Issues of life and death explored

A moving documentary restores faith in humanity

Shock horror! Catholic teaching discovered in Catholic school!

Such was the tone of last week’s controversy about the Pure in Heart group. The promo material for the item on Today With Sean O’Rourke, (RTÉ Radio 1, Wednesday of last week) told us that parents were upset with chastity being taught in Catholic schools by this visiting group of young people. Fortunately the schools in question seemed to be supportive of the chastity teaching despite the objections, and O’Rourke told us that there were lots of supportive texts. I thought it was a pity that Pure in Heart declined an invitation to take part in the discussion, contenting themselves with issuing a statement, but then I got my wish last Monday morning on the show when Anne O’Reilly, one of the Pure in Heart founders, played a blinder when O’Rourke gave her a challenging but fair interview. She stressed that they were just offering young people another option when it came to living out their sexuality, and that it was a realistic choice despite the pressures of the surrounding culture.

Last Friday’s God Slot was a more low-key affair. I was looking forward to coverage of the story of Sr Megan Rice recently jailed at the age of 84 for peace activism, but we just got the reading of a supportive statement from her order, which made for rather flat radio. Dr Michael Moran, the first ever Irishman to serve on the International Medical Committee of Lourdes, had fascinating stories to tell, a fine example of how faith and science can co-exist effectively. I enjoyed Eileen Dunne’s (pictured) discussion of the Doctor Who series with Ben Conroy. I had never followed that show (I’m not a Whovian!) and was fascinated by the philosophical issues it raised. Apparently one episode was given an award by an evangelical group in Britain, though the writer, an atheist, said he’d been getting at religion in that episode!

The Marc Coleman Show (Newstalk, Sunday nights) is impressive on many levels, though the presenter (pictured) is too inclined to interrupt and push his own views. It’s rare to find such a diversity of views on a current affairs show, and issues tend to be thoroughly thrashed out. Last Sunday for example there was a thorough discussion on the law in Ireland, with Peter Matthews TD particularly thought-provoking on his new Bill aimed at putting conscience rights into the Constitution.

One of the saddest programmes I’ve seen in recent times was Would You Believe – A Claddagh From Manuela, RTÉ 1 Sunday night of last week, a beautiful and moving documentary.

Most of us will be familiar with the tragic story of Manuela Riedo, a young Swiss student who was murdered in Galway in 2007 shortly after her arrival in Ireland. Narrator Mick Peelo spoke of ‘every parent’s nightmare’ and it struck me that there are so many things that match that description … a tough life for parents!

What was most striking was the way relationships have built up between the people of Galway and Manuela’s parents, who now visit regularly. We saw prayer services, gospel singing, music sessions and fundraisers, as people rallied round, initially to support the Riedos and latterly for victim support. The individuals involved would enhance one’s belief in love and humanity. Sam Beardon is a sculptor who found the body and prayed for Manuela, Tom Connell a farmer who made a temporary wooden cross at the time and continues to maintain a shrine in Manuela’s honour (he finds that the sun always shines when he visits it) and Shane Lennon who is involved in the Manuela Riedo Foundation.

The gardaí involved were inspiring – Liam Lynam who photographed the scene, including a robin that caught his attention, P.J. Durkin who investigated, the two gardaí who accompanied the body home, the gardaí that consoled the parents on their first visit to Galway. But most of all the Riedo family shone through – the childhood footage and photos of Manuela were particularly affecting. The parents Hans Peter and Arlette exuded warm humanity – their great love for Manuela, their continuing grief, their faith in a ‘higher power’ despite their faith in God being damaged ‘a little’ by the murder, their own experience of being visited by a robin as the Garda Lynam had been and their belief that Manuela was waiting for them in a beautiful place.


Pick of the Week


TV3 Wed March 5, 10pm

Topical discussion with a studio audience. Motion: The Government Deserves The Confidence Of The People.



RTÉ 1 Sun March 2, 11am

Monsignor Bernard Noonan celebrates Mass, with the Tullamore Academy Chamber Choir, directed by Ciar·n Brady.



BBC 2 Sun March 2, 11:30 pm

(1986) Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons. An 18th-Century Jesuit priest establishes a mission in the South American jungle.