John Kelly

The man behind the Mystery Train is a bit of a mystery himself but, at Peter Murphy's request, writer and broadcaster JOHN KELLY steps forward to talk about Enniskillen, friends in high places, the fall and rise of his broadcasting career, his lack of intercourse with Dave Trimble, "taking the soup", desert island music and Uaneen. Broadcast Views: Cathal Dawson

John Kelly's life could be measured out not in TS Eliot's coffee spoons but a litany of radio programmes, television shows and books; The Eclectic Ballroom, Season Ticket, The Vinyl Curtain, Later…, The View, Grace Notes And Bad Thoughts, Cool About The Ankles…

The broadcaster and writer is coasting at the moment: his Mystery Train show on RTE Radio 1 - basically a condensed version of the marathon madness of his Radio Ireland days - is as popular as ever, boasting fans as far flung as Conan O' Brien's crew in New York, who monitor it via the Internet. The latest edition of his third book The Little Hammer is about to be published by Vintage, and most recently, his arts review programme The View has begun to garner impressive viewing figures.

But all this will tell you little about the 35-year-old Enniskillen man apart from his appetite for work. A complicated enough character, Kelly - as passionate about music as he is sceptical of the music industry - has plenty to say for himself, yet prefers diplomacy over putting the boot in. A highly regarded interviewer, he favours a respectful (some might say uncritical) approach to his subjects, particularly in his Irish Times column, preferring the mantle of medium to pundit. He's obviously wary of the ligging classes, yet can count among his friends writers and artists like Elvis Costello, Pete Hamill and Gavin Friday. In fact, the moral conundrum at the centre of Cameron Crowe's film Almost Famous cropped up several times over the course of our two interview sessions; if you become friends with certain of the artists you encounter, must you then forfeit the privilege of writing about them?

This one will run and run.

Peter Murphy: There's still a bit of a "mystery man from the North" air about you, John. In an interview with Paddy Kehoe for the RTE Guide a couple of years ago, you came across as distinctly uncomfortable about talking about your private life, particularly your then impending marriage.

John Kelly: Well, it depends on the circumstances. One, I'm thinking of other people. I mean, if I start talking about my wife, I'm involving somebody else that mightn't want to be talked about. I've no right to do that. On an immediate level, that's one reason I'm cautious about private stuff. I mean, I didn't want the RTE Guide puttin' my wedding photographs on the cover or something! I'm not obsessive about it, I'm just wary of the kind of Hello! type stuff: "This is my house, here's me and my wife at home and aren't we wonderful?" I mean, so what? Big deal for me, but not for anyone else!

Growing up in Enniskillen, did you have a strong sense of being a Catholic in a schizoid society?

In ways it was kind of imposed upon you, I didn't inherit it in any kind of direct way, I wasn't preached at in the cradle or anything like that. The town I grew up in wasn't a sectarian place, that wasn't the nature of it. And when it did occur to the point where I would've noticed, it was a surprise; it almost had to be explained to me. I grew up in a mixed neighbourhood.

But did your sense of the denominational divide intensify as you got older? For instance, did you have friends who were hauled off to jail?

Not close friends, but there were people… anybody in the north would have people that they either know of or know the families of who were in trouble or got killed. It's a small community. Y'know, I met fellas in University and they'd say, "Everyone who was in my primary school class is now in jail" (but) that wasn't the nature of the town I grew up in. There were one or two, but it wasn't like the whole class. It was a strange sort of a town, Enniskillen, I think, a unique town in the north. It's a place where people had to co-operate and co-exist and work out a decent modus operandi, a way of just getting on, diplomacy and good manners. When I was growing up, people on the extremes were seen as kind of eccentric figures on either side. It wasn't intense like Derry or Belfast.

So then it must've been doubly heartbreaking when the actual name of your hometown became a byword for atrocity following the bombings in 1987.

Oh absolutely, oh God, yeah. I remember going to see Rattle & Hum and the first time Bono mentioned it, when I heard the name said loud through speakers in a cinema, it was like being hit over the head. It was a really bizarre thing.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when it happened?

