VOTE FISHER #1 in the election for the National Executive Council 2020. This is another reminder to those eligible to vote in the republic of Ireland to send in your completed ballot paper now. A reply paid envelope was enclosed with the election literature to send the form back to London.

THANK YOU if you have already voted. There is still time to vote. Four candidates including myself (three of them job shares between two people) are standing in the election.


NUJ seminar on proposed local radio bill (1983)

News conference on proposed local radio Bill 1983 with Dublin Broadcasting Branch officers including (R-L) Michael Fisher, Charlie Bird, Minister for Communications Ted Nealon, Patrick Kinsella, RTÉ Deputy DG Vincent Finn and Roberta Wallace.                        Pic. RTÉ Stills Library.

This “blast from the past” from the RTÉ Stills Library shows an NUJ (National Union of Journalists) seminar on the proposed local radio bill to end RTÉ’s radio monopoly, held at the Montrose Hotel, Dublin, on 6th October 1983. At the top table are (L-R): Roberta Wallace (NUJ Branch Secretary); RTÉ Deputy Director-General Vincent Finn; RTÉ News correspondent and Chairman of the NUJ Dublin Broadcasting Branch, Patrick Kinsella; Minister for Communications Ted Nealon; RTÉ News reporter and Vice-Chairman of the NUJ’s Broadcasting Branch Charlie Bird, and RTÉ News reporter and Branch Treasurer, Michael Fisher.


Dympna Kerr and her brother, Oliver McVeigh at the Mass in Carrickroe    Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Dympna Kerr and her brother, Oliver McVeigh at a Mass in Carrickroe, Emyvale, County Monaghan, at which a new appeal was made for information about the location of Columba McVeigh’s remains Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed the Irish government will continue its commitment to help fund the search for the so-called ‘disappeared’. Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish and British Governments set up the Independent Commission for the Recovery of Victims Remains. Its aim was to locate the remains of those killed by republican paramilitaries and secretly buried during the ‘troubles’ – people commonly referred to as the ‘disappeared’.

RTÉ’s Northern Editor Tommie Gorman in a special Nationwide programme tonight reported on the ongoing work of the Commission, with the remains of six people still to be recovered.

The Commission has a confidential telephone number and post box, and the information it receives can only be used to help recover the dead. In many of the ten cases where remains have been found, republicans and/or others used these facilities to provide crucial information.

Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality  Photo: Fine Gael

Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality Photo: Fine Gael

With a search for one of the six still missing, Belfast-born Joe Lynskey, due to begin in County Meath this month, the Minister for Justice has confirmed the Irish government’s ongoing commitment to help fund the work. Frances Fitzgerald said the government remained as strongly committed now to the humanitarian aim of locating the victims for their families as at the outset of the process, and would continue to support the ongoing efforts to locate those victims who have yet to be found. The Minister said she would encourage anyone with information that could help to locate those still missing to give that information, in full confidence, to the ICLVR without delay. “The families of the missing victims have suffered enough.  Out of common human decency, I appeal to anyone who can help bring an end to that suffering to do so”, she said.

Of the six people still missing, five are thought to be buried south of the Irish border and a sixth, Seamus Ruddy, is believed to be buried in a forest in France. The INLA admitted killing Seamus Ruddy.  The five other deaths are attributed to the IRA. The remaining ‘Disappeared’

In February 2010 Joe Lynskey was added to the official list of the disappeared. He was a member of the IRA. He went missing from his west Belfast home during the summer of 1972; his body has never been recovered. Joseph Lynskey was a former Cistercian monk from the Beechmount area of west Belfast. A new search for his remains is due to begin in Co Meath later this month.

Columba McVeigh  Photo: Irish Times

                                                                    Columba McVeigh Photo: Irish Times

Columba McVeigh disappeared on November 1st 1975 and his body has never been recovered. He was from Donaghmore, County Tyrone. He had been working as a painter in Dublin and had only returned to the North a few days earlier. Although extensive searches, based on information received, have been carried out at Bragan Bog near Emyvale in North Monaghan, his remains have not yet been discovered.

Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright disappeared on 2 October 1972. The two of them were from Belfast – Seamus Wright worked as an asphalt layer.  He was aged 25 and married when he went missing. It is thought they were both members of the IRA and were suspected of passing on information to the security forces. The Commission has carried out extensive but unsuccessful searches in the Coghalstown area of Co Meath for the remains of the men.

Captain Robert Nairac disappeared in 1977.  He was an officer with the British Army’s Grenadier Guards on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland when he went missing. It’s thought he was on an intelligence-gathering operation and was singing republican songs at a pub in Silverbridge, South Armagh, on the night of his abduction.  He was 29.  A man was convicted of his murder in 1977 and served a prison sentence. Captain Nairac received a posthumous George Cross.

Seamus Ruddy disappeared in Paris on 9 May 1985. A native of Newry, he had links to the INLA and its political wing, the IRSP.  He was involved in negotiations on behalf of INLA prisoners in the MAZE during the 1981 Hunger Strikes and helped to carry the coffin of hunger striker, Michael Devine, at his funeral in Derry.  In May 1985 he was working as an English teacher in Paris.  It is thought he got into a dispute with INLA members who were attempting to procure weapons in France. . In December 1995 the INLA admitted responsibility for his death. In February 1999 information emerged to suggest that his body was buried in Rouen, France, but despite searches having been carried out his remains have not yet been recovered.

It is believed that information provided by republicans and/or others assisted in eight of the ten cases where remains were recovered.  With Jean Mc Conville (2003) and Eugene Simons (1984), the discoveries were made by chance.

Brendan Megraw was 23-years-old when he was taken from his flat in Twinbrook, west Belfast by the IRA in April 1978.  His wife was expecting their first child at the time. His remains were recovered at Oristown Bog, near Kells in County Meath in autumn 2014.

Peter Wilson was 21 when he went missing in West Belfast in 1973.  Described as a vulnerable person with learning difficulties, his remains were located at Waterfoot beach in County Antrim in November 2010.

Gerard Evans from Crossmaglen in South Armagh was last seen hitch-hiking in County Monaghan in March 1979. In March 2008 his aunt received a map, claiming to identify the location of his remains.  They were eventually recovered from the site near Hackballscross in County Louth in October 2010.

Charlie Armstrong was a 54-year-old father of five who had no connections with paramilitary organisations.  He went missing one Sunday morning in 1981 when he left his Crossmaglen home to collect a neighbour to go to Mass.  His remains were located in a County Monaghan bog in 2010, 29 years after his abduction.

Danny McIlhone went missing from his West Belfast home in 1981.  His remains were found in the Wicklow mountains in November 2008 – two earier, unsuccessful searches were carried out in the area.

Jean McConville was a widowed mother of ten, she was taken from her Belfast flat by the IRA in 1972.  A man out walking on Shelling Beach near Carlingford in County Louth found her remains in August 2003.

Eamon Molloy was abducted from his home in North Belfast in 1975. His body was discovered in a coffin left in Faughart graveyard, close to the border, near Dundalk in 1999.

Brian McKinney was aged 22 when he went missing in Belfast in 1978. His remains were located in a Co Monaghan bog in 1999.

John McClory was aged 17 when he went missing with his friend, Brian McKinney in Belfast in 1978. Their remains were found in the same area of Co Monaghan bogland 21 years later.

Eugene Simons was a 26 year old who went missing form his home near Castlewellan in Co Down in January 1981.  His body was discovered by chance in May 1984 in a bog near Dundalk, Co Louth.


Desmond Fisher  Photo:  Nationalist & Leinster Times

Desmond Fisher Photo: Nationalist & Leinster Times

Nationalist and Leinster Times obituary (courtesy Tom Geoghegan) January 13 2015

Des Fisher: broadcaster and former editor of The Nationalist
DESMOND M (Des) Fisher passed away peacefully at the Blackrock Hospice early on Tuesday 30 December. He was a former head of current affairs with RTÉ and deputy head of news at the national broadcaster. Des Fisher had a lifelong association with The Nationalist & Leinster Times in Carlow, of which he was managing editor for a five-year period during the 1980s.

Aged 94, he was one of the last-surviving journalists to have reported from Rome at the Second Vatican Council, which ended half a century ago.

He had been in failing health over recent years. Despite his declining health, Des retained a keen interest in newspapers and the media in general, maintaining his link with Carlow in retirement through reading The Nationalist online every week.

