It’s a big animal of a show. It’s pretty relentless. We’ve 75 minutes to fill with speech every day, no music or reports to pad things out, and it is absolutely live.
It is stressful and I have to be on top of my game as I’m the only person on the team who hears every bit of the programme — the producer is trying to juggle phones and so many other things at the same time — so I have to be totally engrossed in what’s being said.
I grew up in Ballyfermot. I originally wanted to be a fireman. I was always brutal at sports, which made me the odd one out in our family, but the little local library was my Aladdin’s cave. From the get go I loved the smell of books and once I learnt to read I enjoyed escaping into other worlds.
I have always been a very determined person. Growing up in Ballyfermot, ambition didn’t really come into it. Nobody in my school was expected to go to third-level education. It wasn’t even mentioned.
I believe we can be the masters of our own destiny. I sat my Leaving Certificate twice, determined to get the points to get into Trinity College.
I met my wife June in Trinity. I was involved in student politics and asked her would she vote for me. I was elected president of Trinity College Students’ Union and then president of the Union of Students in Ireland.
After college I worked as a social worker and a probation officer for five years until I saw an ad for a job as a trainee producer in RTÉ. So I gave up the permanent job in the civil service. I got my start in radio as a producer on The Gay Byrne Radio Show in 1989.
My biggest challenge so far has been rearing our triplets. They’re 22-years-old now and are all in college.
The trait I most admire in others is a sense of humour.
My worst fault is worrying.
When I’m not working, I love painting. I took it up 15 ago and it’s one of the best things I ever did.
My idea of misery is being in bad health. When people ask me why I get up at 6am every day I tell them it’s because I can.
I go to the local gym in Clontarf each morning. Then it’s home for breakfast and by 7.40am I start listening to the radio and reading all the papers online. I continue to monitor what’s in the news until we go on air.
If I could change one thing in our society, I’d make our democracy more participative. I’d love to see more initiatives like the Citizens’ Assembly. I spoke to some of the participants on the programme and was so impressed by how much they learned from being involved in the process.
If I could be someone else for a day I’d be JFK. He lived in such a fascinating time. There must have been a great sense of optimism.
The best advice I ever received was from the legendary Gay Byrne: If you’re going through hell, keep going.
The highlight of my career so far has to be my book Children of the Rising — the first ever account of the children killed during the 1916 Rising — and the creation of a memorial wall to them at Glasnevin Cemetery. It was an accidental project which came about after I asked, on air, if anyone knew how many children were injured back in 1916.
So far life has taught me to try and speak about other people as if they can hear me.