As interviewers, you have to believe that Drivetime dream team Sarah McInerney and Cormac Ó hEadhra appreciate the entertainment value of an awkward moment. And it doesn’t take long to arrive. When McInerney arrived a few minutes late, as soon as I asked if Ó hEadhra had ever felt obsessed with the florid reviews in print, admiring the social media comments and magazine covers for his partner, he (happily?) asked me to ask the question again. “I want her to listen to you.”
it comes. “’Eclipsed’ is not the word I would use to describe Cormac,” Sarah replied, and after a moment called me “Declan”. My own eclipse is total.
It’s all fun and in fact, regardless of their family background, both he and she play more important roles in RTÉ’s premier weekday afternoon radio show. since they were announced as co-hosts two years ago. The listener count is 212,000 in the latest quarterly JNLR figures.
McInerney recently received the Radio Moment of the Year award for her interview with Russian ambassador Yuri Filatov, and Ó hEadhra, a well-versed lawyer and Gaelgoir, has been described as a “Rottweiler” for her accomplishments. Brutal political interview makes Driving time sounds so appealing.
I asked them what evasion tactics they saw from politicians squirming on their racks. “The classic sentence is, ‘I’ll come back to that in a minute, but I have an important point to make,’” Ó hEadhra said. “Which is easy to solve. But different [tactic] is to directly accuse the interviewer of something.” He cites an example of an interview with Sammy Wilson in which the DUP politician, when challenged about popular support for changes to the Northern Ireland protocol, asked Ó hEadhra: “Do you call me a liar?”
Then he either gave up – which he said ministers did during the IMF bailout period – or the simple tactic of taking advantage of their old sweet time to reciprocate. Ó hEadhra cites the example of a Fianna Fáil backbencher, who, at a conference the presenter held a few years ago, simply waited five or six seconds while he gathered his thoughts live on air. . He recalls: “It took the passion out of the debate and was very effective at it.
The pair have their own less obvious ways to tackle tough questions. When I asked if politicians carrying out libel actions against journalists – Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin leader pursuing a lawsuit against RTÉ over comments on another show – caused chilling influence on the media or not, there was a moment of thought. “I think that’s above our salary, and that’s brutally frank and honest with you. Unless they sue me, it’s not my baby,” Ó hEadhra replied.
McInerney is coming out a bit more. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but whenever I have a Sinn Féin politician sitting in front of me, including Mary Lou McDonald, [the defamation case] not on my mind in any way. I can say unequivocally that I don’t feel like I have to throw any punches or skate around anything that I wouldn’t normally do for legal reasons.” She added: “Look, that’s a really good question. But you have to know that we are not allowed to express an opinion on what politicians do.”
What about when they heard Catherine Martin, who is in charge of the media, express concerns about RTÉ’s finances, or the general debate about the future of the broadcaster?
Ó hEadhra said: “I see it through a completely professional lens. “We’re really in a weird position, because we’re between the public and RTÉ, so when people criticize RTÉ, we have to accept that and say, ‘Is that fair? ?’ And then, if we have an RTÉ . executive [in front of us]be ready to ask those questions and interrogate them, which we did on the show.”
Do these problems affect morale? “I have worked in many media organizations: Sunday Tribunethe Sunday Times, Newstalk and now here. And maybe a few different places in between,” said McInerney. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a media organization where their morale is so high, because I think every media organization always has the feeling that there isn’t enough funding. It’s been a topic in the media but I don’t feel that it’s worse at RTÉ than elsewhere.”
Discussing presenters’ salaries and scrutiny over their looks and style has long been a thing of the past on social media. Aren’t they upset that the broadcaster’s state-sponsored nature – and thus, publicly available salary information – makes people feel they have a right to comment on these things?
“Honestly, I think it’s a privileged position,” McInerney said. “I’m in a privileged position and if there’s something I don’t want to be there, I think you’ll accept the good with the bad. When I joined Newstalk, there wasn’t any public pressure, or at TV3, there was no profile, expectation or standard that I feel here. Because I think as a public broadcaster you can act differently or have certain different standards. “
Does she think she’s under the microscope more because she’s a woman? “Sometimes. Certainly with my looks and other things, in terms of television. I’m sure it’s not so much in radio. But definitely on TV, yeah. But that comes with All of this comes with work, really. You just have to get used to it.
I wonder how they feel about the way before Today presenter Seán O’Rourke was treated after the Golfgate affair. Plans to return to RTÉ were scrapped amid an uproar over the infamous Clifden dinner he attended. Ultimately, no one was convicted of any crime in connection with the August 2020 incident. The judge in the prosecution case (excluding O’Rourke) noted that “very good has lost a very good job”.
Has he been treated unfairly? “I gave it very little thought,” McInerney said. “When did that happen? Two or three years ago? It’s been a long time.”
Is she still in contact with him? “Well, he was kind to me when I started Today recital. He met me and gave me some advice. But I won’t have much communication with him before then. Do you understand me? I will not have a long-term relationship with Seán O’Rourke in my career. So it wouldn’t be normal for me to contact him beyond that.”
The Irish Mail on Sunday reported over the summer that McInerney was in line to star in Claire Byrne’s old Monday night TV show. However, it was announced last week that Katie Hannon would instead present a new news program in that position. Does McInerney want it?
“Now, how to answer this question,” she began. “No, that’s not what my hat is in the ring. I’m really happy to see Katie Hannon [was] do it, and that’s not what I want. I’m happy to do it gold time.”
As McInerney points out, Driving time not the presenter’s only performance: she co-presented the aforementioned RTÉ One and presented Ó hEadhra Saturday With Cormac Ó hEadhra on Radio 1. Does this type of workload cost the individual — do they ever feel burned out?
“Yes, sometimes,” McInerney said. “Once you start doing journalism, you quickly find that you never get bored with it. It’s really 24 hours, seven days a week. [If you don’t do that] you suddenly find yourself lagging behind. And that’s really why I try as hard as I can to turn off the lights in the morning. Because otherwise I would work all day.”
She says going to the gym “with the music at its maximum.” “That and meditation and wine and negronis. My cocktail of choice.”
Ó hEadhra adds: “Anyone who is concerned with current affairs, doing the right thing, will feel exhausted.”
He told me that there has been a large amount of listener feedback about lighter items on Driving time — which can be a much-needed solace in the serious context of political interviews — and it is clear that both presenters have an instinct to joke around and have a playful chemistry with each other.
When McInerney told me that an audience member told her she looked “like Brian May from Queen,” she Googled the legendary guitarist and admitted that the listener “had a bit of a point.” . “I think that’s not fair to Brian May,” Ó hEadhra replied.
Minutes later, she got hers back. When I asked her how she let off steam, she replied, “I deadlift Cormac.”
With this light ability, I wonder if either of you have ever felt the lure of light entertainment. “No, I don’t think so,” McInerney replied.
“I love making lighter items on Driving time but what i really like are the current issues. That’s where my heart is. The Late Late not on my bingo card.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/drivetimes-sarah-mcinerney-i-dont-think-ive-ever-been-in-a-media-organisation-where-the-morale-is-great-i-dont-feel-that-its-any-worse-at-rte-42171690.html Drivetime’s Sarah McInerney: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a media organization where my morale was so high. I don’t feel it’s worse at RTÉ’