25 years of waking up Ireland to news and realities of everyday life

IRELAND’S favourite alarm call Morning Ireland yesterday stood with the great shows in the history of Irish broadcasting as it celebrated 25 years on air.

Rather than take a nostalgic route through the RTÉ vaults, the special anniversary edition devoted most of the two-hour show to looking to the future.

It was also the first time the programme was broadcast with a live studio audience as more than 100 early-risers got to witness the behind-the-scenes activity that goes into the seemingly effortless on-air presentation by hosts Aine Lawlor and Cathal MacCoille.

Among them was Morning Ireland devotee, Rosemary Kieran from Delgany, Co Wicklow who has been a regular listener since the show began in 1984.

“It’s wonderful to see all these people who I’ve been listening to for a long time,” she beamed.

One of the show’s main guests was Taoiseach Brian Cowen who listened to a feature on the main news stories of 1984 – one which coincided with his own entry into national politics.

Mr Cowen joked he had never thought he’d have to put on make-up for a radio programme. However, the foundation probably camouflaged his reddening cheeks as he was forced to listen to former taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald launch a full-on criticism of the Government’s tax policy.

The biggest applause of the day was saved for the arrival into studio by the show’s original presenter, David Hanly for the final section of the programme.

The owner of the most famous growl in Irish radio who graced the airwaves until he suffered illness in 2002 was greeted with a standing ovation.

Hanly, who was with the programme’s other original co-presenter, David Davin-Power, RTÉ political correspondent, recalled how his mind was “full of doubt and sheer terror” during those early days.

“I’m glad to see it’s sailing on and still holding its audience,” he said.

What is often forgotten is Morning Ireland struggled to win over listeners back in 1984 when it replaced a popular music programme hosted by Mike Murphy.

RTÉ’s head of news, Michael Good reflected on the programme’s shaky start which did not find immediate favour with the RTÉ Authority.

“Those of us involved in the very first Morning Ireland would have been very surprised to learn that the programme would still be going strong 25 years later. Many people didn’t expect it to last six months,” he recalled.

John S Doyle, one of the presenters of the popular What It Says in the Papers slot, revisited the headlines of 25 years ago.

Trade unions were threatening revolts over pay, economists were discovering a black hole in the economy and the Samaritans were warning of a hike in the number of callers expressing suicidal thoughts.

One wonders if the first broadcast from 1984 could have been repeated without anyone noticing.

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