Radio: Norris trumps Dunphy

Nell McCafferty thinks Ian Paisley is sexy. Nell's da let her go to discos as a teenager in the hope that it might "straighten her out" while her mother was busy ripping up rags for petrol bombs. Nell's feminist crusade went well beyond bringing condoms in from the North on the famous "condom train". She liberated women pint-drinkers in Dublin by ordering 40 brandies in Neary's pub and refusing to pay until they gave her a pint.

Nell was talking to David Norris on his new Sunday morning interview show on NewsTalk (Sunday with Norris, 9-10am, NewsTalk). It is lively, fun, top-quality radio, just what you wish for on a Sunday morning. Norris even manages to make usually dull interviewees interesting. A few weeks ago he interviewed Enda Kenny and portrayed a more appealing, personal side of the opposition leader than is normally exposed. This week, Norris was clearly having a great time. He is at ease in studio and, although he talks a lot, he doesn't talk too much and lets his guests speak and entertain. His effusive enthusiasm is contagious, he introduces the ads and makes flawless links to the music selected by guests. His guests even choose good music.

David Norris has all the skills that Eamon Dunphy does not. On the same slot on RTÉ Radio 1 on a Saturday morning, Conversations with Eamon tries to be a version of Desert Island Discs but fails and fails miserably. Dunphy obviously does not know what his show is about. It is neither an interview nor a robust discussion. On 21 October, he failed to mention that the man he was interviewing (Ger Colleran, editor of the Irish Daily Star) is also one of his many occasional employers. Dunphy writes for the Irish Daily Star irregularly. Potential conflict of interest aside, it was turgid, dull, pre-recorded radio – pretending not to be pre-recorded. It moved from obsequious admiration to an attempt to take on Ger Colleran about Garda leaks as the basis for crime stories and the ethics of tabloid journalism. It failed.

As if one bad interview was not enough for Saturday morning listeners to RTÉ Radio 1, Marian Finucane swiftly followed Dunphy into mediocrity (Marion Finucane, 11am-1pm, Saturday and Sunday). She dedicated over 45 minutes to interviewing Pat Henry – the man who is known for providing fat plans and exercise regimes to the rich and sometimes famous. Apart from his interesting story of being adopted and finding out only by accident as an adult man, there was nothing to justify the long, boring chat, including an extraordinarily inappropriate live-on-air plea to his birth mother to get in touch with him. Awful, awful radio.

Given the lousy listening on RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and the liveliness that the likes of David Norris and Róisín Ingle are bringing to NewsTalk, it seems likely that more and more listeners will be switching to NewsTalk. 

Sara Burke does a weekly 15-minute newspaper review on NewsTalk's Breakfast Show