This much I know: Rachael English, Broadcaster

I’ve wanted to write since I was a teenager but the older I got, the less confident I became.

Finally I thought if I don’t give this a try now, I’m never going to do it. It took 18 months from start to finish to write Going Back. I started on the weekends and on my days off. Then writing started to take over my life and soon every spare moment was spent on the book.

I was surprised how happy I felt when I heard I’d been nominated for an award. I usually don’t set much store by awards — especially in radio — as I feel you’re getting rewarded for simply doing your job. But this is different.

I studied Communications at DCU and thought I’d go into print journalism. I fell into broadcasting by chance as there were quite a few opportunities in local radio when I was leaving college.
I wouldn’t say I was a complete natural on air but I never got as nervous as some people seemed to get. The only thing I get uptight about is whether or not I will do an interview justice.

I was quite a nerdy child. I always loved newspapers, current affairs and talk radio. From the age of 12 I was asking my mother to get a copy of The Telegraph.

I was a relatively outgoing child — giddy when I was with friends, not particularly shy but certainly not filled with confidence.

I was born in England. My family moved to Ireland when I was four so I didn’t really appreciate what kind of a big deal it was.

I’m not religious. I’d like to believe there is some kind of afterlife but I can’t say what.
I don’t think anyone would say they love getting up at 4.30am but I love working on Morning Ireland. I like being able to hide behind the team.

9/11 stands out as one of the biggest news events of my career. The other period that stands out for me is mid 2010 to the spring of 2011. I’d only just started on Morning Ireland and every day something mad happened. The IMF coming in, the collapse of the Fianna Fáil /Green Party government. You’d get to your desk at 5.20am and someone would say causally ‘oh by the way three cabinet ministers resigned last night’. Another thing that crystalises that period in my mind was the snow — that heavy snow — it was as if even the weather had come out in sympathy with the country.

I usually go to bed for an hour or two in the early afternoon. That allows me stay up until 9.30pm. One of the drawbacks is that you wake at 4.30am, even on the weekends. My worst fault is that I’m just a terrible procrastinator. I put things on the long finger until I eventually feel so guilty that I have to do them.

The most important skill for an interviewer is to listen to what the other person is saying and to engage with them. It’s not all about you and your list of questions — it’s about the guest and the programme.

With live radio there are a lot of on-going stories where you are very familiar with the background but then sometimes things are thrown at you. My only hope is that I don’t ask crashingly stupid questions. But it does happen and then I just say, sorry, that was a stupid question.

I had a challenging time five years ago when my GP said I had 10 years of illness in 18 months. None of them was too serious — I was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid — but the accumulation ground me down for a while.

So far life has taught me to persevere. Sometimes the things that don’t come so quickly are the most enjoyable. RTÉ tends to be one of those places where everyone is always thinking about the next job, the next show, the next promotion. It would be so much better if we could just make the most of what we are doing now, pretend this is our last show and make sure we make it the best one possible.
Rachael’s novel, Going Back, has been nominated for the ‘Best Newcomer Award’ in the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.


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