DESMOND FISHER (13)

Desmond Fisher  Photo:  Nationalist & Leinster Times

Desmond Fisher Photo: Nationalist & Leinster Times

Nationalist and Leinster Times obituary (courtesy Tom Geoghegan) January 13 2015

Des Fisher: broadcaster and former editor of The Nationalist
DESMOND M (Des) Fisher passed away peacefully at the Blackrock Hospice early on Tuesday 30 December. He was a former head of current affairs with RTÉ and deputy head of news at the national broadcaster. Des Fisher had a lifelong association with The Nationalist & Leinster Times in Carlow, of which he was managing editor for a five-year period during the 1980s.

Aged 94, he was one of the last-surviving journalists to have reported from Rome at the Second Vatican Council, which ended half a century ago.

He had been in failing health over recent years. Despite his declining health, Des retained a keen interest in newspapers and the media in general, maintaining his link with Carlow in retirement through reading The Nationalist online every week.

Having lived in retirement with his wife Peggy (née Smyth) from Co Monaghan for the final 26 years of his life, he had remained in close contact over that period with Tom Geoghegan, retired managing director of The Nationalist.

At the time of his death, he had just completed work on a new book, Stabat Mater. Other publications of Des Fisher’s included Broadcasting in Ireland (1978) and The right to communicate: a status report (1981).

A native of Derry city, Des Fisher was a highly-accomplished journalist and broadcaster who was regarded as a theological (sic) heavyweight. He started his journalistic career with The Nationalist, being appointed assistant editor in 1945, a position he held until 1948. While working in Carlow, he met his wife-to-be, who was employed in the Bank of Ireland branch at Court Place. In his early years in Carlow, Des forged close working links with Liam D Bergin, managing editor of the The Nationalist and a doyen of Irish provincial journalism. It was to develop into a lifelong friendship.

In 1948, Des moved to The Irish Press as a sub-editor and London editor to the Press Group until 1964, when, while still based in the English capital, he was appointed editor of the Catholic Herald newspaper.

Des believed that his best work as a journalist was the coverage of Vatican II for the Catholic Herald, which was held from 1962 to 1965, having been called by Pope John XXIII. In 1967, his book on the Second Vatican Council, The Church in transition, was published by Fides. He was Irish correspondent for The Economist and a trustee of the International Institute of Communications as well as being a member of the international advisory board of the Media Institute, Washington DC.

During the late 1980s, Des Fisher fronted the RTÉ One television religious programme Newman’s People. Having given 16 years to the realm of public broadcasting, Des’s next port of call was to return to The Nationalist in Carlow. He was appointed managing editor in 1983 and subsequently managing director, succeeding Liam D Bergin. He also served as a member of the newspaper’s board of directors for a long number of years.

For the first two years of his editorship in Carlow, Des was backed up by the professional vision, expertise and innovation of the late Seamus O’Rourke, particularly in the area of layout and design. Seamus, who passed away in early January 2014, served The Nationalist as news editor for some 20 years. Des Fisher held the position of managing director and editor until 1988, when he formally retired from the fourth estate.

In an editorial in 1983, marking the centenary of The Nationalist & Leinster Times, he wrote of the publication that meant so much to him: “It (Nationalist) can fairly claim to have lived up to the highest ideals of the journalistic and printing crafts and to have served the community of which it forms a part.” In the same editorial, he stated: “In performing its role as the public watchdog, the press must observe one over-riding role first enunciated by the great editor of The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian) CP Scott: ‘Comment is free but facts are sacred’.”

Extracts relating to RTÉ from Desmond Fisher’s own summary of his 70-year career in journalism have been released…

They recall that one year after the Vatican Council ended he left the Catholic Herald and freelanced to support his family in London. But 18 months later, his former Irish Press colleague and fellow Derry man Jim McGuinness,  head of news at RTÉ, suggested he should apply for a job as his deputy. After short attachments with the BBC and ITV in London in 1967, he came to Dublin early the following year to take up the job and to live full time with his family, which had moved to Dublin months earlier. In October 1973, he was appointed head of the current affairs grouping, a new area in RTÉ with responsibility for all current affairs programmes on radio and television.

He wrote of this period: “What I do remember most about my time in RTÉ is that it was the most stressful time in my working life. My time there coincided with external pressure on RTÉ from a government intent on denying publicity to the IRA and internal conflict between RTÉ producers and journalists working on current affairs programmes.”