Having lived in retirement with his wife Peggy (née Smyth) from Co Monaghan for the final 26 years of his life, he had remained in close contact over that period with Tom Geoghegan, retired managing director of The Nationalist.

At the time of his death, he had just completed work on a new book, Stabat Mater. Other publications of Des Fisher’s included Broadcasting in Ireland (1978) and The right to communicate: a status report (1981).

A native of Derry city, Des Fisher was a highly-accomplished journalist and broadcaster who was regarded as a theological (sic) heavyweight. He started his journalistic career with The Nationalist, being appointed assistant editor in 1945, a position he held until 1948. While working in Carlow, he met his wife-to-be, who was employed in the Bank of Ireland branch at Court Place. In his early years in Carlow, Des forged close working links with Liam D Bergin, managing editor of the The Nationalist and a doyen of Irish provincial journalism. It was to develop into a lifelong friendship.

In 1948, Des moved to The Irish Press as a sub-editor and London editor to the Press Group until 1964, when, while still based in the English capital, he was appointed editor of the Catholic Herald newspaper.

Des believed that his best work as a journalist was the coverage of Vatican II for the Catholic Herald, which was held from 1962 to 1965, having been called by Pope John XXIII. In 1967, his book on the Second Vatican Council, The Church in transition, was published by Fides. He was Irish correspondent for The Economist and a trustee of the International Institute of Communications as well as being a member of the international advisory board of the Media Institute, Washington DC.

During the late 1980s, Des Fisher fronted the RTÉ One television religious programme Newman’s People. Having given 16 years to the realm of public broadcasting, Des’s next port of call was to return to The Nationalist in Carlow. He was appointed managing editor in 1983 and subsequently managing director, succeeding Liam D Bergin. He also served as a member of the newspaper’s board of directors for a long number of years.

For the first two years of his editorship in Carlow, Des was backed up by the professional vision, expertise and innovation of the late Seamus O’Rourke, particularly in the area of layout and design. Seamus, who passed away in early January 2014, served The Nationalist as news editor for some 20 years. Des Fisher held the position of managing director and editor until 1988, when he formally retired from the fourth estate.

In an editorial in 1983, marking the centenary of The Nationalist & Leinster Times, he wrote of the publication that meant so much to him: “It (Nationalist) can fairly claim to have lived up to the highest ideals of the journalistic and printing crafts and to have served the community of which it forms a part.” In the same editorial, he stated: “In performing its role as the public watchdog, the press must observe one over-riding role first enunciated by the great editor of The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian) CP Scott: ‘Comment is free but facts are sacred’.”

Extracts relating to RTÉ from Desmond Fisher’s own summary of his 70-year career in journalism have been released…

They recall that one year after the Vatican Council ended he left the Catholic Herald and freelanced to support his family in London. But 18 months later, his former Irish Press colleague and fellow Derry man Jim McGuinness,  head of news at RTÉ, suggested he should apply for a job as his deputy. After short attachments with the BBC and ITV in London in 1967, he came to Dublin early the following year to take up the job and to live full time with his family, which had moved to Dublin months earlier. In October 1973, he was appointed head of the current affairs grouping, a new area in RTÉ with responsibility for all current affairs programmes on radio and television.

He wrote of this period: “What I do remember most about my time in RTÉ is that it was the most stressful time in my working life. My time there coincided with external pressure on RTÉ from a government intent on denying publicity to the IRA and internal conflict between RTÉ producers and journalists working on current affairs programmes.”

Those twin pressures soon took their toll: “In the circumstances of the time, however, it was probably inevitable that a disaster would occur. The current affairs area is the most vulnerable in broadcasting, especially in a public service organisation with staff of divided political and trade union loyalties at a time when the country is in turmoil.

“On the night of 17 October 1974 while I was in Galway at the annual conference of the Labour Party, a 7 Days programme on internment in the North was rushed on to the air … replacing the programme which I had cleared for transmission. It later transpired that the filmed programme included a sequence from a London agency, which had been brought in a short time before transmission, edited at the last moment and put out without my clearance.

