TV & Radio

Election debate from same old script
Brendan O'Regan reflects on the Election's media debates being delivered by a "bunch of actors"
Gerry Adams, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and Micheál Martin on the Leaders’ Debate.

In every media debate on the General Election it’s like we’re getting the same script, but spoken by a different bunch of actors each time, so I prefer the independent analysis. 

I’m not a fan of Newstalk’s Breakfast Show, but presenter Ivan Yates knows his politics, and I enjoy his ongoing profiles of constituencies and his assessment of how the seats will fall. You can catch that every weekday around 7.50am and on the Newstalk website.  

The first Leaders’ Debate, broadcast live on TV3 and Newstalk, was typical of the pattern of debate. There was a lot of ill-tempered interrupting and mean spirited point scoring. 

Readers of The Irish Catholic may be interested in the segment on the Eighth Amendment, relating to the right to life of unborn living children. Gerry Adams (SF) and Joan Burton (Labour) were at least clear on their stance – in favour of having termination available in the case of unborn babies with life limiting conditions (they want the option to limit those vulnerable lives even more). 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny wouldn’t give his own view on the issue despite presenter Colette Fitzpatrick’s best efforts. Instead he offered a few vague platitudes and a welcome anecdote about a woman who didn’t terminate – he wanted a citizen’s convention (possible) and consensus (impossible, as he should know). 

Of course we know what the outcome of that would be – the illusion of consultation followed by a referendum to repeal or dilute the Eight Amendment. Micheál Martin (FF), reminded that his party wouldn’t be campaigning for a referendum, made a worrying distinction – he said they wouldn’t be promoting the ‘repeal’ of the amendment. 

He wanted a judge-led commission to look into it, and we could suspect what the outcome of that would be.

What bothered me most was the one-sided questioning on this issue. If pro-choice campaigners had been hired to ask the questions the outcome couldn’t have been much different. Colette Fitzpatrick badgered those who weren’t fully behind the referendum idea – frequently returning to one question – for a woman whose baby had a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality (the term used most frequently on the show) would you be telling her to gather her money, arrange childcare and book flights to the UK? 


If she did challenge Burton and Adams, it was only on political grounds – reminding Adams that SF didn’t support Clare Daly’s abortion bill, and asking Burton how she would get on with FG who had a different position (they had no trouble getting on over the abortion bill of 2013). 

Co-host Pat Kenny interrupted with a silly and pointed question, asking what would the leaders do if a woman appeared who was in distress after an abortion in this jurisdiction - call the ambulance or call the cops? 

The leaders, especially Joan Burton, were sensible on this one – of course hospitals’ priority would be to care for the woman in distress whereupon Kenny threw in a particularly cheap shot, referring to what happened to Savita Halappanavar. 

I could come up with loads of questions from a pro-life perspective – e.g. challenging FG on broken promises on abortion, or challenging Labour and SF on the inhumanity of their attitude to unborn children – but none of these questions were asked.  

Objectivity is also an issue with the Netflix documentary Making A Murderer, which I reviewed after two episodes. Eight episodes later and I’m still conflicted about the guilt or innocence of Steven Avery in relation to the murder of Teresa Halbach, but there’s no shortage of reasonable doubt. 

I watched the final episode last Sunday and thought it would just tie up loose ends but two new developments came out of left field. 

As often happens in such cases Avery has found a new romantic interest, a woman who corresponded with him in jail. She seems a very level headed person, and a sincere Christian doing a corporal work of mercy. 

Then there was the scandal surrounding the main prosecuting attorney losing his job because of sexual harassment allegations. 

This series has raised the documentary form to a new level of popularity, but while a huge amount of evidence is sifted through from both sides, the film makers’ sympathy is with the Avery family – Steven Avery having already spent 18 years of his life in jail for an earlier crime he didn’t commit. For balance it’s worth reading around the case online.


Pick of the Week

Sunday Sequence

BBC Radio Ulster Sunday 21 February 8.30 am

Roisin McAuley and Audrey Carville explore the week’s religious and ethical news. 


Gospel Truth

RTÉ Radio 1 Extra Thursday 25 February 5.30 pm

Financial educator Alvin Hall explores how this American gospel music genre has been affected by commercialisation.


Women of Grace

EWTN Friday 26 February 4.30 pm
Discussing practical ways for parents to ensure their child’s faith flourishes during their time at college.