Those twin pressures soon took their toll: “In the circumstances of the time, however, it was probably inevitable that a disaster would occur. The current affairs area is the most vulnerable in broadcasting, especially in a public service organisation with staff of divided political and trade union loyalties at a time when the country is in turmoil.

“On the night of 17 October 1974 while I was in Galway at the annual conference of the Labour Party, a 7 Days programme on internment in the North was rushed on to the air … replacing the programme which I had cleared for transmission. It later transpired that the filmed programme included a sequence from a London agency, which had been brought in a short time before transmission, edited at the last moment and put out without my clearance.

“This led to a public attack on me on two successive evenings by the then minister in charge of RTÉ, Dr Conor Cruise O’Brien. The enquiries that followed judged that I should have previewed the programme which, in my view, had been deliberately put out in my absence. I offered to resign ‘if this would serve the institutional interests of RTÉ’. This was refused, but in April I told the then director-general Oliver Maloney that the grouping would have either to be established as a full division with its own resources or closed down. He rejected the first alternative so I resigned and the grouping was disbanded.

“Following my resignation, I was appointed director of TV development, a title later changed to director of broadcasting development, a sideways move that really left it to me to determine what I would make of the job.”

He chaired the planning group for the station’s second television channel and continued to research and publish material for the public service broad-caster on a wide range of topics, including its relation-ship with government. This was a particularly thorny subject, given that in 1972 while he was deputy head of news, a Fianna Fáil government had fired the RTÉ Authority after the news division broadcast a radio interview recorded with Seán Mac Stíofáin, then chief of staff of the Provisional IRA.

The then Taoiseach Jack Lynch justified the dismissal by saying the authority had breached a government directive under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, ordering them “not to project people who put forward violent means for achieving their purpose”.

The Fine Gael-Labour administration elected in 1973 had continued to implement the directive. And this was the context in which Fianna Fáil’s new appointees to the RTÉ Authority and senior RTÉ management figures like Des Fisher had to handle the 7 Days debacle in October 1974.

Des Fisher left the national broadcaster in 1983, less than two years before reaching the mandatory retirement age. He then became managing editor and managing director of The Nationalist and Leinster Times.

In 2009, approaching the age of 90, he contributed to the RTÉ documentary If Lynch had invaded about his role with RTÉ in 1969 when the Taoiseach Jack Lynch made a dramatic television broadcast to outline the government’s response to the security forces attacking nationalist communities in Derry.

His family had asked that his passing on 30 December should not be made public until after his cremation which, in accordance with his wishes, took place after a private family requiem Mass was celebrated on Friday 2 January.

He is survived by his wife Margaret (Peggy), daughter Carolyn, and sons Michael, John and Hugh, other close relatives and a wide circle of friends.

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DESMOND FISHER (12)

Desmond Fisher  Photo:  Nationalist & Leinster Times

Desmond Fisher Photo: Nationalist & Leinster Times

This obituary appeared in the Irish Examiner the day after my father’s funeral:

Journalist Desmond Fisher left archive of a life serving the public

Derry-born and Dublin-raised, his career commenced in the provincial press in Carlow and he went on to work for the Irish Press, becoming its London editor, as well as being a correspondent for the Economist and both a deputy head of news and current affairs editor of RTÉ.

He was editor of Britain’s Catholic Herald and, during his reign, covered the Second Vatican Council.

He married Margaret (Peggy) in 1948 and they had four children.

In a substantial archive piece that he prepared for Dublin City University, Mr Fisher recalled developments which concerned him most during his years as a journalist: The threat of nuclear war; the progress of the European ideal from its start as the European Coal and Steel Community to its present 27-member EU; the Troubles in the North; and, above all, the inspired but so far unsuccessful attempt of Pope John XXIII and many of the world’s bishops to pioneer a new Pentecost in the Roman Catholic Church.

In his archive submission, he noted: “As I wrap up this work of preparing my archive, I look back over a life of hard work, a fair deal of satisfaction and a greater amount of dissatisfaction about the fact that I had to resign from two of the most important and prestigious jobs I had in my career — the editorship of the Catholic Herald and the Head of the Current Affairs Grouping in RTÉ.

“Both of these events caused me a lot of mental suffering at the time and resulted in making me feel that I had been, in some sense, a failure. It was much later that I realised I had resigned on points of principle and could — to my own satisfaction at least — fairly.

“As far as the Catholic Herald was concerned, I preferred to resign than to suppress my own deepest beliefs and adopt a policy I considered wrong. In the case of RTÉ, I resigned because I had been the victim of a politically inspired intrigue by ideologues in the station and because the director general of the time would not accept the terms I laid down for my continued tenure in the post.”