I was home for the weekend from University. I was in bed. And I heard it goin' off. As normally happened when a bomb went off, people were all speculating: "Oh, it sounded like it might have been the barracks" or, "It sounded like it was more over that way." If somebody had said, "Well, y'know, the memorial service is on today" everyone would've went, "Ah no, they wouldn't do that." That wasn't an option. So it was a shock. I had to go back on the bus to Queens that day, but apparently the place was in extraordinary blackness for a long, long time, a really dark, genuinely depressed sort of a thing. (But) there were a lot of good things happened after that, a lot of great gestures and goodwill and a lot of things got strengthened by it. I still remember very, very shortly after, Gordon Wilson and his wife turning up in a Catholic church and everybody applauding, that kind of stuff.

Is it true that you were lectured by David Trimble at Queens?

I was, yeah. (Laughs) I think he lectured me in Evidence, but there would've been no connection, he wasn't a tutor of mine so he literally would come in and open his file and give his lecture and close his file and go out again, so I had no… what's the word? Intercourse!

You then decided to get into broadcasting instead of practicing law. One more time, can we go over the BBC Radio Ulster debacle?

Well y'see, it wasn't a debacle really. I mean, every time I get interviewed I get asked about this as if there was some kind of… I mean basically what happens in these situations is you work for a while in a place like that and eventually you get taken off - it just happens, y'know? In all these institutions, management changes, different people come in, and you can dress it up as some kind of conspiracy or whatever but it was just that circumstances changed. The sort of programmes the BBC were heading towards, I wouldn't have been particularly equipped for, and rather than hang about hoping for crumbs I just cleared off.

How did you feel at that point?

I thought I was all washed up, I didn't know what I was going to do, there was nowhere else to go. I felt a bit like, I'd chosen not to pursue law by going into the media end of things, and you start to believe that because you're being employed that you can do your job, and then suddenly they're telling you that you're no good at your job, and (you think): "What have I been doing here for ten years? Why have you been paying me money, why have you been asking me to do things if suddenly I'm no good?" So that was potentially a blow. Y'know, it's happened to better people than me. You're at the mercy of whim a lot of the time.

At this juncture you got seriously into writing, before moving to Dublin to work for Radio Ireland in 1997. And you basically had a license to do what you wanted for three hours every night.

Those were great days. That wasn't so much a licence as by default. We came on at seven and basically they'd turned the lights out by then, so meself and Donal (Dineen) did our thing. And by the time they got around to dealing with us it was too late, the thing was up and running. We kinda survived the various nights of the long knives at Radio Ireland because at one point Donal's show and my show were the only ones that were getting any good press for the station. It took a while for Dunphy's show to kick in - it's the big thing now but there was a time when it wasn't happening to the extent it is now. It was strangely ironic that it was the "weirdo" shows - Donal and me - that were actually getting the listeners.

I think one reason you may have gotten such good press was because it brought back memories of the last time there was a golden age of wireless in Ireland, the mid-80s period with Dave Fanning, Gerry Ryan, Mark Cagney's Night Train and the BP Fallon Orchestra.

I remember that. See, that's probably the last time people were allowed to do what they thought best, y'know? If you're gonna let somebody go on the radio, you've gotta let them use their instincts. I would argue that you shouldn't be doing a music programme unless you're able to come in with a box of records and play stuff. I don't mean to put down what I'm doing, but I don't think it should be seen as some spectacular skill. I mean, I would never have gotten on the air at RTE doing what I do had I not been already established at Radio Ireland.

So how come the honeymoon went sour?

Well, it didn't. I was very happy at Radio Ireland apart from the worry of it turning into something else. It turned into Today FM and they got a lot of yellow balloons and stuff like that and it became a different type of station.

Was it Chris Evans' production crew who instigated that change?

To be honest I'm quite confused as to when and how… there was a series of managers coming in regularly. I was getting basically fed up of being sat down in front of a new guy every so often, and his first question would be, "Who are you and what do you do?" And I was eventually saying, "Look, I'm sorry, I work here - who are you and what do you do?' (Laughs) It was gettin' like that! The low point for me was probably when the Evans crowd came in - I never met Chris Evans, but I got the impression that they would have been anxious to get rid of Donal, me, Dunphy, I think we were all in danger of getting the chop at that point. But somebody within the system with some clout fought the corner, y'know? They couldn't really get rid of us because at one point it was all it had going for it.

Now that's all changed. I mean, it's encouraging that they put Tom (Dunne) on. I was surprised at that, I thought they'd have viewed my departure as a chance to put on another jock. But I enjoyed it there, and I did feel that we were part of something, that evening thing. I had people saying, "I'm driving home while you're on and I park the car and I don't get out 'til you're finished." That was extraordinary.

