It was good to see Unreported World back on Channel 4 last Friday night – these short documentaries highlight various unfamiliar stories from around the world, often focusing on justice issues.
The first episode in the new series featured the inspiring and moving story of a free ambulance service and voluntary paramedics serving the vulnerable in Mogadishu, Somalia. With Al-Shabaab militants warring with the Government, they risk life and limb to get victims of terrorist bombings to hospital and also cater for more regular medical emergencies. At times they even have to haggle with hospital staff to get treatment for people who can’t afford the asking price.
One girl had a difficult pregnancy, with her unborn baby’s life in danger, but they got her to hospital on time and in gratitude she named her child after the ambulance service – Aamin.
Omar, one of the paramedics, asked why he did this work, said it was because “no-one was taking responsibility”. His supportive wife worried about him every time he went out, but there was “so much suffering” to be relieved. “My heart is too much broken,” he said, and unfortunately a footnote to the show told us that after the filming he was injured in an explosion.
Positivity in challenging situations was also the theme on the Ryan Tubridy Show last Thursday when the host interviewed Fr Tony Coote of Mount Merrion parish. Fr Tony briefly told his vocation story – drawn by the caring work of priests he came across in his youth, and then explained how he had recently been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease.
He is involved in organising the Walk While You Can event – a sponsored walk through Ireland next August. He said that more research was required and that funding was needed for supporting those with this disease – even for simple things like getting a downstairs bathroom. He was positive and thankful for each new day, wasn’t angry or feeling sorry for himself, but was frustrated with the developing physical limitations. Texters paid tribute to Fr Tony’s work as a priest, one saying that he had the “x-factor”.
Britain’s Got Talent recently featured another priest, Fr Ray Kelly, the singing priest from Oldcastle. His soulful performance of REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ was replayed on last Monday’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, and it was impressive. The audience obviously thought so too, and Simon Cowell said it was “one of my favourite ever auditions…everything we’ve been waiting for”.
On the same show, Pat Kenny interviewed Arlette Lyons of Terminations For Medical Reasons, campaigning for repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The story of her challenging pregnancy was sad and emotional, but I wondered if she was concerned that her group’s cases were being used to make thousands of healthy babies vulnerable to abortion – for any reason up to three months and for vague reasons (British-style) up to six months. The question wasn’t asked.
It seems to me that the Pat Kenny Show is now more campaigning than journalism. We’ve had three pro-choice doctors (Drs Boylan, Murphy and Kenny) and now two pro-repeal items in a row, featuring women that have had abortions.
On Wednesday of last week the show had an interview with a woman who had a medical abortion (pills) in Manchester – again, it was a sad and traumatic story, but also a pro-repeal item, though with gruesome off-putting detail.
At the time of writing this has not been balanced by a pro-life personal story, and the show has still not featured an interview with a pro-life doctor or obstetrician, despite previously having those interviews on three occasions with the pro-choice doctors.
Last Friday the show gave cause for concern again, when the review of the week featured one pro-life person (Peadar Tóibín) and two pro-choice people (Sen. Catherine Noone and journalist Ian O’Doherty).
Of course they’ll say there was more than the Eighth being discussed (though it was first and prominent) and while O’Doherty said he wasn’t on one side he said he’d be voting “pretty much” on Sen. Noone’s side and was avowedly pro-choice (“reluctantly”). He did regard the issue as “the most profound moral question of this generation” and suggested that Noone’s points about “compassion” could just as easily be pro-life arguments.
If we can’t get balanced and impartial coverage of such a crucial issue on such a high profile show, our democracy is in serious trouble.
Pick of the week
EWTN, Sunday, April 29, 4 pm
Ten students from the Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School visit the L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France.
EXODUS: OUR JOURNEY TO EUROPE
RTÉ1, Sunday (night), April 29, 1.30 am
Exodus follows the journeys of people attempting to reach Europe, escaping war, poverty or persecution.
THE STORY OF THE JEWS
BBC4, Tuesday, May 1, 9 pm
Simon Schama’s history of the Jewish experience ends with an examination of how the Holocaust and the creation of Israel have fundamentally changed what it means to be Jewish.