Standing up for one’s principles sometimes comes at a price, he stated. “I end by saying that I am glad to have had journalism as a career. It is — or it can be — a satisfying life, especially if one works for the more serious publications or in public service broadcasting. What I am not sure of is whether anything I wrote or initiated has done any good or helped any of my fellow creatures the better to understand or appreciate the world we live in. I must leave that to anyone who sifts through this archive to determine.”

After attending University College Dublin, his career in journalism began and ended at The Nationalist and Leinster Times.

He had joined as an assistant to the editor in 1945 and rejoined the paper in 1984, as editor.

Mr Fisher died in Dublin on Tuesday.

BIG MUSIC WEEK: CARLOW

Colourful welcome for the RTÉ Music Train at Carlow Photo: © Michael Fisher

Colourful welcome for the RTÉ Music Train at Carlow Photo: © Michael Fisher

I was delighted to get as far as Carlow on the RTÉ Music Train as I began my journalistic career there as a student in summer 1972 when I worked at the Nationalist and Leinster Times in Tullow Street. My father had begun his career there and had met my mother over 65 years ago.

More live music here in a marquee erected in the station car park. Risin’ Time presenter Shay Byrne was the compere this time. Selina O’Leary from Tullow was among the performers as well as the Bugle Babes. After seven hours of varied and continuous live music, it was time to return home, courtesy of Iarnród Eireann as far as Dundalk.

Ready for the return to Dublin Heuston from Carlow Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ready for the return to Dublin Heuston from Carlow Photo: © Michael Fisher

BIG MUSIC WEEK: TRAIN

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ’s Big Music Week was run in association with Iarnród Éireann, which provided a three carriage ICR train for the musicians and their guests. The 22000 Class “InterCity Railcar” is a diesel multiple unit usually used on commuter routes such as Kildare, Portlaoise and Longford to Dublin and on Irish Rail’s intercity routes except Dublin to Belfast (served by the Enterprise) and peak-time journeys from Dublin to Cork. There are 48 of them and they can seat 190 passengers. They are capable of speeds up to 160 km/h (100 mph).

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

The sets were supplied by Mitsui of Japan in an order totalling approximately €400 million. The fleet was built by a partnership between Hyundai Rotem of South Korea and Tokyu Car Corporation of Japan, who supplied the bogies. The first sets were delivered in March 2007. Two of the 3-car sets, 22010 and 22011, which arrived in July 2007, suffered corrosion damage in transit from South Korea. They were returned to Rotem for repair in October 2008, with a revised delivery date. It was later determined that it was uneconomic to repair them and two replacement units with the same numbers were provided at no cost to Iarnród Éireann.

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

The ICRs are divided into three car sets and six car sets, and have two internal configurations. The first 30 units are all three cars, and are all intended for use on Intercity routes, as are ten of the 15 six car units. The remaining five 6-car sets, plus the 17 three car sets ordered in 2008 are configured for long-range commuter services to and from Dublin. Combinations of two 3-car sets, three 3-car sets, two 6-car sets and a 3-car set + a 6-car set are possible. In case of emergency, they can operate in formations of up to 18 cars.

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train waits at Newbridge Station with regular interCity service to Heuston  Photo: © Michael Fisher

RTÉ Music Train waits at Newbridge Station with regular interCity service to Heuston Photo: © Michael Fisher

Features:-

  • Engine: MTU 6H 1800 R83, 12.8 L, 6 cylinder, 483 bhp gross, 386 bhp (288 kW) traction per car.
  • Transmission: Voith T 312 R
  • Top speed: 160 km/h (approx. 100 mph)
  • Body: high quality stainless steel with some corrosion-resistant carbon steel components
  • Automatic PA and information display systems (Supplier: SA Viewcom)
  • Fully air-conditioned (Supplier: Toshiba)
  • Saloon, external view of doors and front-facing CCTV camera and recording system (Supplier: Verint)
  • Catering facilities
  • Individual base seating
  • Fire safety to BS 6853 Cat 1B, automatic fire extinguishing system for engines & fuel tanks
  • All sets feature Irish standard CAWS signalling systems and train radio.
  • The first six 3-car sets fitted with Train Protection and Warning System for operation on Northern Ireland Railways.