Do you think it had a knock-on effect which allowed some pretty weird stuff to subsequently happen on RTE Radio, such as Pat McCabe's Emerald Germs of Ireland?

I think it did. Y'see Helen Shaw's in charge in there and Helen's quite open to doing new things. I mean RTE radio is in quite a strange position vis a vis they want to get a younger audience but they've also got an older audience they want to hang onto. Which is why one minute I'm on playing Tortoise and the next thing there's someone playing, I dunno, Acker Bilk or something. It has to cater to everybody.

How do you get on with Helen Shaw?

I've had no problems with Helen Shaw, I have to say. I don't want to start eulogising about her 'cos it just seems like I'm being a lick 'cos she's my boss, y'know? But I've had absolutely no interference whatsoever, I was never once brought into Helen's office and she says, "You played 20 minutes of John Coltrane last night and you shouldn't have done that." Never once.

Nevertheless, when you moved to RTE, there were voices from the back of the class claiming, "They've gelded Kelly."

Yeah, but I don't think they have. I'm my own editor. There's stuff I would've played on Radio Ireland that I wouldn't play on RTE because I'm conscious of a different audience. I tend never to play what I would consider sonically aggressive stuff, y'know, I'd rarely play The Stooges or something that's really hard and heavy because it's not a rock show audience. But the only thing that I think has changed is that it's an hour as opposed to two or three hours. So if someone says to me, "You haven't played A Love Supreme recently", that's because it would take up the whole show. I'm always banging on about this, but you see my show is kind of like a specialist show, but it's not presented like one. If it's a specialist show you end up with ten minutes of talk from the presenter about serial numbers and the fact that the bass player sat out during the third track and this kind of stuff. And I just fire it on as music. If it's Charles Mingus one minute and it's U2 the next and somebody from Botswana the next, I try not to make too big a deal of it.

You feel most comfortable with the mantle of writer rather than broadcaster, yet you once admitted to me off the record to being somewhat embarrassed about your autobiography Cool About The Ankles.

I'm more embarrassed not so much about the content of it but the way it was marketed and the cover of it and all that stuff. The word memoir is an outrageous word; I hate that word. It was kind of an experimental kind of a book too, and I'm fed up doing experiments, I'd rather just do something straight where everybody knows what it is. It was intended to be like a long essay, like a piece of journalism, it probably should've been published in a magazine in about ten pages. But I think I realised that if I was gonna make any progress with this, I had to get published outside of Ireland where nobody knew me, where there was no baggage. I went with Jonathan Cape and they brought out The Little Hammer which is almost like my first book. So the other two are almost written off to experience or something. If you publish stuff in Ireland, you're kinda wasting your time. Sad, but true.

Do you ever worry that your friendships with musicians like Gavin Friday or Elvis Costello might compromise you as an interviewer/journalist/critic?

Yeah, I do. I'm kinda lucky in a way, I think I said this to you before: the only music stuff that I write is for the Irish Times, and it's a column. I'm allowed to indulge my loves and my enthusiasms. I'm not packed off to spend a week with a band and tell the truth about them; that's not the type of writing that I have to do, y'know? I'm already pre-disposed to the people I'm writing about to begin with. What I'm trying to do is turn people onto things. I'm not employed by a newspaper or a magazine to be a critic. I'm employed to communicate in the newspaper what I do on the radio. But you're right, there's a conundrum there. If, for instance, somebody I know sends me an album and it's crap, or it just doesn't fit on the radio programme, I just tend not to play it. But I won't go out of my way to write an article about it.

Now, what I wouldn't do is the junket thing. If U2 had flown me to that Astoria gig and put me up in a hotel, you can't review it. I wouldn't review a gig where I'd been wined and dined by the band. You can't do that. Not that they care, it doesn't matter what I say about them, but it matters to me. You mentioned Gavin and Elvis; the other problem is that you live in a small place like Dublin and you get to know people. For instance, if someone like Gavin brings out a new album, I'm not the man to review it, it's out of the question. But that doesn't mean that I can't play it on the radio and say I like it. It's difficult. How do you deal with it? You must know these guys too, or do you deliberately not get to know them?

No, that's pointless, like censoring your private life.

It is, and you can't spend an hour with someone having a cup of tea and getting on with them and then you take the smile off your face immediately after and stick the boot in. You have to behave with the same manners with famous people as you do with anyone else. You can stitch anybody up if you want to, but I'm not into that stuff.

