“Guess who’s taking over Derek Mooney’s Show?”, asked my fella in that tone that suggested he had one up on me. It’s a low point for couple competitiveness, but we work with the material we’re given and the potential opportunity to be right, so I dived right in with a few guesses.
For the uninitiated, Derek Mooney is a broadcaster with Irish state radio. RTÉ Radio One predates some of the earliest recorded fossils along with some of its presenters. Most people under 35 (ish) would claim it caters for the needs of an aging demographic with its mix of current affairs, endless sports programmes, the quasi sacrament of the confessional with Father Joe Duffy and the Phone-in Parishioners of Doom, and its strict observance of the Angelus.
Those over 35 (ish) strain to avoid confessing their creeping devotion to it, which usually begins with overhearing a feature on the scandalous cost of turning middle age in Ireland, and other scaremongering punctuated by a doable dinner recipe proffered by the inoffensive Neven Maguire. This is designed to take the sting out of the revelation that they’ll be working right up retirement at 91. These can be heard on The Marian Finucane Show on Saturday mornings, a gateway drug to hardcore Class As (Liveline, Sunday Morning Miscellany), accidentally discovered by folk with an aversion to music before noon. Particularly those who cannot risk being left alone with only their hungover thoughts for company. Everyone just comes clean about listening to it by the time they hit 40 when “this week’s Marian” graduates to a regular item on their conversation agenda.
Derek Mooney anchors that awkward week-day mid-afternoon slot that covers those ‘human interest’ stories such as that secret cult of farmers in Carlow who knit their own bale covers, with the odd performance from an obscure singer popular on the cruise ship cabaret circuit. So, naturally, my first guess was… Marty Whelan? Nope. Marty Morrissey? No. Michael Flatley? No (the show’s producers now kicking themselves on reading this) Mary Kennedy? An arched brow. Kathryn Thomas? He shook his head sideways. Ten minutes and a run through the catalogue of C-list celebs later I surrender to his superior knack of getting to the breaking entertainment stories first.
Michael Flatley to present new RTÉ radio show ‘Putting my foot in it’
According to the downpour of comments from those ever-eager keyboard warriors following the announcement, Ray D’arcy is one or all of the following:
Smug/whiney/negative/gobshite/up himself/past it/hypocritical/a fanatical atheist/lactose intolerant (OK I made that up, just trying to upgrade it to insult)/greedy/Ray Arsey/health evangelist etc. etc.
Apparently, the man had the temerity to present a three-hour week-day morning show on rival station, Today FM, with his own opinions and views. The cheek of him. In Ireland, having your own opinion is one thing to be sneered at for, but expressing it is akin to demanding the Nation to wonder aloud who do you think you are? Well?
To me, and the 200 odd thousand listeners that tuned in, he was the other half of a hilarious two-hander with his producer, Will Hanafin, the wittiest man in Ireland with his droll one-liners that would crack me up and out of the foulest of moods. Before that, D’arcy was childminder of the Nation as a children’s TV presenter and punchbag for Zig and Zag. It would seem that nostalgia is his only saving grace.
For a long time, himself and Will were one half of the quartet made up of Jenny Kelly and Mairead Farrell, another pair who came in for forensic scrutiny over the years. A late Jenny convert, I was disappointed when she left back in June. The subsequent departure of Farrell heralded the death-knell on the show’s dynamic that was going to be impossible to sustain. So in a way, it came as no surprise that he, and all his opinions, is making the move.
Much lamenting and fond farewells can be found among the barbed comments. For many, his show was a connection to a world temporarily abandoned and altered forever by maternity leave. The hi-jinx providing the background din to another monotonous day at work. Company for those marooned at home. A link to the homeland via the web. A platform for listeners to have their say on the nation’s talking points during this Country’s many serious days.
I type this in silence, unable to tune in to an alternative. Pat Kenny? The priesthood must be missing an angel. Sean O’Rourke? Dole inspector meets accountancy lecturer. Ryan Tubridy? The aural equivalent of a v-neck jumper.
Say what you like about Ray D’arcy, but I’d wager you never heard any of the aforementioned unapologetically calling the Church to task for its hypocrisy. Or inviting you to look around your colleagues, friends, and family and square up to the likelihood of at least one of them having had an abortion while we all talk about them like they’re not in the room. Or talk casually about his own atheism as an accepted norm in Irish society.
Whatever else he was on his show, he was also a feminist. We still badly need them in Irish broadcasting, so let’s hope whoever fills his independent broadcasting shoes will retain some of his values, if not his running evangelism that even had me
running shuffling over to switch the dial on occasion.