It doesn’t often happen, but I love it when broadcasters do something really imaginative and innovative in religious programming.
Life and Soul (RTÉ1 and Radio 1 Extra) is a new addition to RTÉ’s Sunday morning religious services slot and based on last weekend’s first episode it has a lot going for it.
An occasional series, it’s a mixture of positive stories, testimonies, prayers, scripture passages and religious music. Presented by newcomers Áine O’Neill and Colm Flynn, it has a nice reflective pace as it weaves in and out of its various elements.
It started with the familiar story of Kerry schoolboy Donal Walsh who died of cancer but who left a legacy of powerful faith, hope and a passionate belief in the preciousness of life. His story never fails to move me, no matter how many times I hear it. As always the interviews with his parents Elma and Finbar were absorbing.
Also featured was the impressive story of faith-inspired Brian and Ann Kelly who have become deeply involved in supporting children from Belarus. Again, the plight of these children is well known, but I was particularly struck by the work done to give hope to the elderly in that country, abandoned in grim institutions and just waiting for death to relieve them. L
ater, Trevor O’Neill spoke frankly about his struggle with addiction and how he has been helped to get his life back on track with the help of the Christian inspired centre at Tiglin in Co. Wicklow.
The Gospel Rising festival was covered, with a focus on the Virginia Gospel Choir from Cavan and the faith story of their director Carmel Reilly. I was impressed with the other musical interludes, – the songs from Will Reagan and United Pursuit, All Sons and Daughters and Allan Kinlay were suitably reflective and performed with obvious sincerity. They were all contemporary praise and worship music, and maybe as the show continues there might be a more varied range of musical genres.
I didn’t really like the few reconstructions included – they were unnecessary and distracting, especially the scene of the final moments of Donal Walsh.
The words of his parents painted a picture that could not be improved on. Further I’d like to see this programme being an addition to religious programming rather than as an alternative to the religious services normally broadcast at that time.
Late last week one of the most prominent religious stories, if you could call it that, was over An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s inappropriate remarks about sinning priests. Funny how that was what popped into his head when he wanted to suggest that Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin was being hypocritical about some unrelated issue.
The outrage factory went into overtime and Varadkar apologised soon after. On Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1), presenter Mary Wilson sounded incredulous – “what was he thinking, or perhaps not thinking, to deliver a commentary like that? Where does that come from, that capacity to put your foot in your mouth to that extent?”
In response, journalist Hugh O’Connell thought it was “a very puzzling remark…indicative of an immaturity” and suggested it showed “a petulant streak”.
Political commentator Larry Donnelly (Newstalk’s On the Record last Sunday morning), speaking personally as a Catholic, was offended, felt hurt for the good priests he knew, was glad the Taoiseach apologised and was happy to forgive and move on.
And finally last weekend’s Rally for Life – I was curious to see how the media would cover it. After the march, on their 6pm News Headlines, Newstalk completely ignor-ed it though there were thousands in attendance. But they did cover that morning’s Trans Pride march, which attracted hundreds.
I checked their website last Saturday night and it was completely ignored there too, though Trans Pride was covered.
By Sunday they had posted a dismally vague account of it and yet dated it for 2.15pm Saturday, at which time the rally had barely started! (Checking their websites on Saturday evening I found that the Irish Independent and the Irish Examiner also ignored the Rally but highlighted the Trans Pride march). RTÉ News Six-One covered both events, giving priority to the much larger event. At least they did the professional thing.
But as regards the others mentioned – well, the next time someone says I’m paranoid about media bias I’ll have yet another answer for them.
Pick of the Week
Touched By Auschwitz
RTÉ2, Sunday, July 14, 7.40 pm
Documentary exploring the experiences of six Auschwitz survivors.
BBC1, Monday, July 15, 8.30 pm
Sima Kotecha meets parents and campaigners from Islamic and other faith communities protesting against their children being taught about LGBT relationships at school.
Death Row: Countdown To Execution
Virgin Media 1, Thursday, July 18, 9 pm
Susanna Reid travels to Texas, home of the most active death chamber in the United States, to meet the notorious death row inmate Billie Wayne Coble.