Charlie Bird returned with his radio show to Donegal last Saturday. Editor in chief, Michael Daly was a guest and looks back on one of the more positive radio broadcasts to come from Donegal recently.
The producer of the Charlie Bird radio show last Saturday was keen to explore Donegal’s apparent rebel streak and our recent propensity for bucking the trend.
Anecdotal evidence, it was suggested, Donegal had the lowest response to the recent household charge and our ‘No’ stance in the recent referendum confirm for some that “up here we really are different”.
Broadcaster Charlie Bird started his new series last September in Donegal and his reutrn visit to the south of the county proved an interesting hour ‘on the radio’.
The Bird man started his pitch on the Fiscal Referendum and gathered four experts, three of them politicians and a supporting cast of journalists, commentators, historians and those who just happened along to the Abbey Arts Centre in Ballyshannon for the one hour lunchtime broadcast on Saturday.
The interesting thing about the debate was how careful RTÉ have to be to ensure that all speakers, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ get more or less equal time to make their point. In the background they had a guy on a stop watch making sure that all sides got their fair share of air time - perhaps post the Kevin Reynolds debacle RTÉ are being extra careful, but it didn’t damage the debate which was lively. There where a few muffled moans when Deputies Joe McHugh and Thomas Pringle started the “I didn’t interrupt you routine’ and one touchy “don’t misrepresent me” rocket directed by Deputy McHugh at Deputy Pringle, but by and large the two Donegal TDs settled down and slugged it out manfully, point for point.
Marian Harkin MEP, who has been looking for the referendum to be postponed as its main proponents, France and Germany now appear to be opposed to the concept (post the elections in France in particular) but others, such as Thomas Pringle would be far happier to see the whole thing abandoned.
Dr Brian O’Boyle, an economist and lecturer at St. Angela’s College in Sligo, who is on the ‘no’ side, did his best to explain how the better off people here could afford to take the brunt of the austerity payments, but Charlie was nodding when Democrat columnist Frank Galligan suggested the biggest commodity on view at the moment was “confusion”. Marian Harkin moved that one on when she interjected that the issues were “complicated” and were political and it was inevitable that there would be confusion as all sides tried to get their message out.
The show took a very welcome and unexpected twist forward when the referendum debate was parked and local projects which show how people in Donegal are taking action from the ground up to improve their own communities was debated.
Charlie was particularly impressed with the Killybegs group he invited to the show and listened with admiration as Anne McHugh explained how they had managed to attract an additional seven cruise liners to dock in the port this summer.
Charlie was sensing “real positivity” as he listened to Ballyshannon Mayor John Meehan explain how his community had begun an initiative to help themselves and the show ended on a light note with Mr Bird doing his best to get an explanation as to why people here have become very independent minded and have bucked the trend on many issues.
In the end the answer was simple, we live on the edge of Europe, our backs have been to the wall (and the sea) for centuries and we developed our own heroes - historian Anthony Begley dipping back to Red Hugh O’Donnell and by an amazing leap, we ended up talking about that other chieftain of modern Donegal - Daniel O’Donnell!
Charlie left happy, his team likewise. They had got what they came for, and hopefully now the world will know, up here we have an increasingly fine tuned independent streak that we offer no apology for.