Ireland's voice in Europe moves back to pastures green


AT TIMES like these, Ireland needs all the friends it can get in Europe. So it’s sad news indeed to report the departure of Ireland’s voice in Europe: Audrey Carville.

Apologies to Charlie McCreevy, but it is Carville who has done the country most service in Europe in recent years, courtesy of the BBC World Service.

Every weekday at 6pm, she presents the hour-long Europe Today programme, an informative and entertaining look at the day’s events on the continent. With her mellifluous voice and unflappable air, it’s not just Europe that has been in good hands: in her four years with the programme, Carville has brought to World Service audiences a host of interesting Irish stories and issues. “And now I’m returning to the mother land in our hour of need,” she laughs.

Born in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, Carville will be a familiar voice to many in Ireland, having worked in Northern Sound, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle – at the height of the Drumcree violence.

“It was pretty hot and heavy in those days,” she recalls. “One of my first jobs was to interview a mixed-marriage couple who had basically been burned out of their home in Derry.”

In 2004 she swapped Belfast for the BBC World Service in London and Europe Today, interviewing ordinary Europeans telling often extraordinary stories.

“We had a Kosovar Albanian woman on recently who told of how Serb soldiers had come to her house, lined her and her family up in the garden and shot each person five or six times. She was shot seven times and survived with horrific injuries,” she says.

Irish stories are a regular feature on the programme. Thanks to Carville, for instance, the world now knows about Brian Cowen’s nixer as muse to struggling artists.

The programme’s coverage of the Irish downturn has prompted a big response from listeners, she says, not to mention the reaction to last year’s Lisbon Treaty vote.

“There was a very strong opinion that came through then that listeners viewed the Irish as ungrateful,” she recalls. “You try to explain and put things into context but sometimes people have their minds firmly made up.”

Having decided to return to Dublin, Carville says she’ll miss the Europe Today buzz. “Once we had a Pakistani man married to a Latvian woman in Ireland with not a word of English between them – live on air,” she laughs.

“All she could say was, ‘yes, yes, yes’. I still don’t know how they communicated with each other.”