TALK­ING PURE TUR­KEY

Can­dour is not on the menu as Ryan Tubridy gen­tly grills for­mer Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams; while Joe Duffy’s dis­con­tented call­ers see yel­low

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

When Ryan Tubridy is gaug­ing con­tentious sub­jects, one would imag­ine that an in­ter­view with the au­thor of a celebrity cook­book would come in at the lower end of the scale. Lis­ten­ers may lick their lips at the recipes or, more likely, sti­fle a yawn about the bland fare. But on Wednesday’s edi­tion of

(RTÉ Ra­dio 1, weekdays), the host’s con­ver­sa­tion with the lat­est fa­mous fig­ure hawk­ing a cash-in culi­nary vol­ume elic­its a dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion in the mouths of his au­di­ence.

“There’s a lot of gnash­ing of teeth,” Tubridy tells his guest. “When­ever I say Gerry Adams is go­ing to be on the ra­dio, peo­ple say, how can you talk to him about a cook­book when he had this past?”

How in­deed? One of the more un­set­tling side ef­fects of the peace process has been the for­mer Sinn Féin leader’s ef­forts to nudge his pub­lic im­age from schem­ing repub­li­can master­mind to avun­cu­lar ec­cen­tric, whether by tweet­ing pic­tures of teddy bears or telling a stunned Seán Mon­crieff that he tram­po­lines in the nude, an ad­mis­sion that evoked un­ex­pected nos­tal­gia for

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the Sec­tion 31 era of Ir­ish ra­dio.

Pre­sum­ably hop­ing to avoid sim­i­lar out­rages, Tubridy adopts a sterner pos­ture than usual when he talks to Adams about his lat­est pub­li­ca­tion, The Ne­go­tia­tors (sic) Cook­book. (One mooted ti­tle was Tur­key ár Lá.) The re­sults are per­plex­ing but also re­veal­ing, al­beit un­in­ten­tion­ally.

Adams starts by ex­plain­ing that the book’s ori­gins lie in one of per­fid­i­ous Al­bion’s lesser-known mis­deeds. “The Bri­tish were ter­ri­ble at feed­ing ne­go­tia­tors down the years,” says Adams, de­scrib­ing peace process talks in Lon­don that would go on late into the night with­out any food ap­pear­ing. (Adams says he would quip about Ire­land’s “an­ces­tral hunger”.)

Ac­cord­ingly, the Sinn Féin team de­vel­oped an in­for­mal “din­ers’ club” dur­ing the Good Fri­day ne­go­ti­a­tions at Stor­mont, from whence these recipes came.

After this open­ing riff, Tubridy lobs his soft­ball ques­tions with slightly more ve­loc­ity. “What do you say to peo­ple who are fu­ri­ous about us talk­ing to­day?” he asks. “They need to get a life,” replies Adams. “The more we talk, the more we lis­ten, the bet­ter off we’re go­ing to be.” It’s a wor­thy sen­ti­ment, even if he sounds more ir­ri­tated that peo­ple are still harp­ing on about the Provos.

Adams is hap­pier talk­ing about some sub­jects rather than oth­ers. He thinks Sinn Féin “called it wrong” dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and “re­grets” the Trou­bles killed so many and went on so long, though he still thinks some kind of con­flict was in­evitable. But when Tubridy asks about Máiría Cahill, who charges that an IRA mem­ber raped her, he says he won’t com­ment on the case any more.

Along the way, there are flashes of his in­tel­li­gence, in­sight and even reflection. Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, Tubridy is no more suc­cess­ful than any­one else in get­ting his guest to open up. In clos­ing, Adams talks fondly about the late Martin McGuin­ness, say­ing how much he misses his friend and com­rade. But, he adds, McGuin­ness would be “a wee bit em­bar­rassed by this cook­book”. Some­how, that says more than any­thing else.

