Walsh family’s heartwarming leap of faith

Walsh family’s heartwarming leap of faith Donal Walsh

Many political shows get phased out over the summer, presumably because the Dáil is not sitting but I don’t get the logic of a religious affairs show ending in April.

Last Friday’s Leap of Faith (RTÉ Radio 1) was unfortunately the last in the current series, but it will be back in the Autumn. The final show focused on the legacy of Donal Walsh, that brave student from Kerry who taught us all, his peers in particular, about the value of living life to the full.

Michael Comyn interviewed Elma, Donal’s mother – it was a poignant and positive testimony. She spoke of how, five years after Donal’s untimely death from cancer, she and her husband still get invited to speak in schools, spreading Donal’s life affirming message in the context of youth suicide and self-harming. She discussed Donal’s strong Faith, his love of the Rosary, his lack of fear facing death, despite being nervous about the transition between this life and the next.

While the emphasis was mainly on Donal, I liked it when Comyn asked Elma how she was herself, typical of his empathic style of interviewing. She said her Faith was rattled in the beginning but Donal’s strength of Faith helped make hers stronger. Finally she outlined how the fifth anniversary Mass, at Knock Shrine, due to be broadcast on RTÉ on Sunday, May 13 came about with the encouragement of former nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown. She described how this was a much desired opportunity for school goers to experience and express their Faith.


Very much related to Donal Lynch’s message was the heart-breaking documentary The Big Picture – Young and Troubled on RTÉ 1 last Thursday night. Glaring inadequacies were highlighted in how the state serves young people with mental health issues – individual staff members were dedicated but systems seemed uncaring, even cruel.

There were stories of long waiting lists, even in emergencies. Services were under-staffed and under-resourced with damaging effects for young people and their parents, who had to become activists as well as carers.

Children who were making progress were diverted and disrupted when they reached 18 and had to navigate a new system of adult mental health services, instead of there being a gradual phasing. Participants, including parents and some brave and articulate young teens spoke of, of how “every day is still a struggle”, of being “in such a bad place” and of “a level of pain that’s hard to describe”. Watch it and weep.

Not entirely unrelated, the debates on the Eighth Amendment rolled on, and a few stand out. Most high profile was last Friday’s Late Late Show. The debate was balanced enough in terms of speakers, but I thought an introductory film skewed the debate towards support for repeal, giving a tired, lazy and predictable narrative about controversies surrounding the Eighth.

If you’re going to show background to inform debate why not background on the nature of abortion, or the stages of growth of unborn child, or abortion régimes in other countries, or the Government’s wide ranging proposals? I thought it was puzzling that, while the pro-life side was ably represented by Wendy Grace and Caroline Simons, there was no obstetrician or doctor on the panel to challenge the two doctors on the pro-choice side – Peter Boylan and Mary Favier.


I’d been hearing lots about the views of veteran feminist activist Nell McCafferty on this issue – apparently she was conscious of some unpalatable truths about the ugliness of abortion.

Maybe that’s what got her an appearance on The Sunday Show (TV3) last weekend. Despite being billed as a “reluctant” yes voter, she declared herself an “enthusiastic, committed supporter of repeal”, had a dig at “so-called pro-lifers”, wanted abortion legislation as radical as possible, and after some reflection had concluded that abortion was “the ending of a potential life” rather than “the killing of a baby”.

I thought Gavan Reilly’s interview was too soft and unchallenging, but you couldn’t say the same about Kieran Cuddihy’s robust interview with Minister Simon Coveney on his show On The Record (Newstalk) last Sunday morning. In particular he tried to get to grips with Coveney’s change of mind on the 12-weeks aspect of the proposed legislation. The Minister seemed to have been reassured by a 72-hour delay, the mother and doctor signing off and just the possibility of a scan. I found it unconvincing.


Pick of the week
The Big Questions
BBC 1, Sunday, May 6, 10 am

Nicky Campbell presents a special edition from Salford, asking “is there a crisis in masculinity?”

RTÉ 1, Sunday, May 6, 2.40 pm              

‘John The Baptist’ – animated Bible story with a Dublin flavour.

EWTN, Monday, May 7, 11 am

Fr C. John McCloskey, explores the work of Graham Greene.

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