How did you feel as a fan reading Rolling Stone and then Lou Reed drops your name?

Oh, that was freaky, yeah. I mean I didn't expect for a minute he'd have the slightest idea what my name was. I met him a couple of times, but we don't hang out or anything - I'm not sure that would be a good idea! But that was actually Uaneen (Fitzsimons), God love her, she rang me up from America in a state of excitement saying, "You'll never believe what's in Rolling Stone!"

You knew Uaneen from your days in Belfast in the BBC. How hard did her death hit people in RTE ?

Very, very hard. Well, you knew her, she was… I know a lot of people have said this in the context of Uaneen, but there are so many sharks in this business, and so many people who are so driven by naked ambition to achieve what they don't even know it is they're trying to achieve. And they will climb over anybody and conspire behind people's backs and turn people against people and they'll poison people - that kind of stuff goes on all the time. Uaneen was never like that. She was straight up, a big-hearted, open person, would be delighted with somebody else's success. She was beautiful, and it was very hard to believe. I mean it's all the clichéd stuff: she lit up the room etc., etc., but you were always delighted to see her, there was none of this stuff going on. People in a position like Uaneen's are normally so… you just wanna turn your back, y'know?

While we're talking about exceptional people, tell me about meeting Bob.

Dylan? I just shook hands with him.

Yeah, but there's theatre in that.

Oh aye. See I'm conscious now that this is gonna sound like I'm namedropping, 'cos I think namedropping's an atrocious activity, I really do. You mentioned a few people to me because you know that I know them, and you saw me with them, but I wouldn't have brought it up.

But anyway, the Dylan thing was, I went to see him one night, and I rode in on the back of somebody else's coattails into the inner sanctum. I kind of directed him onto the stage, 'cos he walked out and was heading into the audience and I kind of stood nervously in front of him. And then I thought, "I gotta do something!" So I stuck my hand out and muttered "God bless you," or something inane, and he kinda just looked up from under his towel and there was a couple of seconds of staring Bob Dylan in the face.

Are his eyes really as blue as everyone says?

Oh yeah. Really, really blue eyes. He was probably trying to work out, "Do I know this guy?" or "How did he get this close!" But I'm nervous about that namedropping thing…

Point taken. On a different tack, what do you think were the main problems with Later With John Kelly?

There were none. It was taken off the air suddenly. It was a shock to us, it was done for no apparent reason, I still don't really know why, and just as quickly it was back on again. In fact I got an e-mail yesterday - apparently the show we did the other night, maybe it's something to do with Hannibal Lecter and lap dancing, which is what we were talking about, but it got 213,000 viewers, which is huge for that kind of programme. So this time around, viewing figures are massive. Now it helps obviously that we're on RTE 1, on the same night at the same time on the same channel - the last time we were being shunted around. But it wasn't taken off because of ratings or anything; ratings don't really apply to arts shows, they just don't. If you're worried about that, don't make them at all.

For what it's worth, I think there's a slight difference in tone between Later and The View that makes the difference.

What do you think it is? 'Cos I haven't worked it out yet.

With Later, there was a sense that some of the guests were rent-a-critics ripping strips off items just because they could.

Yeah, that's possible. Relating back to what you were saying about the friends thing, I never involve myself with guests, ever, be it for the quiz or anything. Because when you know people, your friends are waiting to be asked, or don't want to be asked 'cos they don't know how to say no or whatever.

I think it's been a wise decision this time around to get guests on like Roddy Doyle and Michael D Higgins and people like that. If people like that are seen as predictable choices of guests in some way, there's a good reason for that - to get people on who give good television. But I think we were under pressure in the last series to find new people, new faces, new voices, that was like an ulterior brief on the programme.

Have you ever been uncomfortable with stuff being slated on your programme?

It has happened me where friends have been hammered, and it's not my place to jump in and defend them. I've been criticised for not being stronger on the programme, but to be honest I don't see that as my function because it's an arts programme, you're not talking about the budget or somebody's financial affairs. You've invited people on to express their views on a film or something, and I can't turn around and say, "You're talking nonsense." Occasionally I'll do it, but I see my job there as to be kind of a facilitator rather than grilling people, y'know, I'm not interviewing a politician who's got something to hide.

