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‘We’re so middle class’: Ciara Kelly and Shane Coleman don’t hide their familiarity with bourgie lifestyle cliches

Radio: In being themselves, the Newstalk Breakfast hosts leave a distinctive stamp on their morning show

In the movie Anchorman, the titular news presenter, Ron Burgundy, ends his nightly bulletin with the immortal line “You stay classy, San Diego.” Though Ciara Kelly and Shane Coleman lack the egotistical absurdity of Will Ferrell’s mustachioed character, the co-anchors of Newstalk Breakfast (weekdays) might take inspiration from their fictional peer if they’re seeking a signature catchphrase of their own: “You stay middle classy, Ireland.”

Certainly, the Newstalk duo don’t try to hide their familiarity with bourgie lifestyle cliches. On Wednesday, during an on-air chin-wag about wedding presents, Coleman and Kelly discover that they both received John Rocha wine glasses for their respective nuptials. “We’re so middle class,” Kelly delightedly exclaims. It’s not the only reference to their socio-economic stratum. During a conversation on home-improvement shows, Kelly posits that such reality programmes are criticised because they’re associated with the bourgeoisie, dismissing such naysaying as a form of killjoy “communism”.

While none of this falls within the traditional Marxist definition of class consciousness, the presenters can’t be accused of currying favour with any future dictatorship of the proletariat. But, in being themselves, Kelly and Coleman continue to leave a distinctive stamp on their morning show. And whatever about any shared social status, they have differing bugbears.

Coleman, for instance, is exercised by the Government’s decision to contribute €50 million to the redevelopment of Casement Park, the Belfast GAA ground, contrasting it with the lack of funding for soccer academies. “Soccer has become a political football to be kicked around,” he says. His colleague cheerfully admits to minimal interest in sport but is still sceptical about the initiative: “Call me a partitionist: I’d rather see it spent south of the Border.”


Kelly has other concerns, though. She talks to the psychotherapist Dr Padraic Gibson about whether mental-health issues are being overdiagnosed. The presenter welcomes the destigmatisation of mental illness but also wonders if there’s a danger of young people self-diagnosing conditions, fretting that such self-labelling “gives them an easy out” rather than learning “skills to build resilience”. Kelly is a former GP, as she reminds listeners, but such statements would seem based on her personal values as much as on her medical expertise.

Similar themes emerge during her talk with the Newstalk contributor Simon Tierney, who has been editing out undesirable violence and “elitism” when reading fairy tales to his daughters. “The values that the stories are written in are often not aligned with our own,” he says. The host isn’t so sure the tales are harmful. “I think if we overprotect kids they aren’t going to be resilient,” she says, returning to her pet peeve. (She takes another angle on the theme on Thursday, remarking in passing: “That’s how parenting has gone: we don’t like to say no.”) Equally, Kelly maybe has a point when she says to Tierney, “These are very adult concerns you’re putting on your kids.” It’s an intriguing if inconclusive exchange, reinforcing Kelly’s no-nonsense persona.

Of course, both presenters deal with actual news stories. On Monday, Coleman discusses the intractable crisis at RTÉ with the former minister Shane Ross, who proposes a solution beloved of disgruntled soccer fans everywhere: sack the board. As Coleman quizzes his guest, it’s less clear how such a move would really change the embattled network, but it’s an engaging segment nonetheless. (Over on RTÉ Radio 1, the Morning Ireland presenter Gavin Jennings has a weary air when prefacing the same issue: “We’ll be talking about RTÉ – again.” The programme also airs a promotional ad for two concerts with the Radio 1 DJ Louise Duffy that took place a week earlier, which adds to the pervasive sense of malaise at the network.)

Kelly deals with another long-running saga as she hears the economist Colm McCarthy object to the proposed Metrolink rail line to Dublin Airport: “It’s far too expensive for the alleged benefits it would deliver.” When the Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan and Kelly herself suggest the long-term benefits of a metro will eventually outweigh the costs, McCarthy is scornful. “You could use that argument to justify a stairway to the stars. I don’t accept it,” he says, thus handily ducking the argument. Kelly doesn’t press her guest, but, given the tortuous progress of previous infrastructure projects, she and Coleman should have ample opportunity to revisit the subject. That would test anyone’s resilience.

When it comes to Metrolink, Matt Cooper isn’t holding his breath. “We could have one sometime in the 2030s, all going well,” says the host of The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays), “but our experience suggests that is by no means certain.” But he adopts an urgent tone when repeatedly suggesting that the opposition of the Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan to the planned terminus point is based on constituency concerns. “You’re wrong again, Matt,” says an irritated O’Callaghan.

It’s a good example of the snapping style that Cooper employs to squeeze his guests, underlining his strength on news items. But he also delivers a reminder of his sometimes overlooked interest in broader cultural matters during his engrossing interviews with the US-based Irish writer Colum McCann (who has written a book with Diane Foley about the Isis murder of her son Jim) and the film-maker Alan Gilsenan, about his new documentary on the prospects of a united Ireland.

Above all, Cooper brings an enthusiastic curiosity to his weekly Culture Club slot, when he speaks to the playwright Philly McMahon. Both host and guest have great fun as they dissect McMahon’s favourite music, books and movies, which he thinks reflect his tastes as a “card-carrying homosexual”. But with choices running from Grease 2 (“I feel my street cred is in the bin”) to the nonfiction author Olivia Laing, McMahon’s artistic preferences are hard to pin down. Similarly, Cooper isn’t easily pigeonholed as a current affairs anchor: he’s in a class of his own.

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