Sex and Irish Literature

Irish Independent, 2011 When Eugene McCabe’s King of the Castle was premiered at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre in 1964, a man in the audience became so incensed by an onstage sexual proposition that he shouted at the offending actor “You dirty bastard!” His outburst was considered so quaint by visiting London critics that a reviewer from the Sunday Times […]

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Sweet Tooth. By Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape)

Irish Independent, August 25, 2012 On the inside cover of Ian McEwan’s thirteenth full-length book, Peter Kemp of the Sunday Times declares its author to be “the supreme novelist of his generation”. Not, you will note, the supreme English novelist or even the supreme British novelist but simply the best in the world in whatever language. Indeed, so […]

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JG Farrell: The Making of a Writer. By Lavinia Greacen (Cork University Press)

Irish Independent, February 23, 2013 Was it an accident or did he jump or was there skullduggery by MI5 or the IRA? Various speculations have been raised over the 1979 death in West Cork of 44-year-old Man Booker winner JG Farrell, and Lavinia Greacen devotes both her prologue and her epilogue to the circumstances surrounding his death. However, […]

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Making Way. By Theo Dorgan (New Island Press)

Irish Independent, April 13, 2013 When Irish yachtsman Tom first encounters Irish lawyer Clare, it’s at the quayside of Ortigia on Sicily’s south-east coast and he’s about to embark on a one-night stand with a French woman who has moored nearby. When he meets Clare again the next day, the French woman has sailed off into the sunrise. […]

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The Gamal. By Ciaran Collins (Bloomsbury)

Irish Independent, April 27, 2013 Ciaran Collins’s outstanding first novel concerns a doomed teenage love affair in a rural West Cork small town sometime in the 1990s. Yet though the story is essentially tragic, comedy comes in the form of narrator Charlie, who proves from the outset to be a highly entertaining chronicler of what happens. Charlie is […]

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The Ups and Downs of RTE’S First Fifty Years

Irish Independent, October 22, 2011 Government relations with RTE have always been fraught with deep suspicion and never more so than in 1967 when long-time RTE career man TP Hardiman became the station’s third director-general. Erskine Childers had recently been appointed Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, a brief that included responsibility for broadcasting, and during a dinner with […]

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Women and Children

Irish Independent, November 12, 2011 Women who have children not only have the right to go out and get themselves a job – they have an absolute duty to do so. That was the opinion of critic and columnist Emer O’Kelly on It’s Not Personal (RTE1) and, boy, did she tell us about it. Indeed, in Emer’s […]

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Come Dine with Me

Irish Independent, April 14, 2012 The saddest remark I heard in ages came from Holly Sweeney in the first instalment of Celebrity Come Dine with Me Ireland (TV3). Telling the camera what she did for a living, she said: “People would know me best from being the ex-girlfriend of Rory MclIroy, the professional golfer”. And a little later, […]

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When in Rome

Irish Independent, March 16, 2013 Like any self-respecting broadcaster, RTE was on the spot when the new pope was introduced to the world last Wednesday evening and it provided engrossing coverage of this extraordinary ritual – no matter what one’s religious persuasion, there’s nothing to beat pomp and ceremony when staged by experts at putting on a good […]

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Love/Hate

Irish Independent, November 17, 2012 The first episode in the new season of Love/Hate (RTE1) culminated in a brutally violent rape and murder, but long before that most of the women characters had already been used and abused – not just by the young males who dominate this crime drama but by its makers as well. You could […]

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A lot of Blarney

Irish Independent, April 20, 2013 Who needs RTE to talk up The Gathering when our friends in the North are even more fervent in promoting the wonders of our enchanted isle? As it happens, Our Friends in the North is the title of Kevin McAleer’s new series about the Scots Irish, but I’ll get to that after […]

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All the Presidents Artists

Irish Independent, March 23, 2013 Nineteen artistic worthies were summoned to the Aras for Glaoch: The President’s Call (RTE1), which left me pondering why nineteen equally worthy others hadn’t been given the nod. Seamus Heaney was there, of course, as well as Paula Meehan, the latter gazing out a window and soulfully declaiming a poem that seemed to […]

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Nuala O’Faolain

Irish Independent, March 24, 2012 Last Monday night’s Nuala was the third documentary about the late Nuala O’Faolain that RTE1 has screened in the past six years. That makes it at least one too many, and though in substance and general interest this new film was vastly superior to its predecessors, it suffered from the same basic problem […]

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Clerical Gripes

Irish Independent, November 3, 2012 Like most of the celebrities with whom he’s been schmoozing throughout his priestly life, Fr Brian D’Arcy has always embraced the limelight – indeed, for anyone who’s lived through the last four decades, he’s been a constant media presence, whether through his Sunday World column or as guest on innumerable chat shows and […]

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Bernadette Devlin

Irish Independent, February 4, 2012 Whenever someone mentions the name Bernadette Devlin (not often, as it happens), the image I summon up is of a long-haired slip of a girl in a miniskirt standing on a windswept platform and delivering speeches full of youthful fury – a politicised Dana, if you like, before Dana herself got political. Whenever […]

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Lughnasa Lunacy

Irish Independent, August 6, 2011 At the outset of Lughnasa Live (RTE1), Grainne Seoige revealed that the Co Clare heritage park from which she was hosting the show was “surrounded by wild boars.” Sadly, we never got to see them. Instead we had to content ourselves with the tame bores whom she had gathered inside the encampment to […]

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Libel Matters

Irish Independent, November 26, 2011 As a practising journalist, I wish I could say I’m dismayed at the disgrace RTE has incurred over its libelling of Fr Kevin Reynolds (there but for the grace of God and all that), but I’m afraid it didn’t even come as a surprise to me. Reviewing the Prime Time Investigates film […]

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Dragon’s Den

Irish Independent, March 9, 2013 Is it just me or does anyone else think Dragon’s Den should have been buried along with the Celtic Tiger, on the mangy tail of which it initially rode? Maybe, as presenter Richard Curran argued at the outset of the show’s fifth season on RTE1, now is the time “when new businesses […]

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Maybe a time of political decency will prevail again

Irish Independent, March 12, 2011 In Colm Toibin’s short story, The News from Dublin, a Wexford teacher in the 1950s is seated in the Dail’s public gallery awaiting an audience with the health minister, from whom he seeks a favour. While waiting, he observes the TDs in the chamber below him: “The Fine Gael people […]

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Lonely Voices: The Irish Short Story from James Joyce to Claire Keegan

Lecture given to Kate O’Brien Winter School, February 2010 What I want to do in this talk is to celebrate the Irish short story and, in the process, to try to define what makes it so distinctive – and, indeed, to try and tease out what has drawn so many Irish writers to it. But […]

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