'I'm breaking': Morning Ireland's emotional interview gets to the heart … – The Irish Times

Morning Ireland host Rachael English had to cope with 30 seconds of sudden, unplanned silence.
It’s never a great sign when the highlight of a radio programme is silence, but that’s the case on Tuesday’s edition of Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), when the conversation suddenly gives way to dead air. After 30 seconds of eerie quiet, followed by a hastily cued song from Irish duo the Lost Brothers – whose name seems apt in the circumstances – service is resumed. “We’re not quite sure what happened there,” says presenter Rachael English, doing her best not to sound flustered, “We just disappeared.”
It’s only a minor blip, but in the ultra-predictable setting of Morning Ireland, it counts as an exhilarating trip. For all that the programme, by its nature, deals with unforeseen and often distressing events, the immutability of its format, barely altered over the years, means that it works as much as a timekeeping device as a window to world events. If it’s your second time hearing It Says In The Papers – a quaint, anachronistic slot in the era of digital news feeds – you probably need to hurry to make work by 9am.
Such rigidity may help explain why Radio 1′s long-time flagship is listing in terms of listener numbers, but there are other reasons. The news overload of the pandemic may have wearied listeners, but Morning Ireland doesn’t deviate from its mission. Stories are covered in admirably efficient form, but rarely linger much in the memory.
But Wednesday’s show proves an exception, as the lifting of the eviction ban provides the show with another highlight, this time more planned. Reporter Aisling Moloney interviews single mother Grace, who is about to lose her Dublin home of five years thanks to the Government’s decision. Unable to find another property after a year of looking, with nowhere to rent for less than €2,000 a month, Grace is understandably upset as she ponders the possibility of living in her car, talking of her “shame” at the prospect of being made homeless. “I’m breaking,” she says, “I never thought I’d be in this position.”
It’s heartbreaking to hear someone so close to the end of their tether, but Grace’s testimony captures the strain felt by normal people losing their home through no fault of their own. After such an emotional interview, the Government’s decision, for all the rationale of constitutional propriety, merely seems heartless.
RTÉ Radio 1 loses listeners as news fatigue erases pandemic gains ]
Just as damning is English’s follow-up discussion with Marian Finnegan of Sherry FitzGerald estate agents. Finnegan says there’s no evidence of landlords leaving the market because of the eviction ban; rather, small owners have been selling up for a decade due to burdensome taxes and regulations. Moreover, she suggests that the Government squandered the opportunity presented by the moratorium to halt the “exodus” of such landlords: “Literally nothing was done until the last minute of the last month.”
Morning Ireland certainly could do with freshening up, but in this case it pays to be predictable
After all that, Coalition spindoctors must surely be wishing for Morning Ireland to once again disappear from the air. But given the charged historical significance that evictions have in the Irish psyche, damning personal accounts such as Grace’s are surely to be expected. Morning Ireland certainly could do with freshening up, but in this case it pays to be predictable.
Pat Kenny: succinct in his own verdict on the eviction ban fallout – “Supply, supply, supply is the solution.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
With his overeager intelligence, sundry pet peeves and capacity for toe-curling asides, one can never be sure how Pat Kenny (Newstalk, weekdays) will deal with a subject, but his coverage of the eviction ban only adds to the negative optics surrounding the decision. Underlining the outsized impact on vulnerable renters, Kenny also hears from a single mother on the cusp of homelessness, as Lisa explains how she has to leave the Dublin apartment where she’s lived for nine years with her three sons.
Familiar problems of scarce properties and high rent have scuppered Lisa’s search for a new home, and she thinks that her dependence on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scares off prospective landlords. Kenny sounds sympathetic, though he goes off on a typical tangent by wondering how many local authority houses need to be built before Lisa qualifies for one. (She’s been on a waiting list for 11 years.)
Given the intractability of the housing crisis, it’s probably impossible to score a home run, but as the week’s radio coverage suggests, lifting the eviction ban looks like a spectacular own goal
The host also asks whether his guest could move in with family or friends. “It’s not really possible for me and three kids to move into someone’s house,” Lisa replies, by way of emphasising the indignity of her situation. Once again, the Government’s supposed strategy – as exemplified by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s blunt admission on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) that homelessness will rise as a result in the short term – is undercut by the stories of those affected.
Kenny executes an effective one-two when he follows this with housing analyst Lorcan Sirr’s methodical dissection of Government housing policy. Sirr quickly identifies the nub of the matter. “The core of the problem is the use of the private rental sector for social housing,” he says, adding there are 60,000 such households. As for the Government’s aim of restoring confidence with private landlords, Sirr points out that sector’s rent is taxed as income, and large funds pay “almost zero” tax on rents. It’s a bracing indictment of housing policy, delivered by Sirr in matter-of-fact fashion: Kenny dubs his guest “the minister for common sense”.
Kenny is equally succinct in his own verdict: “Supply, supply, supply is the solution.” He’s hardly alone in this conclusion. During his interview with Morning Ireland’s Audrey Carville, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly blithely states that “the only way to fix this is to have enough houses”. Well, quite. Given the intractability of the housing crisis, it’s probably impossible to score a home run, but as the week’s radio coverage suggests, lifting the eviction ban looks like a spectacular own goal. And, as Grace and Lisa’s poignant accounts remind us, the biggest losers are those renters suddenly facing homelessness.
© 2023 The Irish Times DAC
© 2023 The Irish Times DAC


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