    RTÉ Music Train in siding at Carlow Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

    RTÉ Music Train in siding at Carlow Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

Dimensions:-

  • Length: 3-car set, 70 m
  • Width: 2.84 m
  • Height: 4 m
  • Weight: 63 tonne, each car

    Plaque at Carlow Station for Railway Engineer William Dargan Photo: © Michael Fisher

    Plaque at Carlow Station for Railway Engineer William Dargan Photo: © Michael Fisher

Michael Fisher travelled from Connolly Station to Carlow as a guest on the RTÉ Music train and returned courtesy of Iarnród Éireann

BIG MUSIC WEEK3

Paul Brady singing at Connolly Station Photo: © MIchael Fisher

Paul Brady singing at Connolly Station Photo: © MIchael Fisher

Nationwide
Anne Cassin climbs aboard the RTÉ music train from Dublin to Newbridge and Carlow and looks back at the history of Six One as it celebrates 25 years of broadcasting. Watch the programme here on the RTÉ Player.  Broadcast on Wednesday October 2nd, 2013. You will see a brief picture of me listening to the music at Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge at 6:20 into the programme.

The Lost Brothers on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © MIchael Fisher

The Lost Brothers on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © MIchael Fisher

Today was Day Three of the RTÉ Big Music Week. The train travelled from Limerick via Galway to Westport in County Mayo. Tonight there was a concert in Matt Molloy’s pub, featuring Sharon Shannon, Mundy, Frankie Gavin & The Ríl De Danann, Julie Feeney, Máirtín O Connor, We Banjo 3, Matt Molloy & local musicians, Laoise Kelly and more.

Miriam O'Callaghan on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © MIchael Fisher

Miriam O’Callaghan on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © MIchael Fisher

BIG MUSIC WEEK

View of beach near Gormanston Co.Meath from train window Photo: © Michael Fisher

View of beach near Gormanston Co.Meath from train window Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was a beautiful morning for a journey and no better way to travel than by train. A great opportunity to see the sunrise over the sea as the train passed along the coast just after Gormanston in County Meath. My thirteen hour odyssey began at Newry station in County Armagh (it’s closer to Bessbrook!) with the departure of the 06:45 Iarnród Eireann commuter train to Dublin Connolly, a train that goes as far as Bray. Try planning a journey to Dundalk on the Translink website and you won’t find this particular service. It picks up at various stops as far as Donabate, by which time it’s a case of standing room only, then runs non-stop to Connolly. On arrival the place was buzzing with the sound of music, including the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Miriam O'Callaghan prepares to go on air with The John Murray Show at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

Miriam O’Callaghan prepares to go on air with The John Murray Show at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

A great start to the Big Music Week at Connolly Station with an hour long John Murray Show presented by Miriam O’Callaghan. Among the crowd (some of whom had joined the music train at Bray) was RTÉ’s Director General Noel Curran. Although he comes from a county (Monaghan) where the railway lines were dismantled over fifty years ago, he still has a love of trains having made the journey many times between Dublin and Dundalk, where I was writing this as I headed back to Newry on the Enterprise.

RTÉ Director General Noel Curran at Connolly Station

RTÉ Director General Noel Curran at Connolly Station Photo: Michael Fisher

The hour-long show at Connolly finished with the Artane Boys Band. The BIG MUSIC WEEK entourage then boarded the special three-carriage Iarnród Éireann train to Newbridge for the next stage of the proceedings.

Entertained on the Music Train by the Bugle Babes Photo: RTÉ ten

Entertained on the Music Train by the Bugle Babes Photo: RTÉ ten

On board we were entertained by the Chattanooga Choo Choo from the Bugle Babes. Other stars  travelling included the Northern duo of Paul Brady from Strabane and Bronagh Gallagher from Derry, who made a special mention of Eamonn McCann when she sang Midnight Train to Georgia for Miriam, a broadcast that went out simultaneously on 2FM and Lyric FM.

Bronagh Gallagher on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bronagh Gallagher on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © Michael Fisher

Christy Moore joined the fun at the Patrician Seconday School at Newbridge in County Kildare. After a three hour stop that included a parade along the mmain street of the town led by the Army No.1 Band, it was time to head for the next stop in Carlow. More performances on the train and then in the station car park where Tullow native Selina O’ Leary was among the entertainers. After that the Music Train headed to Waterford for a concert at the Theatre Royal, a benefit gig in aid of Barnardos for whom collections were made along the way. The broadcast schedule for tomorrow, Tuesday 1st October, and other information can be found on the RTÉ Big Music Week (in association with Iarnród Eireann) website here.

