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Straight Talking

Straight Talking (3)

After the pirates, the revolution…



By the 1st of January 1989, most of the pirate radio stations in Ireland had closed or were in the process of closing down. The Radio and Television Act of 1988 introduced heavy penalties and potential jail terms for those who might support or advertise on such stations. This of course was paving the way for legal commercial local radio in Ireland and most of the new stations opened during the course of 1989.

  Locally, Midwest opened in the early summer of 1989, while Shannonside (as it was then) started out in November 1989. It was a brand new industry in the country, and one which this year celebrates its 30th birthday. Local radio is now part and parcel of the local community all over the country and, like local newspapers, the GAA and many other rural organisations, it is here to stay.

  I was part of the Shannonside team that started life in Castle Street, Roscommon, where, under the management of John Morrin and Joe Finnegan, a new chapter was written in local media coverage. There were marvellous people involved. They were young and full of ideas. All involved worked very hard. I’m sure it was the same story in every other station throughout country. It was such an exhilarating time. But in truth we made many mistakes too. It was a new business. We were learning as we went along.

  Those early years were exciting and challenging in equal measure. I met many people over the years in local radio who are now friends for life, and many of the talented people I worked with have gone on to be stars on national TV and radio. There is definitely a book or two in the many experiences – both good and bad – over the years. At its inception, the local radio industry was looked upon with suspicion, but as time went by most people accepted that the service would add to the local community and that it wasn’t not a threat to anyone.

  However, there was also a commercial reality. Once the initial couple of years were completed, these new radio stations had to stand on their own two feet and make money – which was easier said than done. Shannonside subsequently joined with Northern Sound, and the station has since been bought by the Radio Kerry Group. Similar deals have been done all over the country as stations try to consolidate and survive.

  It’s hard to believe that the local radio industry is thirty years old this year. I’ve been part of it for most of that journey, and the memories are mostly positive. In terms of news, sport and current affairs, it had added to our lives, particularly in rural Ireland. Long may it continue.



Climate change…and loose change!


Last Sunday I happened to tune in to one of Marian Finucane’s twice-weekly shows – I often think of it as her ‘chats with her friends’. I will remind readers that Marian’s RTE salary is approximately €300,000 per annum. In any event, when I tuned in, the panel and presenter were chatting about climate change and the proposed carbon tax.

  One of the panel members was Professor John Fitzgerald, a climate change guru and recognised expert in that field. The TCD professor is a regular on our screens and on the radio, and comes across as a very intelligent and affable chap.

  However, some of the stuff he came out with was quite incredible. I am not for one second denying the huge problems we face with regard to the damage that we have done (and continue to do) to our planet – and there is no doubt that this huge problem has to be addressed. However, imposing enormous price rises on diesel, coal and briquettes, etc. is not going to solve the problem. What it will do is seriously affect many people who live in rural Ireland.

  In many areas of this country public transport is simply not an option. In many cases people have to travel long distances to go to work. What would a 15 cent rise in the price of a litre of diesel mean to their weekly budget? Professor Fitzgerald said on last Sunday’s programme that a second-hand hybrid car could be bought for “as little as €20,000”. What planet are these people living on?

  How many people working in ordinary jobs have twenty grand to spend on a fuel efficient second-hand car? If the price of a bag of coal goes up by a tenner, or briquettes by €1.60 a bale, it will just add to the misery of a lot of ordinary people who are struggling to make ends meet as it is.

  I made some enquiries in this area over the past month or so, as I am currently doing a lot of mileage. I asked five or six experts in the motor trade if I was to change my car what would they advise. To a person they said that diesel was the only choice to make, even if the price of a litre goes up. Electric cars are simply not an option for people in rural Ireland. That’s the feedback I received.

  It was also notable that in the radio discussion in Dublin 4 not one mention was made about tractors and other agricultural machinery products which are run on diesel.

  We have to face the threat of climate change, but the powers that be will have to be more creative in suggesting ways in which to deal with it. There is a real world out there. Heaping further misery and charges on rural people won’t work – it’s not the answer.




Huge challenges ahead in 2019



So we have reached 2019, and at the start of a new year there is always a case for renewed hope on all fronts. We certainly hope that it will be a safe, successful and healthy year for us and our families. But, as we look into the distance, there are huge challenges ahead.

  We are constantly being told that Ireland’s economy has the biggest growth rate in the EU – and there is no doubt that there has been a recovery in our economic fortunes. Leo Varadkar, Paschal Donohoe and their government colleagues have taken credit for our improved circumstances – and that’s fair enough. Employment, in particular, is plentiful, and the most important aspect of any economy is the ability to offer our young people a chance to work in jobs that will provide them with a reasonable standard of living. We are, at least, doing that.

  However, as we enter 2019, we are living in an Ireland where many of those young people who have good jobs – such as Gardai, teachers, nurses, prison officers and others in the civil service – have no chance of ever owning their own house, particularly if they live close to any of our bigger towns and cities. In fact they are struggling to even rent accommodation as prices are spiralling almost month by month.

   We have over 10,000 people homeless, and despite many fine words and countless plans from Government ministers, that problem is getting worse. We have a health system which is bursting at the seams, with hundreds of thousands of people on waiting lists and sick people lying on trolleys in our hospital A&E units as overworked staff struggle to cope. These problems simply have to be addressed and it is not good enough to fob people off by saying that “we are doing our best”.

  Here in Roscommon, we have the same problems which are being encountered in most rural counties. We have very few young people around…except for an odd weekend, and Christmas and Easter. I fully realise that they have to chase the jobs in Dublin and Galway and the bigger cities, but nothing has been done to create employment within our county. Or if efforts are being made, they haven’t been successful. Roscommon is a great county to live in, but ask the personnel at any small GAA club about the alarming fall in the number of young people that are available to play and train on a weekly basis. It’s a symptom of modern-day rural Ireland. The Government has been paying lip service to rural Ireland, and we have the likes of Shane Ross –who frankly hasn’t a clue about rural Ireland – making rules and regulations that will have far-reaching effects on the way of life of people who live in counties like Roscommon.

   I haven’t mentioned Brexit – or the personal debt crisis – both of which are huge issues for people in Ireland as we head into 2019. So Leo, Paschal and the rest will have to roll up their sleeves and address the many problems that we have as we head into 2019. A lot done maybe, but very much more to do.

  Happy New Year to one and all!

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