But also, I don't like seeing any act slated in a cruel way, I don't think that's right if someone is making some kind of honest expression as a painter or actor or whatever. A friend of mine, a traditional singer, was very sorely abused on a record review programme that I did, by someone who wouldn't have known a traditional singer if one fell on him. I don't like seeing people being torn apart, I find that uncomfortable rather than fun to read that kind of stuff.

John Kelly's life could be measured out not in TS Eliot's coffee spoons but a litany of radio programmes, television shows and books; The Eclectic Ballroom, Season Ticket, The Vinyl Curtain, Later…, The View, Grace Notes And Bad Thoughts, Cool About The Ankles…

The broadcaster and writer is coasting at the moment: his Mystery Train show on RTE Radio 1 - basically a condensed version of the marathon madness of his Radio Ireland days - is as popular as ever, boasting fans as far flung as Conan O' Brien's crew in New York, who monitor it via the Internet. The latest edition of his third book The Little Hammer is about to be published by Vintage, and most recently, his arts review programme The View has begun to garner impressive viewing figures.

But all this will tell you little about the 35-year-old Enniskillen man apart from his appetite for work. A complicated enough character, Kelly - as passionate about music as he is sceptical of the music industry - has plenty to say for himself, yet prefers diplomacy over putting the boot in. A highly regarded interviewer, he favours a respectful (some might say uncritical) approach to his subjects, particularly in his Irish Times column, preferring the mantle of medium to pundit. He's obviously wary of the ligging classes, yet can count among his friends writers and artists like Elvis Costello, Pete Hamill and Gavin Friday. In fact, the moral conundrum at the centre of Cameron Crowe's film Almost Famous cropped up several times over the course of our two interview sessions; if you become friends with certain of the artists you encounter, must you then forfeit the privilege of writing about them?

This one will run and run.

Peter Murphy: There's still a bit of a "mystery man from the North" air about you, John. In an interview with Paddy Kehoe for the RTE Guide a couple of years ago, you came across as distinctly uncomfortable about talking about your private life, particularly your then impending marriage.

John Kelly: Well, it depends on the circumstances. One, I'm thinking of other people. I mean, if I start talking about my wife, I'm involving somebody else that mightn't want to be talked about. I've no right to do that. On an immediate level, that's one reason I'm cautious about private stuff. I mean, I didn't want the RTE Guide puttin' my wedding photographs on the cover or something! I'm not obsessive about it, I'm just wary of the kind of Hello! type stuff: "This is my house, here's me and my wife at home and aren't we wonderful?" I mean, so what? Big deal for me, but not for anyone else!

Growing up in Enniskillen, did you have a strong sense of being a Catholic in a schizoid society?

In ways it was kind of imposed upon you, I didn't inherit it in any kind of direct way, I wasn't preached at in the cradle or anything like that. The town I grew up in wasn't a sectarian place, that wasn't the nature of it. And when it did occur to the point where I would've noticed, it was a surprise; it almost had to be explained to me. I grew up in a mixed neighbourhood.

But did your sense of the denominational divide intensify as you got older? For instance, did you have friends who were hauled off to jail?

Not close friends, but there were people… anybody in the north would have people that they either know of or know the families of who were in trouble or got killed. It's a small community. Y'know, I met fellas in University and they'd say, "Everyone who was in my primary school class is now in jail" (but) that wasn't the nature of the town I grew up in. There were one or two, but it wasn't like the whole class. It was a strange sort of a town, Enniskillen, I think, a unique town in the north. It's a place where people had to co-operate and co-exist and work out a decent modus operandi, a way of just getting on, diplomacy and good manners. When I was growing up, people on the extremes were seen as kind of eccentric figures on either side. It wasn't intense like Derry or Belfast.

So then it must've been doubly heartbreaking when the actual name of your hometown became a byword for atrocity following the bombings in 1987.

Oh absolutely, oh God, yeah. I remember going to see Rattle & Hum and the first time Bono mentioned it, when I heard the name said loud through speakers in a cinema, it was like being hit over the head. It was a really bizarre thing.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when it happened?

I was home for the weekend from University. I was in bed. And I heard it goin' off. As normally happened when a bomb went off, people were all speculating: "Oh, it sounded like it might have been the barracks" or, "It sounded like it was more over that way." If somebody had said, "Well, y'know, the memorial service is on today" everyone would've went, "Ah no, they wouldn't do that." That wasn't an option. So it was a shock. I had to go back on the bus to Queens that day, but apparently the place was in extraordinary blackness for a long, long time, a really dark, genuinely depressed sort of a thing. (But) there were a lot of good things happened after that, a lot of great gestures and goodwill and a lot of things got strengthened by it. I still remember very, very shortly after, Gordon Wilson and his wife turning up in a Catholic church and everybody applauding, that kind of stuff.

