The 2021 IMRO Radio Awards Hall of Fame inductees were revealed today. East Coast FM’s Declan Meehan, RTÉ Lyric fm’s George Hamilton, C103’s Patricia Messinger and BBC Radio Ulster/Q Radio’s Stephen Clements RIP were announced as the latest recipients of this prestigious accolade.
The Hall of Fame is a highly regarded achievement within the Irish radio industry. The Hall of Fame celebrates those well-known names on air and those behind the microphone that make Irish radio such an integral part of daily life. Due to the current government guidelines, a small in person event at The Spencer Hotel was held on Wednesday 15 th September where the inductees received their plaques.
The four new inductees join names such as Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny, Marion Finucane, Larry Gogan, Ian Dempsey, Áine Lawlor, Candy Devine, Dave Fanning and Tony Fenton amongst others.
Chair of the IMRO Radio Awards Committee, Chris Doyle who hosted the event this week said “Today we are delighted to celebrate the careers of four radio presenters from different corners of Ireland and induct them in the IMRO Radio Awards Hall of Fame. All of today’s inductees have had significant impact in their radio careers, they are trailblazers, entertainers, amazing broadcasters and have literally seen and done it all. The inductees today have connected with audiences over many years and demonstrate how powerful radio really is.”
IMRO Chair, Eleanor McEvoy spoke at the event today and said “ I think you were able to do that because of the deep connection that you forged with your listeners over many years, and that deep connection then built-up trust so that when presenters were talking about vaccines or numbers, that people trusted them.”
Deputy Chief Executive of the BAI, Celene Craig said : On behalf of the BAI, I would like to congratulate all the 2021 inductees. The four recipients have made notable and lasting contributions to the radio industry and I am very pleased to celebrate their achievements today. I would also like to acknowledge the crucial role played by the radio industry throughout this pandemic. It has continued to keep audiences connected and entertained while providing vital, relevant and timely information for individuals and communities during this difficult time.
The IMRO Radio Awards take place virtually on Friday 1 st October and will be hosted by comedian and radio presenter Dermot Whelan.
Declan Meehan’s career in Irish broadcasting spans over 5 decades. In a wide and varied career Declan began his radio life at the very beginning of the pirates on Radio Vanessa. He was co-founder of influential ARD and during the 1970’s was a strong campaigner for legal independent radio.
Declan was the first breakfast presenter on RTE 2FM when it launched in 1979 but was soon lured back to the Super Pirates where he worked on Sunshine and Radio Nova. It was here he presented the iconic ‘Dekkie Wekkie’s Brekki Trekki’ with Bob Gallico.
2FM attempted to lure Declan back to them but he chose instead to join the fledgling independent radio sector and began presenting Drive on Century radio where he later became head of music.
After a stint on FM104 Declan was headhunted to East Coast FM to present their flagship current affairs programme, The Morning Show. 27 years later Declan is still at the helm and is a vital part of the team at East Coast FM and the wider Wicklow community. Alongside his hugely successful career as a current affairs presenter, Declan never lost his love of music and being a disk jockey and presented a Sunday morning show on Today FM for 20 years.
From presenting pioneering radio in the 70’s & 80’s to dealing with the serious issues of the day for people in Co. Wicklow Declan is a most deserving nominee for entry into the Hall of Fame. For the last 27 years he has been at the coalface of hard-hitting broadcasting, challenging politicians in the lead up to elections, campaigning for better roads on the N11, once dubbed the most dangerous road in Ireland. He has championed many great causes over the years and has highlighted the plight of many different communities in Co. Wicklow. He has presented marathon broadcasts from election count centres and has played a very significant part in raising over €800,000 for cancer support charities in Co. Wicklow by hosting the now famous East Coast FM Wicklow wide Coffee Morning.
The Morning Show has been nominated for several PPI radio awards, winning silver. In 2019 it won bronze in the IMRO radio awards and silver in 2020.
Apart from his passion for current affairs Declan has been a champion of new Irish music and presented ‘Nightmoves’ on 2FM where Irish talent was promoted. Over the years on East Coast FM, he has boosted the careers of many talented Irish musicians and in 2002 received an award for his contribution to Irish music on radio.
