TV & Radio

Insight needed on unfair stereotyping of priests
Jesse Wallace and Shane Richie in new Eastenders spin off , Redwater.

A short but worthy season of The Leap of Faith (RTÉ Radio 1), came to a low key end last Friday night.

This last episode included an interesting item on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. David Dunlea of the Jehovah Witnesses in Ireland and presenter Michael Comyn discussed the oppression of the Witnesses in Russia where it seems they’ve now been classed as extremists and have had their property seized, apparently with the collusion of the Orthodox Church but with the disapproval of the Catholics. 

As Dunlea pointed out, the Witnesses he knows are far from extremist or any threat to the state.

I’d like to have heard more about the beliefs of the Witnesses and in what way they differed from mainstream Christians. Coymn did ask how they interpreted Scripture and avoided out-of-context misinterpretations if they hadn’t any central guidance. Dunlea said that they let Scripture interpret Scripture, which certainly needed more elaboration.


In a second item, about the wellbeing of priests, Fr Roy Donovan spokesperson for the Association of Catholic Priests and Fergal Rooney, Principal Psychologist at St John of God’s discussed how isolation and loneliness were big problems, and while celibacy was raised it was broader than that – there were times when curates in parishes lived with other curates and a housekeeper and this informal support structure was less common nowadays. 

They also referenced the demoralising effects of the child abuse scandals and the fears priests had of being wrongly accused. Something more on the unfair stereotyping of priests in the media and the effect of that would have been in order as well. 

While Leap of Faith was on the way out for now, RTÉ launched a new TV drama series, Redwater, last Sunday night. It was a bit of a hybrid – an RTÉ/BBC co-production that featured characters (Kat and Alfie) from BBC soap Eastenders. 

For the most part I liked it – the acting was mostly confident and relaxed, the script was witty and the profanities relatively infrequent. The Waterford seaside setting was used to good effect and some of the cinematography was downright poetic. The plot – and especially the relationships - were hard to follow at times and I had to pause the credits to get a handle on how the main characters were connected. 


Oisín Stack was interesting and as local priest Fr Dermot, sympathetically portrayed, at least until the rather melodramatic ending, which included a rather tasteless scene involving the Eucharist. 

Stack was interviewed on the Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1) last Monday morning, when he said they researched the look of modern young priests to guide them for his portrayal.

US disease drama Containment (RTÉ 2 Saturday nights) has a religion problem as well. 

The virus that has a chunk of Atlanta under quarantine may be highly contagious but I doubt if enthusiasm for the show will catch so quickly. As is often the case, the initial premise had the makings of tense drama, but too much of it has sagged under the weight of soapy plot developments and clichéd platitudes. In last Saturday’s episode some characters went to what seemed a Protestant Evangelical church complete with healing preacher. 

One described the place as creepy and blamed the nuns (!) for being ‘sadistic’, sending them there for Bible study when they were young. Looks like they’ve also got the prejudice infection. 

Not unconnected, the peculiar blasphemy controversy rumbled on for another week. One of the best discussions was on last Saturday morning’s Talking Point (Newstalk) – a more reflective treatment of the issue than some of the knee-jerk stuff from earlier in the week. 

Church of Ireland Canon Rev. Ginnie Kennerly disapproved of gratuitous offence but thought a blasphemy law was “problematic in a pluralist society”. Lawyer Eoin O’Dell of Trinity College said he was in favour of free speech with no legal limits, no ‘buts’, but I’d like to have heard him challenged more on that – would he not favour laws on libel for example? 

If not, surely justice would be ill-served, if so then I’d suggest he would be assenting to some pretty large ‘buts’. Joe Humphries of The Irish Times noted that the bishops didn’t have anything to say and presenter Sarah Carey suggested they’d be afraid of having their heads taken off. They mustn’t have noticed Bishop Kevin Doran’s contribution from the front page of last week’s The Irish Catholic.


Pick of the week


BBC 1, Tuesday, May 23, 9pm
New drama series – Catholic priest Fr Michael Kerrigan questions how much of an impact he can really have on the ever-evolving spiritual landscape of modern-day Britain. 


EWTN, Wednesday, May 24, 11am
Discussing the continuing importance of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima a century ago.

Tuam Babies  
TG4, Wednesday, May 24, 8.30pm                            
The BBC Alba current affairs series ‘Eorpa’ tells the human story born in Tuam’s Mother and Baby Home.