He’s been a regular voice on our radios for over ten years, gathering research and opinions, adding shock value, and fusing them together to try and create fire over the airwaves. There is no denying that it works: he is popular and award winning, can boast weekly audiences of 138,000, and has radio and television shows in Belfast and Manchester. In output, and often in performance, he is admirable. Why is it, however, that Stephen Nolan insists on continuing tired old debates which Northern Ireland would be better off leaving behind?
For now, people continue to respond, not only by listening, but by calling in. It’s strange that they bother, because talking to Nolan on air is like arguing with the teacher: he holds all the power. He’ll twist words and poke for holes in his caller's arguments, and he’s very good at it. When sensible, educated callers appear, be they civilians or politicians, he’ll rile them up, pull them into his drama and schoolyard bickering, so that they argue back, lose their composure and end up hanging up the phone with a red face. Nolan can sit back: mission accomplished. When anger is not his objective, he’ll play with stories of tragedy, choosing issues which he will offer no solution to – and often have no simple solution - and make his audience feel guilty for being unable to solve them themselves.
He’ll twist words and poke for holes in his caller's arguments, and he’s very good at it. When sensible, educated callers appear, be they civilians or politicians, he’ll rile them up, pull them into his drama and schoolyard bickering, so that they argue back, lose their composure and end up hanging up the phone with a red face.
Someone in Nolan’s position should facilitate what a listener has to say, but more often than not he manipulates it, provoking emotions and words built around history and stereotype. Callers, like the country they discuss, often try and move away from these issues, but he will only pull them back, trying to add new and unrelated stories onto the canon of the troubles, and twisting natural and honest opinions to the point where he can accuse them of being discrimination.
His stage is Northern Ireland, where his voice is heard loud, yet unfortunately he rarely uses his powers for good, rarely tries to spread positive propaganda across the airwaves. There may be honour in what he claims to do: provide a platform for the public to speak, but there is none in what he actually does: insist upon discussing matters that would be better let lie.
So how much does our student population go along with this manipulated ‘voice’ of Northern Ireland? Well, the likely fact is they are not listening. Nolan aims to give the public a forum by which they can address the government or their politicians, but more often than not young people do not want it
. They have continued to grow disillusioned and separated from both Politicians and politics itself and rarely confront them at all, let alone directly. It will not stay like this forever, of course. This generation, just like each before it, will turn to politics eventually, but it will do so in its own way. As Stephen Nolan hangs on to the past, the young people in Northern Ireland look to the future. The political future of this country, will, as ever, fall into their hands, and when it does, they will not need Stephen Nolan to be their mediator.