With all the fractious controversies raging over Brexit, I like to listen to all sides of the debate, and there are certainly more than two! For the most part Irish commentary tends to range from mildly anti-Brexit to regarding those who voted to leave as stupid.
But there are exceptions and we got relatively balanced coverage on a particularly engaging Today With Seán O’Rourke (RTE Radio 1) on Thursday.
Brexit supporter John Redwood MP saw no big problem with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s five-week suspension of Parliament and at one stage took issue with the “pejorative” language of guest presenter Miriam O’Callaghan when she referred to a “crash-out” Brexit.
Labour Party member and journalist Paul Mason referred to Redwood being part of “a privileged elite bored with democracy”. We got an Irish perspective from local politicians Patrick O’Donovan (FG) and Dara Calleary (FF), while Sarah Smith of the BBC gave a Scottish perspective – it’s a half-hour worth listening back to.
Among the other items was an interview with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin where he paid tribute to the inspirational Fr Tony Coote who died last week. It was a touching tribute and the Archbishop became quite emotional. Guest presenter Miriam O’Callaghan picked up on that and handled it very well – she’s good at empathy, a very desirable quality in an interviewer.
One of the nicest things Dr Martin had to say about Fr Coote was that he “turned personal tragedy into hope for others”, and that was clear in the excellent documentary Walking the Walk which I reviewed here a few months ago.
Another striking interview featured Paul Hansard, whose brother Paddy was beaten up and severely injured a few weeks ago, in an apparently unprovoked attack. His gentle modest approach was quite touching and he had some lovely words to say about his brother and how much of a peaceable man he was.
These interviews gave a lovely sense of connection and solidarity between people, and the hope they inspired is such an important commodity in today’s fractious society, where divisiveness is amplified by social media, all too often a forum where the opposite of good relationship and solidarity come out for their destructive play.
Also on that show there was some fine music from the group Screaming Orphans. Despite the name these Donegal sisters play some tasty folk music with catchy melodies and gorgeous harmonies. I particular liked their folky makeover of the old Turtles song Happy Together.
Broadcast in the same time slot, Spirit Radio’s Morning Show features many interesting interviews. Tuesday of last week presenter Rónán Johnston had a timely interview with John Newton of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Newton described the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and outlined various initiatives undertaken by ACN to provide support, from food and cash for expensive rents to a current campaign, ‘Comfort My People’ to provide Bibles and Rosary beads (blessed by Pope Francis) and support victims of the recent civil war in Syria. Newton said there was at the moment an “uncertain peace”, but also the possibility of a return to active conflict.
A later and related interview on the same show featured an interview with Fr William Stewart who works with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. He had developed a love for Syria prior to the civil war and now works in organising educational initiatives for refugee children disrupted by the war.
He sets up schools and hires local teachers to work with these children, and while he is obviously passionate about this work he outlined the serious challenges involved.
Another interview that caught my attention was on last Sunday’s Songs of Praise (BBC1). Lord Julian Fellowes is the creator and writer of Downton Abbey, the popular TV series which has a movie version due for release shortly.
Aled Jones interviewed him in the Catholic Brompton Oratory in London where he went to Mass as a child. Still practising, he said he’d like to believe more firmly, and envied the “unbounded childlike faith” of his wife and stepmother. He described his Downton characters as “essentially good people trying to do their best”.
He became quite emotional when introducing a favourite hymn of his – ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’ – written by Cecil Spring Rice after exposure to the horrors of World War I. Again, he felt the message was “all we can do is our best”.
Pick of the Week
NEW! POPE FRANCIS IN AFRICA
EWTN, Saturday, September 7, 4 pm
‘Vigil with youth’ – From the diocesan grounds of Soamandrakizay. One of many EWTN programmes covering the papal visit.
RTÉ1, Saturday, September 7, 10.10 pm
(2016) Natalie Portman. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s legacy.
ROME: A HISTORY OF THE ETERNAL CITY
BBC4, Monday, September 9, 8 pm
Simon Sebag Montefiore charts Rome’s rise to become the capital of western Christendom.