Heretics, wafflers and original podcasts

Heretics, wafflers and original podcasts Author J.K. Rowling.

Podcasts aren’t quite radio but they’re close – the lines are blurred. Some podcasts are original, living only on the hosting platforms like Spotify, others are really just playback options from regular radio broadcasting.

A relatively new kid on the Podcast block is State of the Nation, presented by former The Irish Catholic editor Michael Kelly. Last Friday’s episode was called ‘Demonising women who believe in biology’ – obviously dealing with the gender wars. Co-host was David Quinn and special guest was Aisling Considine, an Aontú candidate in Dublin for the upcoming local elections. A primary teacher, she had called for her union, the INTO, to disaffiliate from the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) as they didn’t properly represent the views of women. She referenced how out of touch they were during the recent referenda and their recent attempts to normalise abortion. On the show the NWCI was characterised as having been “captured” by particular ideological forces. David Quinn gave a little explainer on the whole notion of gender ideology. He thought the NWCI behaved like a version of “the one true church”, with anyone who disagreed branded as “heretics”, even if they were obviously feminists, like author JK Rowling. I liked the approx. 30-minute format and the easy chat, keeping in mind that all participants were broadly of the same view on the issue.

A previous episode, from the Wednesday of last week, was called ‘Euthanasia and the economic push’. It focused on the recent Dáil committee report on assisted dying and euthanasia. As Michael Kelly said, the report had not received the attention it should have as it was released the day Leo Varadkar dropped the shocker that he was stepping down as Taoiseach. The presenter discussed the matter with Wendy Grace of Spirit Radio and Eilís Mulroy of the Pro-life Campaign. A few simple points were made effectively – the recommendations of the Joint Committee (in favour of assisted dying and euthanasia) were made without adequate discussion, and in the teeth of much opposition from the medical professions; some members including chairperson Michael Healy Rae TD took the unusual step of issuing a minority report; it was naive to think Ireland wouldn’t follow the pattern of countries like Canada and Belgium in gradually liberalising the laws in this area. Michael Kelly said it was a “a moral cliff edge” rather than a slippery slope.

Treading similar territory, The Week that Really Was is another original podcast, hosted by John McGuirk and Sarah Ryan. It is longer (around 1 hour) and somewhat more abrasive. Last week’s episode was titled, ‘Two Stuttering wafflers who say nothing’ based on the unkind description of an acerbic critic. Definitely not true! They covered author J.K. Rowling’s defiance of the new hate speech law in Scotland, brought into law, ironically on April 1. It wasn’t a prank, but ultimately perhaps a joke. There was admiration for Ms Rowling’s strategy – daring them to arrest her for trans-critical tweets. The police said they wouldn’t act against her, which was a kind of victory for common sense. If they had taken action she would have won then too – causing such an uproar as to discredit the bill anyway.

Another interesting discussion was on the phenomenon of journalists getting Government jobs as press secretaries and the like. I was surprised at the extent when John McGuirk read out a long list of former journalists that had gone down this road. The problem arises when journalists don’t ask hard questions of politicians so as not to blot their copybooks and make it less likely that they’ll get the plum jobs. There was also some incisive analysis on US politics, with neither Trump nor Biden getting approval. I think it could have been shorter – my preference is for podcasts around the 30-minute mark, but maybe my attention span is at fault.

Like a lot of stations Spirit Radio facilitates catchup listening by compiling some items in their podcast section – I’d like to see more of them. One of the latest from Mornings with Wendy had Dougie Hobson of the Mustard Seed Soup Run in Dublin, speaking to Wendy Grace about his work and service in helping the homeless on the streets of Dublin. Now he was retiring from this work. He found the problem getting worse, especially since the end of lockdown, though he believed there were no hopeless cases. His religious faith was central to his work. Inspiring!