I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Of bishops and nighties

Of bishops and nighties

Farrel Corcoran
A Post-Nationalist History of Television in Ireland, by Edward Brennan, Palgrave Macmillan, 235 pp, ISBN: Most of the Irish media allocated generous amounts of time and space to mark the death of broadcaster Gay Byrne in November this year. Former colleagues, editorial writers, public figures, viewers and listeners all gave expression to their reminiscences and appreciations of what the man had contributed to radio and television over a very long career. Much of the public discourse resonated with what had been said in the media twenty years previously at his retirement. Byrne was the “choirmaster of the national conversation”. His funeral was “a national moment”. His long-running Late Late Show was credited with changing decades of Irish thinking, of liberating Irish society from the dark ages of church-led values. Byrne changed the way we saw ourselves, our society and the pillars of authority that had underpinned it all. If we look closer at the media coverage of Byrne’s funeral as a concentrated “site of memory” for reflecting on the big question of the relationship between television and Irish culture and politics we can discern a dominant narrative that colours much academic and journalistic accounting of the influence of television in society. Television is viewed predominantly as a modernising force for positive change that over time eroded the hegemony of tradition, Catholicism, indigenous capitalism and introverted nationalism. In this narrative, the iconic Late Late Show stands out as a major influence with “a profound effect on Irish social mores” (John Horgan), the “bane of the upholders of traditional values” (Diarmuid Ferriter) since its beginning, giving voice to what “Old Ireland” had silenced. Its achievement is “founded on people’s inarticulacy, embarrassment and silence” (Fintan O’Toole). The Late Late “provoked legislative change and shifted the boundaries of taboos in Irish social discourse on a variety of topics, including unmarried mothers, Traveller rights, infanticide, different kinds of sexuality, marriage and clerical celibacy” (Lance Pettit). If the Late Late Show had not existed, “it is highly possible that many people would have lived their lives in Ireland in the 20th century without ever having heard anyone talking about sex” (Colm Tóibín). The achievement of television is “the empowerment of the individual, the strengthening of rights based on individual choice rather than the old hierarchical society with answers handed down from those already characterised as well-nigh infallible in all matters” (John Bowman). The story of RTÉ is the achievement of broadcasting prising open the…

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