add to this the impression that a phone-in host appears more exercised than the Minister responsible and you get radio that is compelling but despairing too.

Ireland by bike

You know things are bad after that when Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) provides light relief. But Cian McCormack’s reports from his “Ireland by bike” cycling tour have been an undiluted delight. His description of cycling through a sun-drenched Burren is enough to put a spring in the step of even the most reluctant early riser.

McCormack draws out vignettes that are by turns intriguing and instructive. There is Mary, a musician who extols the virtues of her bright red “concertina shoes”, and Rita, a Doonbeg grocer grateful for business from Donald Trump’s nearby golf course. 

Even as he allows people to tell their story McCormack displays an understated wit, as when he meets Trea, a campsite owner who is hosting a pagan summer-solstice ceremony. Trea sings the praises of losing oneself in her on-site labyrinth.

“It’s like life,” she says. “You’re not sure whether you’re going forward or backward, but you find our way eventually.” “Sounds like cycling,” comes the reporter’s deadpan response.

On air, at least, McCormack is going in the right direction.


Devotees of poetry may have bittersweet feelings about The Lyric Feature: When the War Is Over (Lyric FM, Friday), but Claire Cunningham’s documentary about Francis Ledwidge, the Co Meath poet killed in the first World War, tells a quietly captivating story. Drawing on contemporary contributors as well as archive interviews with Ledwidge’s brother, the programme traces the poet’s short life, exploring how his verse drew on his rural background, as well as his political sympathies and, of course, his doomed service with the British army in Flanders. With the centenary of his death in July, it’s an eloquent tribute to a writer whose work defies easy definition but still sings.

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