Ivan the not-so-terrible makes a grand exit

Ivan the not-so-terrible makes a grand exit Ivan Yates

‘End of an era’ would be too strong; it was more a case of significant change in the media landscape.

Last Friday saw Ivan Yates’ last outing as presenter on the evening show The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk). He could come across as cynical, brash, crude and laddish, but was open to diverse viewpoints, and in particular to views that might be considered conservative.

His show was a cold place for sacred cows. In his trademark opening sequence (sometimes rant!) on the final show he thanked Newstalk for the freedom to stimulate discussion and he certainly did that.

He got a rise out of allcomers, prodding them cheerfully, for the most part. As he said of those who engaged with the show: “Even if I agreed with them I found a way to be disagreeable.”

He said he feared for the Irish media in these difficult times, but unfortunately didn’t develop the idea. Faults there were, but he was well informed politically (if not always in other areas) – having been a member of Government at one stage, he was under no illusion about the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes.

Yates is also retiring from The Tonight Show (Virgin Media One), and last Thursday saw his last appearance, with a roundup of lively moments from the series – there was his cheeky characterisation of politicians as ‘‘chancers and charlatans”, his admonition to presidential candidates  – (“you don’t understand the knockdown drag out nature of politics”), Michael Healy Rae’s admonition of him – ‘‘your rudeness goes beyond belief …slapping the table like a spoiled little pup”), his sensitive interview with medical campaigner Vicky Phelan and finally his gracious gratitude to the team on that show.

While Yates is stepping back at the moment, the star of another Irish journalist, Colm Flynn, is on the rise. He presented the award winning (and sadly discontinued) Life and Soul series on RTÉ last year, and has popped up on BBC World Service.


Last Sunday night he was presenter of Vaticano (EWTN), a weekly roundup of Vatican related matters.

I had seen brief news items about the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul being turned back into a Mosque but this was a comprehensive treatment of the issue. Flynn reminded us that it had originally been, from the 6th Century, a Catholic church, converted to a mosque in 1453, then to a museum in 1934, a move by the then secular Turkish government. Now the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had re-instated it as a mosque.

Though Erdogan had said it was still open to all as “humanity’s common legacy”, reaction was understandably negative in the Christian world and beyond. Pope Francis was “very saddened” by it, the World Council of Churches expressed “grief and dismay” and the Moscow Patriarchate feared it would “hurt a fragile interreligious balance”.

In Rome, Fr Jason Welle OFM of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies saw a “grave danger” for interreligious dialogue, and saw the move as a political power play by Erdogan to gain more support within Turkey. Yet he had hope – so far there had been no attempt to get rid of the Christian artwork, though in Islam there’s an objection to representational religious artwork.

Also he pointed out that as a museum it hadn’t been a place of worship, and such a place should not just be a place for selfies.

The second half of the show reviewed the apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the area in 2014 when the three days of dialogue included a trip to the-then museum.

Also on EWTN last Sunday I enjoyed The Quest for Shakespeare, when presenter Joseph Pearce explored the theme of choice in The Merchant of Venice, focusing particularly on the choice of suitors for Portia.

The series has been finding Catholic themes and symbolism in the bard’s works and in this episode found links between the works and the poetry of martyred priest St Robert Southwell.

Though the presentation was a bit stiff, I liked the way Pearce moved among the actors as he elucidated his themes, rising to his own poetic heights as he did so – at one stage he referenced “fallacious philosophies fuddled with pride” and later identified “metaphorical metamorphoses”!

The acting in the relevant extracts was acceptable, though some were too short.

I’ll be watching these EWTN shows again, and suspect I’ll see more of Ivan Yates in the media.


Pick of the week
RTÉ One, Sunday, August 2, 11 am

Dr Dermot Farrell, Bishop of Ossory, celebrates Mass live in the RTÉ Studios in Donnybrook, Dublin. He is joined by Fr Willie Purcell, National Director of Vocations.

Channel 4, Tuesday, August 4, 7.45 am

Prodigal Son: Debra challenges Ray on why he doesn’t go to Mass.

EWTN, Tuesday, August 4, 10.30 pm, also Wednesday, 10.30 am and Friday, 5 pm

The Protestant movement soon begins to fracture over disagreements on basic theology and the Bible itself, leading to armed conflict and persecution.