It is 30 years since legal local radio came to all parts of Ireland. One of the first local services to commence broadcasting was Clare FM which launched on Sunday 10th September 1989. It was a historic day for the county and the team of 30 full time and part time staff had worked hard in advance of the launch to ensure that it would be a success.
“Launching Clare FM – The stories of those who launched Clare‘s local radio station in 1989” is a new book, written by the first voice on the station, Ger Sweeney, who can still be heard occasionally on Clare FM.
The book looks at the lead up to the legalising of radio stations in Ireland, the establishment of the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC), the competition that decided who would get the licences and it profiles the four Clare groups who sought the Clare franchise. The bulk of “Launching Clare FM” introduces us to the individual members of the original team and profiles each one – where they are from, how they became interested in radio, how they got the Clare FM job, their role in the launch and in the station as a whole, why they left, where they went and what they’re doing now.
Ger Sweeney says “We were fortunate to be part of a historic moment in 1989. That moment cannot happen again and I thought that the story should be told. In telling it I place great importance on the stories being told by those who were there. That ensures that each person’s contribution can be appreciated because it was truly a team effort.”
In the book the various stories reflect the importance of local radio, especially in areas like County Clare that are fortunate to have good local radio services. “Launching Clare FM” outlines the planning that went into the programming and what was considered important like local news and current affairs, local sport, local culture and bringing all parts of the county together. It also deals with struggles such as trying to get the signal into all parts of the county and the information campaigns that were run to teach people how to tune in.
It was a very exciting time and because of the advance publicity that Clare FM received in the local press there was a great air of expectancy across the county from early summer of 1989. Ger comments “this was great because we knew that there would be a listenership when we launched but it did add some pressure because the expectations were high. We had to come out shooting with all barrels when the time came, and we did. President Patrick Hillery, a proud Clare man, performed the official opening which we broadcast from an Ennis hotel. That evening we broadcast a celebration concert live from Dánlann an Chláir in Ennis, and during the first programme which I presented (12pm – 5pm) there were live match reports from the County Senior Football final in Cooraclare with Marty Morrissey, our News and Sports Editor. That was an ambitious start!!”
The book is packed with memories and stories from members of the original team. Some names that were in Ennis in 1989 will be familiar to the masses including two former RTÉ presenters, Caimin Jones and Áine Hensey along with future national figures like Marty Morrissey, Rachael English and Alan Cantwell. It’s almost a “behind the scenes” look at what was going on and what went on in the early days. Some highs and lows are recalled and each story is different but there are a few similarities that pop up.
Ger Sweeney says, “Clare FM’s 30th anniversary is the ideal time to tell the story, before we all forget it. As only one of the original presenters has died in the past 30 years I was able to get stories from most of the original crew. Sadly, there are three others who were part of the team but not on air who have passed away and these are recalled in the book. Also remembered in some stories are others who joined us later who have since died. There are four people currently with the station in some capacity that were there at the start and of these, two have unbroken service. I’m still involved but only as occasional substitute after leaving full time work there on three occasions. Bad penny has been mentioned!!”
“Launching Clare FM” is a book for proud Clare people and radio buffs everywhere. It is available in retail outlets across Clare, Limerick and Galway as well as online. The details are available HERE