“This led to a public attack on me on two successive evenings by the then minister in charge of RTÉ, Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien. The enquiries that followed judged that I should have previewed the programme which, in my view, had been deliberately put out in my absence. I offered to resign ‘if this would serve the institutional interests of RTÉ’. This was refused, but in April I told the then director-general Oliver Maloney that the grouping would have either to be established as a full division with its own resources or closed down. He rejected the first alternative so I resigned and the grouping was disbanded.

“Following my resignation, I was appointed director of TV development, a title later changed to director of broadcasting development, a sideways move that really left it to me to determine what I would make of the job.”

He chaired the planning group for the station’s second television channel and continued to research and publish material for the public service broad-caster on a wide range of topics, including its relation-ship with government. This was a particularly thorny subject, given that in 1972 while he was deputy head of news, a Fianna Fáil government had fired the RTÉ Authority after the news division broadcast a radio interview recorded with Seán Mac Stíofáin, then chief of staff of the Provisional IRA.

The then Taoiseach Jack Lynch justified the dismissal by saying the authority had breached a government directive under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, ordering them “not to project people who put forward violent means for achieving their purpose”.

The Fine Gael-Labour administration elected in 1973 had continued to implement the directive. And this was the context in which Fianna Fáil’s new appointees to the RTÉ Authority and senior RTÉ management figures like Des Fisher had to handle the 7 Days debacle in October 1974.

Des Fisher left the national broadcaster in 1983, less than two years before reaching the mandatory retirement age. He then became managing editor and managing director of The Nationalist and Leinster Times.

In 2009, approaching the age of 90, he contributed to the RTÉ documentary If Lynch had invaded about his role with RTÉ in 1969 when the Taoiseach Jack Lynch made a dramatic television broadcast to outline the government’s response to the security forces attacking nationalist communities in Derry.

His family had asked that his passing on 30 December should not be made public until after his cremation which, in accordance with his wishes, took place after a private family requiem Mass was celebrated on Friday 2 January.

He is survived by his wife Margaret (Peggy), daughter Carolyn, and sons Michael, John and Hugh, other close relatives and a wide circle of friends.


Desmond Fisher  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Desmond Fisher Photo: © Michael Fisher

Irish Times Obituary Saturday 10th January 2015 p.12

Lifelong journalist known for integrity and encouragement to colleagues

Desmond Fisher  Born: September 9th 1920  Died: December 30th 2014

Desmond Fisher, who has died aged 94, was a journalist whose working life in Ireland and abroad was marked by a consistently high dedication to professional standards in a career that spanned almost seven decades.

Born in Derry in 1920, he got his first job — after a brief detour into a seminary — with the Nationalist and Leinster Times in Carlow, to which he had been recruited by its legendary editor Liam Begin.

Bergin’s talent-spotting was later to include such figures as Jim Downey, Olivia O’Leary, Michael Finlan, Des Cahill and Micheline McCormack — among many others who went on to higher things.

In 1948 Fisher joined the Irish Press and worked there (and, from 1949, on the Sunday Press) until 1952, when he was (also) recruited to the Irish News Agency.

Just a year later , he was appointed by Jim McGuinness, then editor of the Irish Press, as London editor of the Irish Press group, and he served there until 1962. From this base he covered a wide range of foreign assignments, including Ireland’s UN involvement in what was then the Belgian Congo, and the initial application by Seán Lemass’s government to join the European Economic Community in 1961.

On that occasion Lemass gave Fisher a personal interview in which he predicted that membership of the community would probably mean that Ireland would have to give up neutrality and legalise contraception and divorce and that some of the more positive aspects of Irish culture would be lost as a result of growing prosperity.


In 1962 he accepted an invitation to edit the Catholic Herald in London. It was a tempestuous time, not only for Catholicism generally, but for English Catholicism in particular. Fisher was unaware at the time of his appointment that his predecessor, Michael de la Bédoyère, had been squeezed out of the paper because of his openness to change.

He was to discover in time that the wheels of change in British Catholicism still moved extremely slowly. His evident sympathy for the aggiornamento launched by Pope John XXIII was not widely shared within either the British or Irish hierarchies, and his friendship with the controversial British theologian Charles Davis (who stayed in his house in Wimbledon while the storm about his departure from the priesthood raged) helped to bring matters to a head.

In 1964 he resigned “over policy differences with the Board”, as he later, rather temperately, expressed it.