Declan has also nurtured the careers of many high-profile broadcasters that started their careers at East Coast FM and continues to mentor new employees, sharing with them his wisdom & knowledge of the industry.
George has been the voice of RTÉ’s soccer and rugby coverage for many years and has presented The Hamilton Scores on RTÉ lyric fm for almost 20 years.
Scores have been a key element of George Hamilton’s radio broadcasting. George first clambered up on the piano stool to begin his musical studies at the age of six.
In later years his ability with his left foot led to many a point being converted from his position as a Rugby full back. Through several years as principal cellist with the orchestra at Methody (the Methodist College) in Belfast, his home town, his musical tastes expanded. Subsequently the study of German and French at Queen’s University led to a year in the Ruhr, he’d found the perfect mix – the location, the language, the music – and sport. Bach and Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner, not to mention Borussia Mönchengladbach!
After graduation, it was either play or get paid – familiar dilemma, for sure – though in George’s case, his career developed into a labour of love. Radio became the perfect medium for his wonderful turn of phrase and blend of interests. A sports commentator for forty plus years, he spent eight of those with the BBC in Belfast and London, before teaming up with RTÉ. He currently counts 11 FIFA World Cups and 10 Summer Olympic Games amongst a wide portfolio of major events covered.
His diversity and ability to bring an understanding of sport to his audience is unrivalled. He is instantly associated with the most elite levels of soccer, athletics and rugby. When you hear George Hamilton’s voice, you know you will not only get the sense of the occasion playing out, but also an understanding of the intricacies of the discipline and a true representation of the ebbs and flows of the contest.
His voice is the soundtrack to the nation’s most iconic sporting memories. Try and mentally relive David O’Leary’s penalty for Ireland against Romania at Italia ‘90 without hearing “The Nation Holds Its Breath”. Genoa could as easily be replaced by Giant’s Stadium in 1994, Sonia O’Sullivan’s silver medal in Sydney in 2000, Brian O’Driscoll hat-trick in Paris in 2000 or Ireland in the 2018 Hockey World Cup Final amongst a lifetime of moments.
It is impossible to disassociate the voice from the magnitude of the moment.
Sport and music remain his passions. And since 2003, he’s been happily ensconced in RTÉ lyric fm’s weekend schedule with The Hamilton Scores, where his flights of musical fancy are given full reign. He has transported lyric listeners all over Europe and beyond with his brilliant descriptions of his many and varied travels. Not many football commentators also moonlight as top classical music presenters, but George has consistently rated in the most listened to programmes on lyric.
For more than three decades now, Patricia Messinger has been the voice of morning radio in Cork. While others have careers spanning the same time, what makes Patricia unique is that she has broadcast in the same timeslot on the same station since November 1990.
She has built up an extremely loyal audience. The most recent JNLR figures (2020-3) showed 43,000 adults tune in each day. No mean feat in one of the most competitive radio markets in Ireland. A decade ago, 29,000 people were listening to the timeslot on the station.
The programme covers everything from important local issues to current affairs to human interest stories. Patricia shows great empathy towards her audience and always champions the underdog. Her great versatility allows her to dig deep into issues, while still giving interviewees the opportunity to express their views and always goes to air extremely well prepared.
As many local radio stations across Ireland celebrated 30 years on air during 2020, Patricia marked her 30 years on air milestone with a special edition of Cork Today on November 13th. An Taoiseach Micheál Martin was the first guest on air to congratulate her. He also thanked her for all the work she does to highlight matters in Cork. She was joined by other friends of the programme including Joanne O’Riordan from Millstreet who was born with no limbs. Joanne explained how the C103 fundraiser for her in 1997 paved the way for her to lead the life she has now.
Over the years, both Patricia and the show have been nominated for numerous PPI and IMRO Radio Awards. In 2015, she proudly picked up Gold at the then PPI Radio Awards when Cork Today won Best Current Affairs Programme.
Patricia has interviewed many high profile people over the years but Cork topics are always at the heart of the programme. On a daily basis, Patricia demonstrates the vital role of Local Radio in the community. Following the economic crash of 2008, some Cork hospitals were in fear of being downgraded. One of those was Bantry General Hospital. To this day, the people of South West Cork still maintain that Patricia’s rigorous interviewing of politicians and coverage of the story played a vital part in services remaining at the hospital.
