Wednesday 16 January 2019

Highlighting horrors


Susan McKay is now director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, but back in the mid-1990s, when she was merely a lowly journalist, she reported on the horrific case of child abuse inflicted upon Sligo girl Sophia McColgan and her two siblings. It was a case that McKay would later turn into a best-selling book, Sophia's Story, co-written with the brave, outspoken Ms Colgan, and, on last night's The Big Story, returning to the scene of the crime brought back some stirring memories for the hardened, Derry-born writer.

Tales of child abuse in the home have become all too common in Ireland -- and around the world -- in recent years, as more and more people have braved the courts, and the media glare, in search of some kind of closure. And justice.

It's not just priests who have taken the Bible quote "suffer little children" as a battle cry -- it's often friends, families and neighbours of the victim too.


Alongside the well-publicised McColgan case, there was troubled teenager Tracey Fay (who died homeless on the streets in 2002, after a chaotic performance by State agencies), and the six children in a bungalow in the west of Ireland whose mother was sentenced to six years in January of last year (the father being sentenced last March) for a litany of offences that the woman herself described as "a house of horrors with bells on".

Another woman in Roscommon -- who inflicted a reign of terror upon her six children -- was a self-styled "worst mother in the world", her offspring finally being taken into care in 2004, eight years after serious concerns about their welfare were raised.

Sophia McColgan spoke out about the abuse she and her brother and sister suffered at the hands of their father, her bravery in doing so earning her a place in the Ireland Top 10 Women Of All Time when a poll was run in 2005 by the Marian Finucane Show on RTE Radio 1.

Sophia suffered years of horrific abuse at the hands of Joe McColgan, her father finally being convicted of the charges in 1995 and handed a sentence of 238 years. It was the longest sentence ever handed down in the history of the State, but McColgan was released from Arbour Hill prison in Dublin in March 2004, being immediately put on the Sex Offenders Register.

Having started Belfast's first Rape Crisis Centre in 1981 before returning to Dublin and journalism, it was fitting that McKay should bring the McColgan case to prominence in Irish life.

And fitting, too, that this award-winning journalist would highlight the tragedies of two Catholic teenagers, Bernadette Martin and James Morgan, murdered within 10 days of one another, in the summer of 1997, by loyalist paramilitaries.


Somewhere between Borat and Naked Camera, British-Iranian comedian Kayvan Novak follows up two series of his BAFTA-winning Fonejacker -- basically a prank call show -- with the devil-in-disguise candid camera offering Facejacker (C4, 10.35pm).

Our boy Kayvan disguises himself as various characters -- most of them of the socially unskilled variety -- in the hope of winding up a member of the public.

Whether it's as a demanding wheelchair-bound competition winner causing havoc on the set of a N-Dubz video shoot, or playing the blinkered old sexist getting an exasperated and ignored pep talk from a relationships expert, Novak goes for the comedy of embarrassment. And generally scores.

It's not exactly new, it's not particularly inventive, and it's not particularly funny, but there are laughs to be had. Novak offers up some new faces too, but they generally deliver the same old gags. Ultimately, this feels like a Trigger Happy sketch that's got out of hand. And lasted for three series. Not bad going for a show that's really just Beadle's About for students.



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