For the following four years he worked only as a freelance in both print and broadcast journalism: he had been the Irish correspondent for the British economic publication The Statist for many years, and also developed strong relationships with newspapers like the National Catholic Reporter in the USA, the Anglican Church Times in Britain, and later, The Economist.

Eventually, however, he was headhunted by Jim McGuinness, now RTÉ head of news, to be his deputy, and he returned to Dublin to take up that post in 1968.

“He was to discover in time that the wheels of change in British Catholicism still moved extremely slowly” 

It was a torrid time at RTÉ, not least because of the escalating Northern crisis. In October 1973 he was appointed head of current affairs at the station. This forced marriage of news and current affairs had been decided on by the RTÉ Authority at least in part because of criticism by the government of the independently-minded programming emanating from the latter department.

Doomed fusion

The unwilling — and under-financed fusion of journalists and producers from different trade unions was probably doomed from the start. Fisher later became involved in a three-cornered political fracas involving the producer Eoghan Harris, RTÉ itself, and the then minister for posts and telegraphs, Conor Cruise O’Brien, centring on a programme about Northern Ireland.

Subsequently, after the authority had rejected his request for an appropriate role, budget and staff for the current affairs grouping, he resigned from these responsibilities in 1975 and the grouping was disbanded. He later served as director of TV development and chaired the RTÉ2 planning group, as well as launching the Irish Broadcasting Review, which ran from 1978 until shortly before his retirement from RTÉ in 1983.

After an interval of 36 years, he returned to the Nationalist and Leinster Times in Carlow as editor and managing director, following Liam Bergin’s retirement. He retired from this position in 1989, but continued to write for a wide range of publications — including on occasion The Irish Times — until shortly before his death. His final work — an annotated translation of the Stabat Mater — is due for publication this year.  DSC_0941 (800x421)

Independent spirit

Des Fisher was never — nor would he have wanted to be considered — a celebrity journalist. But his career was marked by a deep Catholicism, independence of spirit, intellectual integrity, an insistence on accuracy and fairness, and by his practical encouragement and training of many younger journalists.

These attributes marked him out as a substantial practitioner of his chosen profession in a period when journalism itself was undergoing seismic changes.

He is survived by his wife, Peggy (nee Smyth), and their children, Michael, Carolyn, Hugh and John.



Desmond Fisher  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Desmond Fisher Photo: © Michael Fisher

Desmond Fisher 1920-2014

An appreciation (in The Irish Catholicic-logo

Michael Fisher

It was, my father said, the best news he heard in 50 years. Days before his death, I read him Pope Francis’ address to the Curia, outlining 15 diseases they suffered. He had a progressive view of the Catholic Church, inspired by the time he reported from Rome on Vatican II, where he made many friends including Belgian Cardinal Leo Suenens and theologian Fr Karl Rahner.

The Vatican II version of the Church, he pointed out, is a “communion” of members sharing a common task, rather than a pyramid structure. As Editor of The Catholic Herald, his authoritative coverage of Pope John XXIII’s initiative for change was widely praised in the English-speaking Catholic world. However, it annoyed Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin who found his articles “very objectionable”.

The conservative English hierarchy, led by Cardinal John Heenan, complained to the newspaper’s directors, who recalled him to London. His archive notes describe this as one of the bitterest blows of his life. It was, he said, a consolation that history seemed to have supported his version of Vatican II rather than the Cardinal’s.

He resigned from the paper and freelanced for a year. One of his tasks was to handle the copious media enquiries he received regarding Charles Davis. In December 1966 Fr Davis, then the best-known Catholic theologian in Britain, announced he was leaving the Church.

My father was proud of his roots in Derry, where he was born in 1920. His parents (a mixed marriage) moved to Dublin and aged 11, he won an all-Ireland scholarship for secondary schooling at Good Counsel College in New Ross, run by the Augustinians. He took the education, but decided the priesthood was “not for me”.


His knowledge of Irish, Greek and Latin was exceptional, and at 94 he had just completed a book, typed by himself on his laptop, containing a new translation of the Stabat Mater. It is due to be published by Gracewing later this month. With a BA from UCD, his first job, at age 25, was assistant to the editor of The Nationalist and Leinster Times, Liam Bergin, who became a lifelong friend. In 2011 he stepped down as Vice-Chairman of the same paper.