Adi Roche of the Chernobyl Children’s Project has commended Patricia for her work in raising awareness of the situation in Chernobyl with particular emphasis on children’s
orphanages. During the 90’s at a time when Belarus was as Adi describes “under a dictatorship”, Patricia was one of the first journalists to report live from these orphanages following the nuclear disaster in the 80’s. This resulted in Patricia making a life changing decision to adopt her daughter Marsha and also testing the adoption processes in place at the time.
Stephen Clements RIP:
Stephen Clements was one of the most naturally gifted presenters to ever have been on the northern Irish airwaves.
A relative latecomer to the industry having been everything from a male model to an English teacher, Stephen’s talent lay in his genuine affection for other people and an eye for the everyday madness of daily life, allowing us all to laugh out loud especially in difficult times.
Having built up a huge following on Q Radio, especially with his legendary partnership Cate Conway where they gained huge numbers with the breakfast show, he then landed what he described as his dream gig with BBC Radio Ulster in the 1030 slot.
Stephen had an incredible knack of being able to prick pomposity but still remain on good terms with the great and the good. Both First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy FM Martin McGuinness were regular listeners to the show and both invited him for private meetings at Stormont where they admitted to being fans of the show, even when he sent them up. His legendary ‘Through The Window’ skit whereby a celeb or local face was guessed, always descending into farce, became something that regularly went viral and proved hugely popular.
He was extremely gifted on air, using technology to support his instant creativity, often cutting and mixing callers live on air. His ability to talk to live callers was second to none, often picking up on the slightest sense of an odd story to draw out hilarious anecdotes.
His on air partner Cate was mercilessly ribbed, being known even to this day as ‘hairy hands’. They were a relatable partnership, with moments of incredible tenderness as well as the fun. Even the cleaning lady became a star of his breakfast show, continually crashing into the studio live on air but then regaling the hosts with her latest thoughts, all manipulated and pulled together masterfully by Stephen.
At the BBC Stephen had already begun to expand his skills beyond his daily show and had presented Children in Need and Open for Summer on Television.
Sadly Stephen died suddenly in January 2020 and the outpouring of grief was enormous. From celebrities to his many thousands of fans, the sense of loss was palpable, and he is still missed by his listeners and also his colleagues at BBC Radio Ulster and Q network.
Hall of Fame Inductees to date:
Micheál O’Muircheartaigh – RTÉ Radio 1
Jimmy Magee – RTÉ Radio1
Des Whelan – WLR FM
Marian Finucane – RTÉ Radio 1
Gay Byrne – RTÉ Radio1
Larry Gogan – RTÉ 2fm
Mario Rosenstock – Today FM
Gerry Ryan – 2fm
Ronan O’Rahilly – Radio Caroline
Candy Devine – Downtown
Seán Bán Breathnach – RTÉ Raidio Na Gaeltachta
Joe Duffy – RTÉ Radio 1
Bill Goulding – RTÉ
Liam O’Shea – clare fm
Tony Fenton RIP – Today FM
Paul Claffey – Midwest Radio
Áine Lawlor – RTÉ Radio 1
Walter Love – BBC Radio Ulster
Gerry Anderson – BBC Radio Ulster
Pat Balfe – Communicorp
Des Cahill – RTÉ Radio 1
Henry Owens RIP – Red FM
Eamon Buttle – South East Radio
Trevor Campbell – Downtown Radio
Ian Dempsey – Today FM
Dave Fanning – RTÉ 2fm
Linda McAuley – BBC Radio Ulster
Séamus Mac Géidigh RIP – RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta
Billy McCarthy RIP – WLR FM
Joe King – Broadcast Technical Services Limited
Pat Kenny – Newstalk
Margaret Nelson – FM104/Q102
Ian Wilson – RTÉ Radio 1 & 2fm
Sean Moncrieff – Newstalk
Ronan Collins – RTÉ Radio 1
Paul Byrne – Radio Kerry
Seamus McKee – BBC Radio Ulster