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Hey, leave off Joe Duffy, he's a national treasure

For those weeks when we don't have an election to express our feelings about how the country is being run, where do we normally go?

Well, for years, we've been talking to Joe

Moaning, whingeing, giving out. We've also been laughing, joking, shouting. The daily rant-line can be counted on to find out what's getting under the skin of Joe and Josephine Soap.



ridicule

But not everyone's happy to find that the Liveline is open. John Power, head of Engineers Ireland, which represents the profession, has hit out at the popular radio show, calling it "garbage" and managing, by implication, to ridicule the more than 400,000 people who listen to it every day.

He says they need to find a new way of getting things off their chests.

The extraordinary comments came in a speech to school principals -- and Mr Power didn't stop there.

No, Liveline is only one culprit of the "incredible amount of garbage" broadcast on national radio, according to him.

Yes, this expert in, well, engineering, has said that the people's republic of Liveline shouldn't be the way things are done.

"Unfortunately, to get major decisions implemented in this country at the moment, you almost have to get it past the Joe Duffy Show," he added.

Well, so what, Mr Power?



Cancer

It wasn't until Susie Long gave a heartfelt plea on Liveline about how her cancer diagnosis was left so long on the public health system that she became terminally ill, that it spurred action to be taken on waiting lists.

Her call to Joe caused an outpouring of anger, disgust and outrage along with hope, kindness and support.

Well, Susie died, but not without leaving behind a hospice charity in her name and a lick of shame on the service which prematurely ended her life and the politicians responsible for it.

It might be unseemly and a bit hysterical to Mr Power but then again, it strikes me that as a middle-class, articulate, and educated individual, he probably has access to powers higher than Joe when things go wrong for him.

Liveline is not there in lieu of debate, informed analysis and public representation.

But where those are lacking, it fills a gap. In many cases it helps people enormously to talk. They don't necessarily need any more.

If they feel Joe Duffy gives them that ear, then what's the problem?

Goodness knows they'd be paying €100 an hour to do the same with a therapist.

Apart from the "Ah Joe, you'll never guess ... " stories of stolen dogs, lost bags and rude taxi drivers, the programme has covered intensely serious topics like the lack of resources for cystic fibrosis sufferers, organ donation and scandals in public office.



Difference

Yes, sometimes it's just a whinge-fest and can be metaphorically wrist-slitting stuff, but it's damn good radio.

Occasionally it makes a real difference.