My first memories of my father are from the time he was London Editor of the Irish Press in Fleet Street. He acted as the Group’s Diplomatic Correspondent, and in 1960 spent three months covering the UN when Frank Aiken chaired the General Assembly. The same year he reported from the Congo on Irish soldiers on UN duty being held prisoner in Jadotville.

Desmond Fisher returned to Ireland in 1967 as RTÉ’s Deputy Head of News, joining fellow Derryman Jim McGuinness.

He later became Head of Current Affairs in RTÉ and after a second resignation on a point of principle was appointed Director of Broadcasting Development. He became involved in the birth of Raidió na Gaeltachta and later RTÉ2.

On retirement from RTÉ in 1983 he returned to Carlow as Editor and Managing Editor of The Nationalist until 1989. He was author of The Church in Transition, a book on the Vatican Council, Broadcasting in Ireland, The Right to Communicate and several pamphlets.

Michael Fisher is a journalist.


RTElogo1979On this day 35 years ago, Tuesday 2nd January 1979, my career as a reporter with RTÉ News began in the newsroom in Dublin. I had returned in December 1978 to Ireland from England, where I had worked for the BBC for nearly five years in London and Birmingham.

The Met Éireann records show that the lowest air temperature recorded in the 20th century was -18.8°C at Lullymore, Co. Kildare on that day. I can remember being assigned to do a radio report about the weather conditions, which were causing severe transport difficulties such as the cancellation of ferries. I remembered to include the Northern element, namely the sailings from Larne to Stranraer (as the two shipping companies then served). The detail of my reporting was subsequently praised by the editorial committee that met to review news coverage.

I joined RTÉ News on the same day as Conor Fennell, author of a book on ‘James Joyce in Paris’ (June 2011).

Conor Fennell at the launch of his book  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Conor Fennell at the launch of his book Photo: © Michael Fisher

Today was a very different day. The weather was much better, with clouds and sunshine and a temperature reaching 8°C.


LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

Thank you RTÉ for putting a stay until 2017 on any closure of the LW252 transmitter for Radio 1. Following a campaign that included a petition, the national broadcaster has decided it will work in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and commission new research as well as consulting with Irish emigrants groups.

RTÉ Radio 1 LW will operate a full service in 2015, with reduced hours in 2016 before working towards a full shutdown in 2017. The service was due to end early next year after RTÉ postponed a decision to close the transmitter until 19th January 2015.

RTÉ had previously announced that it would be ceasing its Longwave 252 service from the Clarkstown longwave transmitter on 27 October and migrating its Radio One service to digital platforms.

RTÉ said that in slowing the pace of the longwave shutdown, it has considered contact from listeners and submissions from a range of groups, who highlighted that more time was needed to “understand and enable the migration to digital platforms for all listeners”.

Head of RTE Radio 1 Tom McGuire said: “We’ve listened particularly to the concerns raised by and on behalf of the elderly Irish in the UK.

“Cost-reduction remains a key priority for RTÉ and we remain convinced that, in the longer term, longwave has had its day. Nonetheless and despite the mid-term cost impact, RTÉ believes it is necessary to take a collaborative approach and slow this transition.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is prepared to work with RTÉ to commission specific research to better understand the community in the UK who listen to the longwave service. The research will be conducted next year, will be funded by the department and will include perspectives from community groups representing the Irish elderly in the UK.

Chair of the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee John O’Mahoney TD said he was delighted at the decision of the RTÉ board to retain the service. Minister for Communications Alex White TD, a former RTÉ radio producer, has also welcomed the announcement.

He said: “I recently met representatives of the Irish community living in Britain, who stressed the value they place on RTÉ’s longwave service. I welcome the decision to extend the life of the service by two years, which will give the broadcaster space to engage with its listeners about other ways of accessing RTÉ radio in the UK.”


LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

When I tune into RTÉ Radio 1 in Belfast I usually have my radio on 252 Long Wave, This is because the signal quality seems to be more stable than FM. Even with the swap of FM frequencies between Radio 1 and Lyric FM, I find the Long Wave service much more convenient. It was always very useful to have LW252 as an option when travelling by car in Britain. When it comes to summer sports such as GAA finals, the LW service remains a very important link for the Irish diaspora in Britain and beyond.

