Adventures in Irish Radio (Or how I became a talking head, almost…)

On Thanksgiving evening, full of turkey and stuffing, I sat down at my computer and found an email from a producer of a news show on NewsTalk-Ireland’s National Independent Talk Broadcaster.  They wanted to talk to me! I found the invitation intriguing for a number of reasons. First I am just a survivor blogging on the ongoing idiocy from the Catholic Hierarchy in dealing with the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church. Secondly, I have never been a talking head, so this invitation was somewhat unexpected and a little intimidating. Finally, the vast majority of Americans trace their roots from other continents. I am of Irish decent. Don’t let my surname fool you, I come from a line of Kelly’s and O’Connell’s. It was pretty amazing to get emails and phone calls from Ireland that culminated in an appearance on the radio waves in Dublin.

Earlier in the week the “Murphy Report” had been released and the media in Ireland, as well as internationally, was buzzing about information contained in the report. The report focuses on the priests who abused children, the bishops that protected them and the failure of civil authorities to investigate and prosecute pedophiles.   The Gardai (the Irish National Police) take a beating in the report because, over and over again, they deferred to the church to deal with the problem of priests who committed these crimes. The report is horrific, but not all that surprising. After reading the document I am convinced that you could take the City of Dublin out of the document and insert the name of any diocese and have the finding still ring true.

The name of the radio show that offered the invitation is “The Wide Angle” hosted by Karen Coleman. It goes on the air in Dublin at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. The broadcast runs for three hours. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States. The producer told me to expect a call early Sunday morning, the segment that I was going to be a part of was the second hour of the broadcast. The other guests on the program were Marie Collins, a survivor of abuse as a child and Father Tom Doyle.

So how did I end up on the guest list? As far as I can tell, the answer is Google. I saw a lot of search engine hits on my blog related to Father Doyle and the reports in Ireland. I am assuming the producers stumbled on me while researching the topic for the show. I have never been interviewed on the radio on this topic and I was a little apprehensive. I had started reading the Murphy report but lets face it, it was Thanksgiving weekend, I knew I was not going to get through the 700+ pages in a couple of days. I was a little nervous about what I was going to say and hoping I would not sound like an idiot.

The reality of my appearance on The Wide Angle was much different from what I had prepared for. Despite powering through Section I of the Murphy Report (about 170 pages), preparing talking points and discussing strategy with my wife while running errands I was unprepared for my moment, when it came.

The host, Karen Coleman, started the 11 o’clock hour (Dublin time) by giving an overview of the Murphy Report and interviewing Marie Collins. Ms. Collins was molested by a priest while in a hospital as a child in the ’60’s. I listened intently as she discussed the report with the host and related her own heartbreaking experience as a child. Next up was Father Thomas Doyle. Father Doyle is completely woven into the fabric of the survivors’ movement and has paid a personal price for his efforts on behalf of victims of abuse at the hands of clergy. Listening to him discussing the report and answering questions from an American perspective was like hearing the reassuring voice of reason. The clock was running during the conversation. I was so wrapped up in the broadcast that I almost forgot I was on hold, listening to all of this on my phone as the first light of day was coming over southern Virginia.

There were less 10 minutes left in the broadcast when the phone clicked and Karen came to ask me a question. I was almost startled to become part of the conversation to which I had been so intently listening. I had all my talking points and my blog open on my laptop. I wanted to say something that was not a reiteration of the other guests’ comments. I think I wanted to emphasize that the sexual abuse of children is not a thing of the past, that there are still children and vulnerable adults out there who were in danger. There are still predators out there that posed a real threat and there were bishops enabling these monsters by protecting them in order to avoid scandal. The news blogs are refreshed, on a daily basis, with stories of priests who are being arrested or investigated. I also pointed out that there have been cases in the U.S. of police and members of the judiciary that have deferred to the church to handle sexual abuse cases that should have been adjudicated in the courts. These people failed victims as badly as the church had done.

I think my elapsed time on the broadcast was about a minute!

And then it was over. Karen told me that someone would get back to me and bring me on a later show. I really don’t expect that to happen, although they were kind to offer. It was worth it to be on the line to listen to the conversation moving forward.

I want to thank Shona Murray, Eoghan McLaughlin, and Karen Coleman from “The Wide Angle” for including me in the conversation. I really did enjoy the experience. The show’s website has links to podcasts of previous broadcasts available. I am not sure when the podcast for the 29 November 2009 broadcast will be available to download. I plan on monitoring the website so I will let you know when it is available. I will also get my talking points cleaned up and post them with a link to the Murphy Report.

5 thoughts on “Adventures in Irish Radio (Or how I became a talking head, almost…)”

  1. That is great “The Wide Angle” was smart enough to find you and include you in the discussion. It is cool you were on the panel with Tom Doyle and Marie Collins. Reading all the stories from Ireland, I especially noted the comments from Marie and she was tremendous. I’m glad you were on to represent US survivors and let our Irish relatives know we are aware of their fight to expose the truth and that people like you are fighting the same battle here.

  2. I think that is great too, Michael. How wonderful it is to be recognized and affirmed. I have such respect for Father Tom Doyle, what a great man. It is said though that he is not treasured by many in the Church. He speaks the truth but many don’t want to listen. Look at all those involved in the cover-ups who got promoted. Does loyalty count for more than truth?

    Peace – Mark

  3. Michael, it was a shame your contribution was so short. I know the studio team intended it would be longer but the time seemed to fly by. I was delighted we got to hear from a victim in America. We have all travelled the same road, no matter how many miles might seperate us. We have all fought the same fight for justice and to expose the cover up to the world. Slowly but surely the truth has got out there. The Murphy report is just another step on the way.

    Wide Angle may be doing a follow up this Sunday on the response from the Catholic leadership here this week to the findings of the report. People are very angry and much to the displeasure of the bishops it’s not calming down!!

    Congratulations again on your contribution. I hope to share the airwaves with you sometime again in thre future.

    Marie Collins
    Dublin, Ireland

    1. Marie,

      Thanks for posting a comment to my blog. I hope you don’t think I was complaining about a lack of air time. I actually thought it was pretty funny. Listening to a conversation that I would not have heard here in the States and gaining perspective of what the face of the scandal is in Ireland was well worth rising early on Sunday. I will be checking back with the website for the show and downloading the podcasts if the Bishops decide to come on and plead their case.

      I am sorry for what you went through as a child, none of us should have been put through what happened. There is a connection between us all. I have found in the two years since I told my great terrible secret that I was not alone and that other survivors were willing to support me. That support reaches across the ocean as well. We will have your back on this side of the pond.

      Maybe someday the Bishops will understand and do the right thing. Until then people like you and I will force them to deal with the truth of what happened to us as children. If we save a child from the same fate it will be worth it.

      Best of luck to you. Let me know if I can do anything to support you from the States.


  4. Michael, there is nothing stronger than the truth and that means the bishops are fighting a losing battle, they just have not realised it yet.

    Great to have been able to contact you and many thanks for the offer of support. Just knowing there are so many of us around the world standing up and speaking out helps so much. We are not alone any more.

    If you would like to ready any of the recent Dublin report here’s a link

    All the very best from our little green isle.


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