It was a dizzying week, with more drama on Oireachtas TV than on any mainstream channel.
It had all the features of fictional drama – moral dilemmas, cliffhanging tension, heroes (short supply), villains (don’t ask), the rise and fall of interlocking story arcs. You didn’t know from breakfast through lunch whether you’d still have a government by dinner time. Dáil sittings went on so late you couldn’t even hit the sack without hitting the remote to check for the latest developments.
It was a field day, nay, field week, for the media, thriving as it does on conflict. Political anoraks who had the time feverishly button popped between RTÉ’s Morning Ireland and Newstalk’s Breakfast, and rejoiced that the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) got going before Today With Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1) – crucial fresh news at 9am and then more at 10am. Often you had to listen to the same spokespersons, though it was worth staying alert for subtle nuances of difference.
On Newstalk’s High Noon George Hook had a broader range of topics so you could risk tripping to the shop for bread, but headphones or car radio were essential just in case. RTÉ Radio 1’s News At One was riveting, Liveline was optional, the Ray D’Arcy Show gave you a chance to cut the grass, but you had to get back on the horse for Newstalk’s Drive, where Chris Donoghue and Sarah McInerney upped the emotional ante for about 20 minutes before we got any real news.
Matt Cooper’s Last Word (Today FM) meant you needed a third push button on the radio for an hour or two, but there was always solid news and minimal guff on RTÉ’s Drivetime.
The Six-One News was obligatory and then you could get relief therapy with Oireachtas TV until the Nine News and Prime Time. One Prime interview in particular impressed – Trevor Collins, solicitor for Garda Keith Harrison, explained what his client had to put up with, and it was ugly.
All this media consumption is assuming you didn’t have a life! But you weren’t finished yet after Prime Time. Two of the best programmes were yet to come!
I like Cormac Ó hEadhra’s incisive no-nonsense style on RTÉ’s Late Debate, rattling cages with great gusto on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, including a bust-up over who was telling truth or not.
Meanwhile, the host was in fine fettle on TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne. On the Monday night he gave a right old ragging to Colm Brophy of Fine Gael, making me wonder who he had cheesed off to get that gig – the party didn’t provide any speaker to the same night’s Clare Byrne Live.
On the latter show on I was struck by an interview with Mary Lynch, the taxi driver who was beaten up and later ill served during the investigation by some in the gardai, who conveniently blamed whistle-blower Maurice McCabe for the errors.
On Tuesday’s Tonight show, Browne said he turned down the Fine Gael person he was offered because that person was a ‘stonewaller’. Banning people from programmes is questionable – I’d rather see them getting a go, and filleted as necessary.
Anyway, that Browne show got you to midnight, and then, to prove you weren’t too parochial, you had to listen to the Midnight News on BBC Radio 4 or BBC World Service, just to keep track of the rest of the world. Politics hath murdered sleep, and after that what dreams may come.
And so, an antidote was needed. It was a relief to tune into the calmer Leap of Faith last Friday night on RTÉ Radio 1. Religion teacher Ailis Travers was interviewed about her book of prayers for young people – (Oxygen For the Soul) – and the practice of saying prayers and lighting candles for young people doing exams.
She valued the old prayers that had been somewhat forgotten, along with some new and unfamiliar ones. She respected the prayer traditions of other religions and saw positive aspects even in secular meditation like mindfulness.
I liked her theme of praying for others, e.g. when you see their picture on your mobile phone. She suggested that praying for people who aren’t themselves believers is often appreciated by them.
So, drawing my two strands together, how about we pray for our politicians and especially our whistle-blowers who are going through challenging times.
Pick of the week
WHERE GOD WEEPS
EWTN Saturday, February 25, 7pm
Prof. Shahid Mobeen discusses the impact blasphemy laws are having on religious minorities in Pakistan, and their devastating consequences.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
BBC 1 Sunday, February 26, 10am
Nicky Campbell presents the programme live from Heatlands Academy, Birmingham.
QUEST FOR SHAKESPEARE
EWTN Friday, March 3, 7pm
The right to choose – themes of freedom and choice are seen as moral backbones among his dramas. Tensions exist between genuine free will and Calvinistic notions of predestination.