Newstalk Women Tackle Old Boy Network


Andrea Gilligan may be the only solo presenter on Newstalk’s weekday show, but it would be extremely wrong to describe her as a symbolic woman. The distinctive approach that Gilligan brings to her role as host of Live lunch is obvious to listeners. With her contagious and easy-going style, she brings a looser, more informal feel to the early afternoon show than Ciara Kelly did.

As she says herself, “I would hate to think I was in a role just because there was a quota, a number, a goal to be achieved.”

Gilligan makes the statement during Wednesday’s discussion of the Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins bill to secure gender quotas for corporate boards. The host makes it clear, with unfailing politeness, that she is opposed to such measures.

According to Norah Casey, Ireland’s “old boys network” makes the quotas necessary to provide more opportunities for women. “If we wait for merit, we will be 100 years or older”

This may seem counterintuitive, given that she’s a rare female presence on an overwhelming male roster; Kelly, who is now co-host of Newstalk Breakfast, is the only other woman to have a prime-time role on the station. “I’m not saying we don’t need more women in leadership roles,” says Gilligan, but she thinks people should be successful on merit.

Some share his doubts about the imposition of such quotas. “I feel very strongly that I got where I am because I am me, not because I am a man or a woman,” says marketing consultant Aileen Eglington, who believes in “empowering” women to maximize their benefits. skills: “You have to do it yourself sometimes.

Businesswoman and host Norah Casey, meanwhile, says “the symbolism is the problem” on many Irish boards. For her, however, the symbolism comes in the form of men whose main qualifications are that they “have the right last name, went to the right school, played at the right rugby club”.

Like her host, Casey believes in succeeding on her own merits – and has done so herself, notably on Newstalk – but believes the “old boys network” makes the quotas necessary to provide more opportunities for young people. women: “If we wait for merit, we will be 100 years or more.

It’s a gripping debate, Casey’s mastery of detail lending persuasive weight to his arguments. Despite her own opinions, Gilligan lets the conversation flow in a stimulating manner. But for all of the intriguing issues raised by the article, it should be noted that the bone of contention is a proposition to advance women, rather than why such measures are needed. It’s hard to remember the last time Newstalk hosted such a heated discussion among male contributors about why men are so overrepresented on boards – or on the air, for that matter.

Gilligan’s subjects don’t always work so well. To describe other elements as burdens is to attribute to them an unjustified seriousness. Spurred on by a recent poll claiming viewers spend 25 minutes a week deciding what to watch on streaming services, the host is daringly spending about the same amount of time on the topic, with predictable results.

Yet in his disarming and kind way, Gilligan can still call attention to contentious issues. His conversation with Pamela Uba, the new Miss Ireland, is unsurprisingly optimistic: Uba is the first woman of color to win the competition; in addition, she is a medical scientist who grew up in direct delivery.

Uba talks about the struggles of her early childhood in South Africa and the obstacles her family faced in Ireland, although Gilligan doesn’t address these themes as fully as she could. (Ray D’Arcy, hardly the most forensic of interrogators, gets more granular details when he interviews Uba on RTÉ Radio 1, like how she was classified as a foreign student at the university.)

Actor Jade Jordan’s white Irish grandmother, who married a Jamaican man in the 1950s, left her children outside whenever she visited her own mother.

Gilligan is aware of gender issues, however, voicing light criticism of beauty pageants as outdated. (That’s a word for them.) The very positive Uba takes a different point of view, describing the competition as a platform that encourages participants to “do amazing things”. The host, always so friendly, left it there. Even now, after all, there are only a limited number of opportunities for women to empower themselves.

Matt Cooper hears another Irish woman of color in Wednesday’s edition of The last word (Today FM, weekdays), when he talks with actress Jade Jordan, whose tale has a less innocuous cast than that of Uba. On the back of his recently published family memoir, Jordan talks about his mixed-race experiences in Ireland. As Cooper notes, the book contains stories from three generations that belies the idea that Ireland is not racist.

Jordan’s white Irish grandmother, who married a Jamaican man in the 1950s, left her children outside whenever she visited her own mother: “There was no recognition.” Jordan herself suffered prejudice at a young age, when a boy described her skin as “dirty”: she started trying to wash off her color. “Things like that stay with you,” she says, also recounting more recent cases of random racist abuse.

Despite this, it is a curiously optimistic element. Jordan believes that as the country becomes more multicultural, “we get better” on race issues. Thanks to her determined mother, she is “super proud” to be Irish and mixed race. Cooper, for his part, manages to be sensitive while gently pushing his guest to share her sometimes disturbing stories.

To his credit, the host has long had critical conversations about Ireland’s uneven diversity record. Next, he discusses the impact of young footballers such as Gavin Bazunu and Andrew Omobamidele on the Republic of Ireland squad: Formerly made up largely of the British offspring of Irish emigrants, the squad now includes children. born in Ireland to immigrants from Africa origin.

It is an encouraging element, but one which does not shy away from delicate problems. Sports journalist Kieran Cunningham notes that after making fun of English football commentators mutilating Irish surnames, fans should have basic decency to correctly pronounce the names of our new international players.

If there is one nagging doubt about this welcome discussion of diversity, it’s that all of the participants are white and male. (As does this writer, who lives cautiously in his own glass house.) Different voices are always needed.

Moment of the week: raw documentary about love and heartbreak

There have been numerous tales of loss on the air lately, but none have been as powerful as Mary Elaine Tynan’s portrayal of her mother on Documentary on One: I’ll send you flowers (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday and Sunday). After her mother, Margaret, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease the same day Ireland was stranded in March 2020, Tynan is saving their time together.

The resulting tale is agonizing but tender. Margaret’s condition and voice deteriorates at an alarming rate as she struggles with self-isolation. Her daughter’s anguish is obvious: it is unbearable to hear her ailing mother say: “I am not afraid of dying, I am afraid of living. But there are moments of shared love and even laughter, before the devastating but eerily peaceful end. A hard and unforgettable documentary.


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