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What did the 2018 Late Late Show teach us about Ireland this year?

We take a look.

IF THERE’S ONE TV show that tells us what Irish society is like at the present moment, it’s the Late Late Show.

That’s not to say that the Ryan Tubridy-hosted RTÉ show portrays the Ireland of today perfectly – or that it isn’t without its detractors. Sometimes the guests tell incredibly moving stories that make viewers feel humbled. Other times, people like Sean Spicer are interviewed, despite some protests – though as host Tubridy hasn’t shied away from challenging controversial guests.

In 2018, the Late Late Show took in everything from health scandals to the #MeToo movement, bringing us interviews with Peter Casey, Bob Geldof, and Liam Neeson amongst others..

Here’s what we learned about Ireland of 2018 from this year’s Late Late Show

  • Even the Irish abroad have a big grá for the show

original (12) Source: RTÉ

There were 1,200 tickets available for the Late Late Show’s debut London show – but 10,000 people applied for them. If you thought that the show lost appeal when people move abroad, this put paid to that. The London special took place on 12 October, and attracted an Irish audience of 610,000 – 52% of the audience share that night. 

However, the show wasn’t without its issues. Some ticket-holders were left disappointed as it turned out that the show was “oversubscribed” and some people were turned away. It turned out that tickets were not a guarantee of entry, and seats were allocated on a first-come, first-served basis (as is standard in UK TV audience management).

  • Ireland’s carers still need support

image-22-6 Brenda O'Connell Barry Source: RTÉ

Where the Late Late Show often excels is passing the mic to those in Irish society who are not high-flying actors or wealthy developers. Some might argue we need even more stories on the show like that of Brenda O’Connell Barry. The Cork woman appeared after winning the Carer of the Year award for the care she gives to her son Fionn, who suffers from a rare genetic condition. 

“I hope that I can help other carers in Ireland because everyone is struggling. We’re on our knees and we’re not getting the help,” she said. “Everyday we work so hard, and we get knocked back.”

  • Controversial figures will get airtime – but can get challenged

spicer-6 Source: RTÉ

During the presidential campaign, one person who attracted a lot of attention was one Peter Casey. In particular, his comments on the Traveller community drew much criticism. He was invited onto the Late Late Show, where he faced questions from members of the Travelling community.

Asked why he thought it was acceptable to “victimise Travellers further”, Casey defended himself. 

“I was not victimising anyone. I’m all about inclusion. We need more inclusion. By marginalising a community, it’s wrong.”

He shared the show with former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, who said:

The trouble with being a small minority, it seems to somehow affect everybody. It becomes a description of the ‘Travelling community’ doing this or that. That can quickly spark a response. 

Sean Spicer also got a chance to appear on the national airwaves. The former White House press secretary was not a popular choice for some viewers, and he was challenged by Tubridy on some elements of what he said.

For example, on the topic of the Trump’s comments on Mexican immigrants, Tubridy said: “If you replaced the word Mexican with Irish in 1845 and 2018″, Spicer smiled and said: “We wouldn’t be here.”

Tubridy responded by saying: “That’s not funny.” The audience applauded when Tubridy said: “It’s a dangerous thing to be talking about.”

  • Politicians will always be politicians

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

Put a politician on a prime time TV show and they’ll try and get a dig in at their rivals. At least, that’s what we learned from Ryan Tubridy’s interview with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

While being interviewed, Martin described Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as “very obsessed with media presentation, everything is through the lens of how it’s perceived”. Punch thrown.

  • People can be very brave in telling their personal stories

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

Some of this year’s most memorable guests on the Late Late Show included transgender men Nicky Manning and Luke O’Reilly Kane, who sat down with Ryan to talk about their experiences transitioning and their background.

That a solid and non-sensationalised interview on this topic could take place on such a big show demonstrated that in Ireland the trans conversation is open and ongoing. The outpouring of support for the two men showed that people are proud of them.

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

Another person who bravely told her story was Laura Brennan. She is just 24 but has incurable cervical cancer. After the issues with CervicalCheck became public, the country has become even more aware of the impact of the disease. 

Brennan wants to raise awareness of the importance of the HPV vaccine, and said that after she was diagnosed, she wrote to the HSE about her story, telling them: “Look, if there’s any way my story will stop this from happening to any other girl then I want to be 100% behind it”.

Then there was Michaela Morley, whose photo with Brian O’Driscoll was one of the best of the 2000s. She’s 13 years old and has had a kidney transplant, so it was a joy to see her share her story on the Late Late Show.

  • We love/hate a good debate 

This year was chock full of referendum debates – and the Late Late Show effectively kicked off the Eighth Referendum debates with its one on 27 April.

There’s a curious thing where as a nation we both love debates but also love giving out about them (witness Twitter when there’s a debate on a TV show). But the Late Late Show’s trump card was bringing on two prominent spokespeople, one of whom, obstetrician Peter Boylan, was taking his first foray into political debating on a national stage. 

The Late Late Show knew there was an appetite for people to hear from both sides of the Eighth Referendum discussion, and Tubridy did a good job of hosting the show’s debate.

  • The homeless issue is a major one for Ireland

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

When GAA pundit Joe Brolly appeared on the Late Late Show, you’d think that he’d just be on to talk about sports.

But his story about taking in a homeless man showed that the issue is one that is hugely troubling for Irish society. 

I saw the kid on the street, and we talked for a while. He was only 20. It was freezing so I said ‘come with me’, so he came with me.
That was the start of December. It’s a bit like Trading Places. I trusted him, and very quickly he responded to that. He was warm, he was safe, he didn’t have to pay rent or anything like that. He was eating well.

Not everyone is in the position Brolly is in, but the fact that he told the story showed that those in high places can help those in need.

  • Bob Geldof hasn’t changed

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

Rocker Bob Geldof is no shrinking violet – he always calls it for what it is. In his interview with Tubridy, he pulled no punches with regard to Aung San Suu Kyi, calling her “a pig”. The leader of Burma – where the Rohingya people are being persecuted – is heavily criticised for her role in the persecution, and Geldof, a previous supporter of hers, spoke out about her actions.

He told the story of why he gave back his Freedom of the City of Dublin in protest over Aung San Suu Kyi still having her award.

  • Bad weather? The show will still go on

While most of the country was stuck indoors due to the ferocious Beast from the East in March, you’d have forgiven Ryan Tubridy for taking a night off.

But no.

His team gathered together some guests, a few RTE stragglers and people literally off the street, and cobbled together a small but enthusiastic audience.

That’s dedication.

  • Ireland’s Hollywood stars have strong opinions on #MeToo

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

The #MeToo movement exploded in 2018, and so naturally the Late Late Show asked two Irish Hollywood stars for their opinions on it. One of them ended up being praised for their comments, and the other one criticised.

Gabriel Byrne told Tubridy that the movement “hasn’t gone far enough” – and hit back at comments made by Liam Neeson on the show a month previously.

Neeson said that “there is a bit of a witch hunt happening” in Hollywood when asked about the ‘MeToo’ movement.

But Byrne countered a month later:

When they say ‘witch hunt’ I don’t like that word because ‘witch hunt’ was about women being burned alive because they were rumoured to be in some way going against the system.
  • It’s time to stop showing Boyzone that clip now 

Tweet by @Niamhers Source: Niamhers/Twitter

Boyzone’s first appearance on the Late Late Show is the stuff of Irish legend. Five young lads in tight tops, showing of their best dance moves. But this year we learned it’s probably time to stop showing the (grown men) this 1993 video, because Shane Lynch is utterly sick of it. And in fairness, who can blame him. 

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