9:30, 12:35 & 16:10 RTÉjr The Beo Show This Big Music Week join stage manager Donie and wardrobe lady Gerty Gúna  as they prepare the Beo Theatre for children from across the country Various
10:00 & 14:35 RTÉjr Hubble Hubble is going musical so watch and listen as Emma and Ogié discover a musical world full of fun and interesting sounds. Various
16:00 RTÉ Two elev8 Follow Diana Bunici’s progress as she picks up the guitar for the first time with the promise of a performance by the end of the week. Various
17:30 RTÉ Two Two Tube Throughout RTÉ Big Music Week Two Tube will be  on a quest to find the next big music act, as well as bringing great interviews from well-known Irish talent. Various
20:00 RTÉ Radio 1 The John Creedon Show For day two of RTÉ Big Music Week, John Creedon presents a live performance from Killarney’s INEC, featuring John Spillane, Ger Wolfe, Lumiere, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, I Draw Slow & others. John Spillane, Lumiere, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, I Draw Slow & others.

RTÉ BIG MUSIC WEEK

RTÉ presenters launch Big Music Week at Dún Laoghaire Photo: IE website

RTÉ presenters launch Big Music Week at Dún Laoghaire Photo: IE website/Maxwell

Starting on the DART service in Dublin tomorrow morning from Bray to Dublin, the fifth RTÉ Big Music Week will be on the rails from 7:45am. Commuters at Bray will be entertained on the platform by a number of well-known musicians including The Benzini Brothers featuring Liam Ó MaonlaÍ, Fiachna Ó Braonáin and Peter O’Toole;  Luan Parle; Lisa O’Neill; The Lost Brothers and Eleanor McEvoy. Here is the advertisement currently running on RTÉ television:-

The musicians will then board a train to bring them to Connolly Station, where there will be more music live on the John Murray Show with Miriam on RTÉ Radio 1 from 9am. I hope to join the event there to cover it for my blog, travelling on the special train to Newbridge. From there it will be a case of “Follow Me up to Carlow”, where I will return Northwards to write my report and hopefully bring you some photographs.

The Big Music Week in association with Iarnród Éireann features the very best of home-grown musical talent by bringing live performance to audiences in Ireland and all over the world; on radio, on television, on line and on mobile with plenty of opportunity to catch-up on the latest action with RTÉ.ie, RTÉ Ten, RTÉ YouTube and @rte (not forgetting @fishbelfast) on twitter.

RTÉ presenters launch Big Music Week at Dún Laoghaire Photo: Maxwell Photography

RTÉ presenters launch Big Music Week       Photo: Maxwell Photography

This year, the RTÉ Big Music Week Train, consisting of three carriages, will travel to some of Ireland’s best-loved venues and best-travelled stations, bringing performances from Kodaline, Paul Brady, Damien Dempsey, Christy Moore, Lumiere and Julie Feeney and much more to radio listeners across the island. The schedule for the Irish Rail special train is as follows:-

Monday 30th September – Dublin Connolly to Waterford

Stay on the train for the day, join in the music and fun as the train stops at Newbridge and Carlow and ends the day in Waterford.

Tuesday 1st October – Waterford to Killarney

Entertainment and Music on board all the way to Mallow.

Wednesday 2nd October – Killarney to Westport

Entertainment and music all the way plus a stop at Limerick Station to join in the fun at the 2Fm Ryan Tubridy Show onboard.

Thursday 3rd October – Marty in the Morning

Attend a live radio programme (breakfast included!) from Westport Station.

Friday 4th October – Boyle to Dublin Connolly

Final show in Maynooth with Ronan Collins at 12pm.

RTÉ’s Big Music Week will finish on a high note with an All-Star Charity Concert in aid of Barnardos. It will be presented by Kathryn Thomas and feature several headline acts and surprise guests. Finbarr Furey, the Irish chart topper who outsold Avici and Katy Perry after winning RTÉ’s The Hit with The Last Great Love Song, will perform his latest chart topper and other songs from his extensive repertoire. Also on the bill are Sharon Shannon and Paul Walsh from Royseven. Jerry Fish will perform his well-known song True Friends with The Lost Brothers. Other acts include Heathers, Scullion, Robbie Overson and Philip King.

The show will also feature a brand new song written by Brendan Graham, which will be performed by Eimear Quinn, Celine Byrne and others. The new song will be premiered on The Late Late Show on October 4th. Tickets are available now at Ticketmaster priced at €25, with all funds going to Barnardos.