Henry McKean gets stuck on the train as he en­dures the tra­vails of rail com­muters; while 4FM host Niall Boy­lan gets stuck in and fires up his au­di­ence

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - AUDIO REVIEWS -

‘All week on New­stalk, it’s Ire­land’s com­muter hell.” Taken on its own, this sounds like a threat by the com­mer­cial sta­tion to add to rush-hour mis­ery, say by un­veil­ing Peter Casey as a new driv­e­time show host. Hap­pily, this isn’t the case, for now any­way. Rather, it’s Pat Kenny’s way of in­tro­duc­ing a re­port by Henry McKean on over­crowded trains, as part of New­stalk’s week-long fo­cus on the coun­try’s trans­port prob­lems. The pic­ture painted by McKean (on The Pat

Kenny Show, week­days) is not a pretty one, though to de­scribe his un­com­fort­able jour­ney from Dublin to New­bridge as “hell” might be over­stat­ing the case. The pas­sen­gers he en­coun­ters pay up to ¤3,500 per year to travel in packed car­riages, with fre­quent de­lays. “It’s a sar­dine can on wheels,” is the ver­dict of one dis­grun­tled rail user.

The rea­sons for this state of af­fairs are fa­mil­iar ones of poor fund­ing and wonky plan­ning. Ex­pand­ing its ser­vice af­ter years of un­der­in­vest­ment, Irish Rail has or­dered 300 new car­riages, due in three years: in the mean­time, the sys­tem strains as num­bers in­crease. That said, it’s hard to feel sym­pa­thy for the pas­sen­ger who, hav­ing taken the rail­way for the first time in a decade, com­plains he can’t find a seat to work on his lap­top.

The bright spot amid all this gloom is McKean him­self. Un­fail­ingly cour­te­ous yet anx­iously scatty, he ex­plains how he took the New­bridge train by mis­take, “so you could say I chose it ran­domly”, in­ces­santly apol­o­gises to pas­sen­gers for be­ing “sniffly” and is pal­pa­bly up­set when a mother can­not board the jammed car­riage with her buggy. But his on-air per­sona be­lies an abil­ity to con­nect with peo­ple and elicit telling anec­dotes. If ev­ery train com­pan­ion were as win­ning, com­mut­ing mightn’t be so bad.


For a truly hellish vi­sion, one turns to Morn­ing

Ire­land (RTÉ Ra­dio 1, week­days), which car­ries a grue­some re­port on a new oral his­tory of the Trou­bles. Re­porter Juliet Gash hears former UDR sol­dier Noel Downey re­call es­cap­ing from his car af­ter was booby-trapped by the IRA in 1990. “I kept get­ting up and fall­ing down,” Downey says. “I only re­alised why later. My leg was gone – it was in the back of the car.”

Such tes­ti­mony may be jolt­ing to hear, but is cathar­tic for those giv­ing it. The project, or­gan­ised by Ca­van County Coun­cil, records the sto­ries of vic­tims of vi­o­lence and their rel­a­tives, such as Josie Mur­ray, whose brother was stabbed to death (by Bri­tish sol­diers) in a 1972 in­ci­dent known as the “pitch­fork mur­ders”. Fam­i­lies re­ceived no coun­selling at the time, “this project gave them com­fort”, says Ca­van county li­brar­ian Tom Sul­li­van. Gash’s re­port could hardly be called com­fort­ing, but is a terse re­minder about the bloody re­al­ity of Ire­land’s re­cent con­flicts, in the week when the cen­te­nary of the first World War armistice is com­mem­o­rated.

Such items il­lus­trate Morn­ing Ire­land’s abil­ity to set the agenda de­spite pre­fer­ring a more straight­for­wardly fac­tual ap­proach over loud ed­i­to­ri­al­is­ing. Louise Byrne’s re­port on home­less fam­i­lies liv­ing in “hubs” lays out the ben­e­fits of the sys­tem – “It’s some­where for the kids to call home for a lit­tle while,” says former res­i­dent Clare – as well as its short­com­ings and hu­mil­i­a­tions. Home­care sup­port worker and hub res­i­dent Carol ap­pre­ci­ates the staff sup­port for her and her seven year-old, “but I’m 33 and I have to be signed in ev­ery night”.

De­spite be­ing touted as a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion, Byrne high­lights the lack of data on the du­ra­tion of stays in th­ese mainly char­ity-run ac­com­mo­da­tions. She fin­ishes up by read­ing a let­ter from Min­is­ter for Hous­ing Eoghan Mur­phy de­mand­ing that lo­cal coun­cils cre­ate more hubs. For all Byrne’s neu­tral tone, her seg­ment is more damn­ing than any histri­onic opin­ion piece.


Bal­anced com­men­tary is a scarce com­mod­ity on the Niall Boy­lan Show (Clas­sic Hits 4FM, week­days), not that the host would have it any other way, as his ral­ly­ing cry makes clear: “What gets your blood Boy­lan?” Plenty, it turns out. (Boy­lan’s per­sonal sore point is the gen­er­ous hol­i­day al­lowance en­joyed by his “old pal” Joe Duffy, whom he glee­fully im­per­son­ates.) On Wed­nes­day, Boy­lan hears from call­ers in vary­ing de­grees of ag­i­ta­tion about top­ics from Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar’s call to cur­tail hos­pi­tal staff’s Christ­mas hol­i­days to the pos­si­bil­ity of his­tor­i­cal re­dress for vic­tims of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

The lat­ter pro­posal is floated by Boy­lan him­self, dis­play­ing his tal­ent for find­ing is­sues to rile his lis­ten­ers. That said, the abuse suf­fered by school­child­ren in the past was all too real, as the host knows. He re­counts the ap­palling pun­ish­ment he suf­fered at school, from the Chris­tian Brother who held him out a se­cond-floor win­dow by the an­kles, to the “evil” pri­mary school teacher who used a dowel to beat his hand un­til it was red. “Maybe he’s dead now, maybe the best place for him,” Boy­lan re­marks.

Boy­lan’s stark per­sonal hon­esty brings forth other ac­counts of ter­ri­ble phys­i­cal abuse. But there are also call­ers who re­ject Boy­lan’s hy­po­thet­i­cal idea as though it were an­other ex­am­ple of PC non­sense. “You can­not go back and leg­is­late for the val­ues of the time,” says James, who talks about be­ing beaten as a pupil but adds, with tragi­comic in­evitabil­ity, “It did me good.”

Such ex­changes seem paragons of self-aware­ness com­pared with Boy­lan’s in­ter­view with Peter Casey. The former pres­i­den­tial can­di­date is on the show to com­plain about Ryan Tubridy’s treat­ment of him on The Late Late Show, deem­ing it “pa­tro­n­is­ing” and “in­sult­ing”. Quite. Casey then dis­putes a tweet from 2FM pre­sen­ter Jen­nifer Zam­par­elli al­leg­ing he didn’t know what di­rect pro­vi­sion was. “I think she was just look­ing for a few mo­ments of spec­tac­u­lar glory,” Casey says, con­firm­ing the old adage about satire be­ing dead. Ra­dio ca­reers have been built on less: com­muters be­ware.

‘‘ The pic­ture painted by McKean is not a pretty one, though to de­scribe his un­com­fort­able jour­ney from Dublin to New­bridge as “hell” might be over­stat­ing the case


Un­fail­ingly cour­te­ous yet anx­iously scatty: Henry McKean.

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