Is it true that you were lectured by David Trimble at Queens?

I was, yeah. (Laughs) I think he lectured me in Evidence, but there would've been no connection, he wasn't a tutor of mine so he literally would come in and open his file and give his lecture and close his file and go out again, so I had no… what's the word? Intercourse!

You then decided to get into broadcasting instead of practicing law. One more time, can we go over the BBC Radio Ulster debacle?

Well y'see, it wasn't a debacle really. I mean, every time I get interviewed I get asked about this as if there was some kind of… I mean basically what happens in these situations is you work for a while in a place like that and eventually you get taken off - it just happens, y'know? In all these institutions, management changes, different people come in, and you can dress it up as some kind of conspiracy or whatever but it was just that circumstances changed. The sort of programmes the BBC were heading towards, I wouldn't have been particularly equipped for, and rather than hang about hoping for crumbs I just cleared off.

How did you feel at that point?

I thought I was all washed up, I didn't know what I was going to do, there was nowhere else to go. I felt a bit like, I'd chosen not to pursue law by going into the media end of things, and you start to believe that because you're being employed that you can do your job, and then suddenly they're telling you that you're no good at your job, and (you think): "What have I been doing here for ten years? Why have you been paying me money, why have you been asking me to do things if suddenly I'm no good?" So that was potentially a blow. Y'know, it's happened to better people than me. You're at the mercy of whim a lot of the time.

At this juncture you got seriously into writing, before moving to Dublin to work for Radio Ireland in 1997. And you basically had a license to do what you wanted for three hours every night.

Those were great days. That wasn't so much a licence as by default. We came on at seven and basically they'd turned the lights out by then, so meself and Donal (Dineen) did our thing. And by the time they got around to dealing with us it was too late, the thing was up and running. We kinda survived the various nights of the long knives at Radio Ireland because at one point Donal's show and my show were the only ones that were getting any good press for the station. It took a while for Dunphy's show to kick in - it's the big thing now but there was a time when it wasn't happening to the extent it is now. It was strangely ironic that it was the "weirdo" shows - Donal and me - that were actually getting the listeners.

I think one reason you may have gotten such good press was because it brought back memories of the last time there was a golden age of wireless in Ireland, the mid-80s period with Dave Fanning, Gerry Ryan, Mark Cagney's Night Train and the BP Fallon Orchestra.

I remember that. See, that's probably the last time people were allowed to do what they thought best, y'know? If you're gonna let somebody go on the radio, you've gotta let them use their instincts. I would argue that you shouldn't be doing a music programme unless you're able to come in with a box of records and play stuff. I don't mean to put down what I'm doing, but I don't think it should be seen as some spectacular skill. I mean, I would never have gotten on the air at RTE doing what I do had I not been already established at Radio Ireland.

So how come the honeymoon went sour?

Well, it didn't. I was very happy at Radio Ireland apart from the worry of it turning into something else. It turned into Today FM and they got a lot of yellow balloons and stuff like that and it became a different type of station.

Was it Chris Evans' production crew who instigated that change?

To be honest I'm quite confused as to when and how… there was a series of managers coming in regularly. I was getting basically fed up of being sat down in front of a new guy every so often, and his first question would be, "Who are you and what do you do?" And I was eventually saying, "Look, I'm sorry, I work here - who are you and what do you do?' (Laughs) It was gettin' like that! The low point for me was probably when the Evans crowd came in - I never met Chris Evans, but I got the impression that they would have been anxious to get rid of Donal, me, Dunphy, I think we were all in danger of getting the chop at that point. But somebody within the system with some clout fought the corner, y'know? They couldn't really get rid of us because at one point it was all it had going for it.

Now that's all changed. I mean, it's encouraging that they put Tom (Dunne) on. I was surprised at that, I thought they'd have viewed my departure as a chance to put on another jock. But I enjoyed it there, and I did feel that we were part of something, that evening thing. I had people saying, "I'm driving home while you're on and I park the car and I don't get out 'til you're finished." That was extraordinary.

Do you think it had a knock-on effect which allowed some pretty weird stuff to subsequently happen on RTE Radio, such as Pat McCab

 
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