In the Irish Times, Patsy McGarry has an interesting article about the benefits of LW252. RTÉ’s planned closure of its long-wave radio service on January 19th has been described as a “crying shame” by a leading Irish child sex abuse campaigner in Britain. Mick Waters founded the Survivors of Child Abuse Soca (UK) group, precursor to Soca (Ireland). It grew out of the Artane Old Boys organisation he set up in the English midlands in 1965. Speaking to The Irish Times from Coventry, Mr Waters said many of the people he had dealt with down the decades “love that [RTÉ long-wave] connection. It’s very important to them.”

Tony Corcoran was driving in Southport, Lancashire, listening to RTÉ radio when he spoke to The Irish Times on the issue. “It’s as clear as any local station,” he said. If the long-wave service was to go, neither he nor anyone else in the UK would be able to listen to RTÉ in a car, he said. He said that during the football championship, people sat in cars across the UK with RTÉ on and windows open so others could hear commentary. rteradio1

RTÉ originally intended to close down the transmitter at Clarkstown in County Meath on October 27th 2014 but it has postponed the move until January 19th 2015 following calls by emigrants’ groups and others in Britain. The Catholic bishops of Ireland also criticised the decision. If you want to know more about the campaign to save LW252, a page with a petition can be found here.


Anti-Section 31 protestors in Dublin  Photo: An Phoblacht

Anti-Section 31 protestors in Dublin Photo: An Phoblacht

Twenty years ago this week (January 19th 1984) the Irish Section 31 broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin along  with republican and loyalist paramilitary groups or any proscribed organisation in Northern Ireland was lifted. This was at an important time just seven months before the IRA ceasefire. The order renewed on January 6th 1993 by the then Communications Minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (now an EU Commissioner) directed Raidió Telefís Éireann to refrain from broadcasting any interview or a report of an interview with spokesmen for any of these organisations. As the peace process began to take shape, the order was allowed to lapse by the Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht Minister, Michael D. Higgins (now Uachtarán na hÉireann) of the Labour party.

The republican newspaper An Phoblacht recounts how the broadcast media in the 26 Counties were now free to interview Sinn Féin spokespeople. The paper says the first such interview was with party President Gerry Adams on Dublin’s 98fm radio station. But on the BBC Northern Ireland website where I first noticed the story, it is reported that Highland Radio presenter Kevin Sharkey (now with the BBC) carried out the first such broadcast in their studio in County Donegal, where he interviewed Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty.


RDS Dublin: venue for Web Summit Photo: © Michael Fisher

RDS Dublin: venue for Web Summit Photo: © Michael Fisher

Entering the Royal Dublin Society headquarters in Ballsbridge I wasn’t sure what to expect from the web summit. Pre-summit publicity suggested there would be 10,000 people from over 90 countries gathered in the various halls, a big increase on the few hundred at the start four years ago when Paddy Cosgrave and his team began work. Was it just a big PR exercise for Irish and international technology companies, or was it a chance for app developers, many of them young graduates, to do business?

Main Stage at the Web Summit, RDS  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Main Stage at the Web Summit, RDS Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was certainly a major logistical exercise and the hotels and restaurants in Dublin are no doubt benefitting from the influx, although having to cope with water supply problems doesn’t do much to promote the interests of the capital. I noticed there was another major gathering in town: at the National Conference Centre, the International Air Travel Association is holding the third World Passenger Symposium with some 650 delegates. So Dublin is certainly attracting plenty of business.

Múirne Laffan, Head of RTÉ Digital  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Múirne Laffan, Head of RTÉ Digital Photo: © Michael Fisher

The RDS complex was bustling with summit participants packed into various halls. It was late on that I discovered the impressive main stage, where An Taoiseach rang the bell for the US NASDAQ stock exchange this afternoon, the first time it had been opened on Irish soil. I found the RTÉ lounge in a good spot in the main hall. Managing Director RTÉ Digital Múirne Laffan was there and she had been one of the speakers this morning on digital marketing, examining the topic ‘Content is King’. I notice there was some criticism on social media about the low percentage of female speakers at the summit.

(to be continued)