Radio: Wilson calm amid the hysteria

The day after Anthony Campbell and Martin Hyland were murdered in Finglas, Mary Wilson was a composed, clear voice (Drivetime, 5-6.30pm, weekdays, RTÉ Radio 1). She didn't do the usual lazy RTÉ thing of getting Paul Reynolds on air to shout loudly from the scene of the crime, spurting Garda leaks. Instead, she gave Independent TD Tony Gregory a long stretch to explain the situation. He questioned whether the Garda have the resources to catch the killers. He told of how detection rates for gangland murders are incredibly low. He asked if the Garda knew about a threat against Martin Hyland's life, and if so, why they weren't keeping a closer eye on him.

Gregory has been raising these issues for 20 years and has been told by successive ministers that drug seizures were ‘very small' and everything was ‘under control'. And now there are ‘unprecedented seizures' of €10m worth of drugs and the situation is ‘out of control, anarchy'. Gregory's analysis was clear and simple: drug criminals need to be caught and sentenced so that young people do not get sucked into a life of what might seem like easy money and ‘06 cars. If they make money, the CAB should strip their assets. But all of this takes resources.

Mary Wilson was equally good talking to Deborah Orr of the London Independent about women working in prostitution, in the aftermath of the murders of five prostitutes in Surrey, England. Again, a calm, sensitive conversation amid the media hysteria.

Orr said that we choose to ignore the horrific, routine violence experienced by women who work in prostitution, because they are prostitutes, often drug-users and increasingly immigrants. It seems women who work in prostitution are not valuable unless they are killed in high numbers. Just like the killings in Finglas, where a gang member's life is less precious than that of a plumber. Mary Wilson's coverage avoided this analysis but it was a lonely position in the crowded media coverage making moral judgements on death.

And the day after Padraig Nally was acquitted of the manslaughter of John Ward, Mary Wilson interviewed Nally and, using a sincere tone, asked, “Are you sorry for shooting John Ward twice? If he [John Ward] was a member of the settled community, would you have shot him? Do you believe you deserved to be acquitted?” Padraig Nally is sorry he took away a man's life, he's not sure he would have killed him if he was from the settled community, he didn't think he would be acquitted. It was Mary Wilson at her best and makes you realise why she got the Drivetime slot in the first place.

That said, Drivetime still has some dreadful elements. Wilson sounds bored when talking about politics. There are regular bad features about, for example, buying Christmas trees or teenagers being offended by being called by their English-language names. The programme is constantly broken up for business, sports, farm news, and AA Roadwatch. Even if these are necessary, they need to be shorter, snappier. Perhaps Mary Wilson should be allowed play to her strengths, cover the stories she is really good at and get a co-host who'll do the political stories and lighten up the rest of it.π