TV & Radio

Celebrities, social issues and the lives of priests

Bishop Edward Daly featured on Sunday Sequence (BBC).

What I like about Sunday Sequence (BBC Radio Ulster) is the wide variety of topics and contributors. 

Last Sunday’s edition had several worthwhile topics covered even in the first half hour. There was an analysis of the current political troubles in resource-rich Venezuela, outlining the Church’s mediation attempts and its difficulty in avoiding manipulation by either side. The second item was about the unusual concept of sports chaplaincy. 

Warren Evans of Sports Chaplaincy UK spoke about outreach to gyms in particular, the ethos being to offer service and spirituality to people who were already seeking to improve their lives in the physical sense. 

Our own Michael Kelly contributed effectively to a discussion of the stress priests and ministers can be under and emphasised the need for support and friendship. This segment ended with the touching story of The Tragic Wives Swimming Club – women in caring roles finding mutual support.

I enjoyed the discussion on our obsession with celebrity. Bishop Donal McKeon reckoned the celebs had plenty of money but wondered about their service and contribution to society. 

David Lyle, advertising expert, spoke of them in terms of “veneration”, “distraction” and “trivia”. 

Sociology Professor Ellis Cashmore suggested they inspire us, sometimes just to “adore” them! The way celebrities become “vehicles” for selling us stuff was another interesting strand but the charity work of some was also acknowledged. 

With all the talk of adoration and veneration I’d like to have heard more discussion on attitudes to the saints, though Mother Teresa did get a mention. Perhaps the celebs are the saints of the secular culture, but many are less than ideal role models. 

Bishop McKeon stayed on for a review of the life of Bishop Edward Daly of Derry on the first anniversary of his death. Most stories were familiar, but I was intrigued to know he had been instrumental in getting Jim Reeves and Roy Orbison to Derry in his early days, and I was impressed by how fulfilling he found his work as a hospice chaplain in his later years. 

Bishop McKeon described him as having a “passion for the welfare of the ordinary person” and believing in a God that believes in people. 

Controversial social issues are rarely out of the news and though an obvious truth can be hidden it often manages to filter out. 

On The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) last week the host introduced an item on infant nutrition in the first one thousand days – “from conception to the age of two”. 


The discussion that followed included frequent references to the “child” or “baby” in the womb. Nothing particularly noteworthy there you might think, the science is sound, but funny how when termination becomes an issue in other discussions, the start of human life is suddenly shifted to a much later stage, even birth. 

There was a related good news story which I first heard on Newstalk’s Breakfast on the 7am news headlines. It was the news that the Advertising Standards Authority had rejected complaints against a pro-life billboard (from the Both Lives Matter group) that claimed that 100,000 lives had been saved by the North of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. 

The authority found this claim had a “reasonable probability”. Similarly credible figures have been claimed for the Republic, and there’s an irony in that – some of those campaigning to liberalise abortion laws North and South may very well be alive because of those restrictive laws. 

Newstalk returned to the issue that evening on the Drive programme, when Sarah McInerney interviewed Dawn McEvoy of Both Lives Matter. 

It was courteous but challenging, which in itself is not a problem, but I only wish that pro-choice advocates were asked the hard questions.

On the same day The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) featured a positive and cheerful interview with the recently ordained Fr David Vard of Portlaoise parish, now the youngest priest in the country. 

His vocation story included experience of a Catholic youth group, a school trip to Lourdes and the example of good priests. Kenny pointed out that his interest in priesthood coincided with a time when controversies were “swirling” around the Church, when “many priests were tarred with wrong brush that’s for sure”, but Fr Vard said his contact was with “the good side of the Church” and obviously that had made all the difference.


Pick of the week

FILM: The Way

BBC 2, Saturday (night), August 12, 12.15am
(2010) A father completes the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage for his deceased son. Starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.


Mass for the Feast of the Assumption
RTĖ One, Tuesday, August 15, 10am
A Eurovision Mass from the church of St Joseph de La Tour-de-Trême in the Gruyère region of Switzerland. Commentary: Michael Kelly.


Channel 4, Thursday, August 17, 10pm
This documentary meets five married couples in Brent to find out what glues them together.