Liv­ing con­di­tions

Else­where, dis­con­tent with liv­ing con­di­tions in con­tem­po­rary Ire­land may be reach­ing a French-style tip­ping point. On Mon­day’s edi­tion of (RTÉ Ra­dio 1, weekdays), one un­happy lis­tener even urges peo­ple to take to the streets in hi-vis yel­low vests. Joe Duffy hears from Mon­aghan res­i­dent Mau­reen who, hav­ing ac­cu­mu­lated many penalty points for mi­nor speed­ing vi­o­la­tions, is an­noyed with what she sees as “un­fair” mea­sures used against mo­torists.

Mau­reen de­tails how she was clocked by hid­den vans, a prac­tice she deems “sneaky”. “They’re just out to get you,” she says. The sim­ple phrase nearly ar­tic­u­lates the sort of dis­af­fec­tion that has driven the gilets jaunes protests in France. Right on cue, Mau­reen ad­vo­cates the wear­ing of yel­low vests. Not, how­ever, as a means of dis­sent. In­stead, she feels pedes­tri­ans should be obliged to wear them at night.

Other call­ers feel that Mau­reen is mainly ag­grieved be­cause she got caught. Fi­achra, who runs a trans­port com­pany, of­fers his own ad­vice: “Obey the speed limit.”

Mean­while, John and Brian phone from a car in Ger­many to ex­plain how there is no sym­pa­thy for peo­ple caught speed­ing un­less they’re on the au­to­bahn, where driv­ers reg­u­larly hit speeds close to 300km/h. Duffy, who has ap­peared some­what asleep at the wheel through­out the

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dis­cus­sion, perks up at this news. “What’s that sen­sa­tion like when you hit those re­ally high speeds?” the host asks, in a tone that sug­gests envy rather the dis­ap­proval. The point of the call, that Ger­many has far more strin­gent traf­fic rules, gets some­what lost as Brian de­scribes the ex­pe­ri­ence of speed­ing down the mo­tor­way.

Duffy re­turns to the theme of anger and alien­ation in the face of of­fi­cial in­dif­fer­ence on Wednesday, when he talks to an­other Mon­aghan caller, El­iz­a­beth, who re­turned home from New Zealand six years ago but is now so dis­grun­tled that she wants to go back. Specif­i­cally, she is an­noyed about pro­posed new speed­ing penal­ties, call­ing them “the last straw”. But, more gen­er­ally, El­iz­a­beth thinks Ir­ish cit­i­zens have been “de­val­ued”.

“We’re be­ing stripped back like an onion, peeled bit by bit since the 2008 fall­out,” she says. “I’m just feel­ing worn down, and wanted to get the pulse of the peo­ple.”

Pos­si­bly miffed that El­iz­a­beth seems to be usurp­ing his role as barom­e­ter of na­tional opin­ion, Duffy takes con­trol of the con­ver­sa­tion, fram­ing his caller’s com­plaints in a wider con­text. “One of the things that fea­tured in the yel­low vest protests was all the stuff you were talk­ing about,” the host com­ments, point­ing to ru­ral iso­la­tion, post of­fice clo­sures and more strin­gent drink-driv­ing laws. “I’m not say­ing I’m for or against,” he adds, lest any­one ac­cuse him of rab­ble-rous­ing.

But for bet­ter or worse, Duffy may be onto some­thing. For those jaun­diced with in­equities of Ir­ish life, the yel­low vest may be com­ing into fash­ion.

‘‘ One of the more un­set­tling side ef­fects of the peace process has been the for­mer Sinn Fein lead­ers’s ef­forts to nudge his pub­lic im­age from schem­ing repub­li­can master­mind to avun­cu­lar ec­cen­tric, whether by tweet­ing pic­tures of teddy bears or telling a stunned Sean Mon­crieff that he tram­po­lines in the nude

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ERIC LUKE

Gerry Adams: flashes of in­tel­li­gence, in­sight and even reflection.

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