Archives for November 2010

The silent killer

Wendy Austin | 13:45 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010

It only took Talkback's headlines today to bring back terrible memories for one listener. Alvin called in immediately after hearing we were talking about the deadly effects of the silent killer - carbon monoxide . As the current adverts make clear, you can't smell it ,see it ,hear it or taste it - but it makes you feel ill, drowsy, and can all too easily take your life.

Alvin called because his teenage daughter Kerry and her boyfriend went to sleep 19 years ago in a room with a gas fire ....and never woke up. He said he was still heartbroken - and wanted to make sure people got the message . He also wanted gas canisters to bear a big easy to read warning of the dangers within. 

I'd had a conversation already with George Davidson - father of teenager Aaron, one of two boys who died tragically in the summer in a flat in Castlerock full of carbon monoxide. Back then I spoke to his wife Katrina in their Newtownabbey home -  today George was too upset to come on the programme, but said they were both distraught at news of the latest death. He pleaded with me to ask people to be careful, to think about their safety, and most of all to get a carbon monoxide detector.

 And George said Katrina had cried herself  to sleep at last night's news from Irvinestown.

It is heartbreaking, as Alvin,George and Katrina know only too well. If you have worries about your fire, or boiler - what ever the fuel - get the proper advice. You can call freephone 08456585080  or there are a couple of websites : or Stay safe.




We wuz robbed.......

Wendy Austin | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Do you live in the country? Have you been robbed recently? The latest figures for rural crime, especially in the West, are horrendous....Lord Maurice Morrow, Chair of the Justice Committee at Stormont, says Robberies are up by 215 per cent;  and burglaries and domestic burglaries up by around half. After a spate of  attacks on private homes around Aughnacloy, he  said the figures were "shocking -Criminals are running rampage in broad day light, apparently without fear of being apprehended."

Over recent months the Ulster Farmers Union has been holding a series of meetings warning about theft, and the measures which can be taken to prevent it - texting networks, neighbourhood watch, and good old fashioned keeping an eye out for people you don't know acting suspiciously.

So have you been a victim of theft? Did the PSNI deal with it properly? We'll be talking about it on air at 12 today - look forward to your calls then - and comments here.

Should more local ministers fight their corner in London?

Wendy Austin | 11:25 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Alex Attwood told me today on Talkback he's going to fight them on the beaches - he'll oppose the Coalition Government's plans for 10% cuts in housing benefit for those on Job Seeker's allowance for more than a year.  He's been putting his case in London to anyone who'll listen - telling them there are certain cuts that simply are unacceptable.

Mr Attwood said that  his department was working with experts to try and find a resolution."I will want to identify how to offset the damage and, indeed, determine if there are ways to avoid implementation here," he said.

"There is an issue of fundamental fairness. I recognise there is also an issue of parity. I do not shirk from any of this. And I believe we should, at least, begin to address all of this."
All of this includes the numbers the Minister believes will be affected by welfare changes here - 22,000 may come off Incapacity Benefit for instance, around 500 households could be hit by the cap on housing benefit to people  renting from the private sector.
But who pays for that "fundamental fairness"? If its a variance from the national policy on welfare is it not NI PLC? Would it come out of the block grant - and if so, from which other department? Health perhaps...not if its services maybe; or DCAL - no more for football/rugby/GAA stadiums?
So is the Minister right to put it up to the Treasury? Would you like to see more of the Executive fighting their corner? Or is it just  "we're a special case" whingeing?

The first Talkback Blog.....

Wendy Austin | 14:42 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hello and welcome to the first Talkback Blog -

Yes - As of today we step out of the studio and into cyberspace - the blogosphere - and this former sceptic is really excited about it! From now on this will be the outlet for something between a personal diary, a bit of a soapbox , some behind the scenes/in the studio revelations and of course your views...we're aware some of you miss the messageboard - but here's your chance to put your opinion across, you can comment here, link to us, or email

What about how the programme works for starters...lets take the way Talkback dealt with the Royal engagement -it broke in our time on Tuesday about an hour before the programme. The team - Assistant Editor Paula McCann who's in charge, No.2 Colette Maguire and Simon Hunter - hit the no time we had former BBC Royal Correspondent Jenny Bond lined up, and a couple of other experts, and once we were on air, our own Talkback "experts" took over!

Day 2 of a story is always more difficult - do we cover it again? Yes. Where do we go with it? Can Kate cope with the Court? Will she be the making of the Monarchy? And we're off again. Barry McIlduff joined in too - He'd been on Nolan complaining he couldn't escape from Royalty on Radio Ulster, and was turning over to RTE. Guess what he found there..........and of course he came on again to complain! Then Brendan bet me £20 for Children in Need I'd be talking about it again today - Brendan, the money's in the tin already.

And talking of children and young people - one of our most touching stories this week, teenagers and young carers Stephanie and Shannon on caring for their sick mum, and trying to live a normal life. Listener Lynn was so moved she called in to tell the girls how wonderful they were - and many of you on the texts agreed.

So - bit of a glimpse there of Talkback behind the scenes -of that dash between 8AM and 12 noon to get ideas marshalled, people lined up; of course it doesn't stop there. The news wires are constantly flashing, the news agenda changing, with Talkback sometimes driving it - remember Martin McGuinness telling me the British and Irish Governments were definitely talking to the dissidents? Before the end of the programme that had gone around the world. And there was the bogus Dyson repairman - loads of callers on that , and now they're advertising the problem in all the local papers.


Today? What price justice - How a woman shopper ended up in front of a jury after being accused of stealing a dummy worth less than two pounds - she was acquitted - the cost? Thousands of pounds. I'm looking forward to your views!

Yesterday, we had a Mastermind style "two minutes on your special subject" the Irish Economy - today you can take this as Your Starter for Ten for the Talkback blog. More follows later (mfl in newspaper parlance) follow the Talkback blog again next week.

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