Some programmes more than a bit off

Some programmes more than a bit off The Rally for Life in 2017. Photo: John McElroy

A few items last week were more than a bit off. On Tuesday of last week on Today with Sean O’Rourke, Cormac Ó hEadhra spoke to former US Navy Seal Robert O’Neill, the man who claims to have killed Osama Bin Laden.

Needless to say I’m no Bin Laden fan, but the clinical description of this killing was disturbing. O’Neill described how he shot Bin Laden (whose wife and three-year-old son were present) in the face and then again when he was on the ground. There was a self-defence justification as he thought Bin Laden had a suicide vest and wasn’t making any effort to surrender.

One could argue that, but to be writing a book about it and visiting chat shows on the back of it was going too far in my opinion. Ó hEadhra seemed put off by it too and asked some challenging questions.

On Wednesday’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) Jonathan Healy interviewed Fr Roy Donovan of the Association of Catholic Priests about the incidence of suicide among priests. Significant points were made about increased stress, loneliness, isolation, the lack of community living and even the decline in priests’ housekeepers. Inevitably the issue of married priests came up (though suicides among the married are common enough too) and one texter suggested a “simple solution”, including married priests, women priests and gay priests allowed to marry same-sex partners! Astonishingly Fr Donovan said he’d be very open to what the texter suggested.


Related themes are handled thoughtfully in the BBC’s drama series Broken (BBC 1, Tuesdays). Last week’s episode introduced a gay character out of the blue (Carl, played by our own Ned Dennehy), a sort of gay deus ex machina. The person that had most problems with him was Daniel (Danny Sapani) the rather unpleasant Catholic brother of a bereaved woman neighbour – so homophobic he wouldn’t even shake hands with Carl when he offered his sympathies.

After a physical altercation following use of the ‘n’ word and the ‘q’ word, Daniel even turned up in Confession to profess his innocence! Fr Michael toed the Catholic line in public, showing kindness, tolerance and a desire for reconciliation, but in a private moment with his priest-councillor launched a foul mouthed rant against Catholic teaching on sexuality.

Worse, he claimed every priest he knew felt the same, and Fr Peter didn’t disagree. There was an awkward exchange among various characters where each got to mouth an angle on the topic and sadly the ‘sin to be gay’ myth was perpetuated yet again.

I have no problem per se with gay characters or issues in TV dramas, but visibility can become browbeating and it seems like that rather selective diversity box has to be ticked in every single drama.


Recently we’ve had the gay couple prominent in the complex thriller Unforgotten, concluded on RTÉ Monday of last week, while in The Loch, an atmospheric serial killer thriller currently running on UTV Sunday nights and TV3 Mondays, the lovely gay piano teacher fell foul of the unpleasant Christian doctor. Funny enough there’s no visibility for gay characters that choose to remain celibate for faith or other reasons.

During the week the German parliament voted for same-sex marriage, though significantly Angela Merkel voted against, because she believes marriage is something between a man and a woman (controversial?).

This was discussed on the evening radio shows last Friday, when Newstalk’s Drive presenter Chris Donoghue continued to use the ideologically driven term ‘marriage equality’, while on The Last Word (Today FM)  guest Kate Brennan Harding varied it to ‘equal marriage’. Presenter Matt Cooper compared Merkel to Arlene Foster and guest Eoin McDermott laughed at the old days as he got impressed with how ‘forward’ we were now.

Finally, the coverage of Saturday’s Rally for Life was patchy, compared to the Pride march of the weekend before. RTÉ’s Six-One News and Nine News that evening did lead with it and the coverage was quite comprehensive and positive, but it quickly disappeared from prominence and I couldn’t find anything about it on the Sunday morning chats shows, or on This Week, or on The Week in Politics. Again, ongoing visibility, it seems, is not for all.

Maybe coverage would have been better if we had just got a new Taoiseach with strong pro-life credentials. Ah but I dream.


Pick of the week

RTE Lyric FM, Sunday, July 9, 7am
A flock of  early music artists give us consort music, Masses and more on viols, voices and keyboards.

Songs of Praise

BBC 1, Sunday, July 9, 5.10pm
Modern Pilgrims. Sean Fletcher visits Mont Saint-Michel in France to meet some modern-day pilgrims and Josie D’Arby reveals its link to St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.

The Renaissance Unchained

BBC 4, Wednesday, July 12, midnight
Waldemar Januszczak takes a look at the importance of religious narrative in Italian art.