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Turn the dial to the right

If you're a jittery type, who gets easily upset by the robust topsy-turviness of urban life, then this week's radio probably didn't do much to soothe your raw and ragged nerves.

The tone was set on Tuesday's Today with Pat Kenny, where Marie-Louise O'Donnell (pictured right) detailed how she'd spent a few days wandering up and down Dublin's O'Connell Street, casting a critical eye on the comings, goings and shenanigans of the natives who frequent it.

The results of this exercise in pop anthropology were now in, and the news wasn't good. O'Connell Street was, she breathlessly told Pat, a "monument to menace".


A post-apocalyptic dystopia where "primaeval" (her term) drug addicts and alcoholics stomped freely about, roaring, bawling and, er, disturbing tables.

People were being harassed, hassled and followed, she said. Vomit caked the pavement and urine flooded the gutters. That kind of thing.

Speaking of said pavement, in its natural (non-vomited-upon) state it's actually quite attractive, isn't it?

"The nicest thing about O'Connell Street is the Chinese granite," Marie-Louise admitted.

"Beautiful silver granite that's quite even, unlike the cobblestones of Grafton Street... so at least you won't break your neck." Proud Dubliners probably felt a fleeting flash of civic pride at that point.

I mean, who doesn't love a nice slab of admirably even Chinese granite?

It was all, however, a cruel set-up for a brutal sucker punch.

"You might get a knife in your neck though," Marie-Louise concluded, none too cheerily.

Kenny responded by enthusing about Giuliani-style "zero tolerance" and speculating about the need for a more physically intimidating type of police officer.

He did, to be fair, qualify this by pointing out that he wasn't advocating a return to an era where gardai could "literally give a fella a good box to keep law and order".

Such circumspection was rather thinner on the ground over on The David Harvey Show (4FM). Its bellicose host casually flung about ill-defined terms like "scum" and "toe-rags" while effectively blaming the supposed ineffectiveness of the gardai on their willingness to allow "little fellas" and "girls" (sic) into the force. Girls? It's PC gone mad, David!

Unlike Kenny, Harvey and the bulk of his listeners didn't want just slightly larger guards, they wanted awe-inspiring, muscle-bound behemoths who were armed to the teeth and who brooked zero nonsense. Harvey's own suggestion, for dealing with any kind of anti-social "messing", was to position a pair of these giant beefcakes at either end of O'Connell Street and arm them with... sub-machine guns.

When a non-insane caller pointed out that sub-machine guns are problematic and inaccurate weapons, and that tourists might get inadvertently "taken out" when these uber-gardai were attempting to shoot junkies, you could sense Harvey's disapproval.

Sober voices, with all their fancy and awkward facts, were not what was wanted or required here. As the conversation threatened to drift back toward planet Earth, a listener called George got the show back on message. According to George, who happily described himself as "to the right of Attila the Hun", contemporary Irish society had become just like "the end of the Roman Empire".

George's lurid description of Romans "out of their brains" on red wine, racing chariots "all over the place" was, I think, intended to be pregnant with contemporary resonance and hint at imminent civilisational collapse.

George didn't sound too perturbed by this possibility, however.

I guess if you're into a radical restructuring of society that involves Schwarzenegger-style cops wielding sub-machine guns, then a dose of civilisational collapse is no bad thing.

It was one of those weeks. Even the resolutely middle-of-the-road Derek Mooney was getting it in the neck.

On Monday's Mooney, Darren Kennedy spoke engagingly about Gay Daddy, a documentary he's currently making for RTE that explores issues relating to gay parenthood in Ireland.

For certain members of Mooney's mid-afternoon audience this represented a final straw.

On Tuesday, a listener, articulating a kind of gay/straight apartheid, suggested Mooney should just have "a programme for gays". One that red-blooded heterosexuals might easily avoid.

"I will no longer be listening to your gay programme", he said, signing off.

One wonders where these marginalised radio consumers will now go.

There's always The David Harvey Show, I suppose. Just keep turning the dial to the right...