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An Taoiseach, Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, gave his love letter to the radio industry at Radiodays Europe.

Read the speech in full text below and watch the video recording.



SPEECH in full text

I extend a very warm Irish welcome to the Chair of the Radiodays Europe, Jan Petersson.

And to all of you who have come to Dublin representing radio stations all over Europe, and further afield

I hope you enjoy the Radiodays Conference which as you know is the single most important event in the European Radio calendar

I’m delighted to join you.

I grew up in an era where the radio was not only a source of news….but an occasion of sporting history travel imagination democracy even revolution itself.

Like some of you here I was a small child when the Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy took to Radio Budapest to make his historic appeal to the country and the world.

For generations the radiogram in the corner of the kitchen or sitting room was an early audio version of the airports’ Arrivals or Departures.

Rome, Lisbon, Hilversum, Warsaw

But despite the quantum change to the world since all of you here work in and with a medium that has lost none of its currency urgency or intimacy.

In a world of 140 characters you’ve got soul.

The medium

And because you have today Garisson Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion Woman’s Hour Desert Island Discs are unmissable for many

For others the BBC’s Shipping Forecast with its Tyne, Trafalgar and Viking

its Dogger and Shannon and South East Iceland proves a better pharmacology of sleep than anything that either industry or homoeopathy could manufacture.

If I dare to exalt myself to where I share even one thing with our late and loved Seamus Heaney it is a fascination with one word from the Shipping Forecast Finisterre

The ‘end of the earth’ it might once have been

But that same earth is a place where radio is loved and listened to…… just as much if not more than ever before.

Because in the white noise of social and other media radio endures.

And with programmes like our own The South Wind Blows we know why

Philip King inviting you in soothing some would say divining from the westerly tip of the Dingle peninsula to audiences across Ireland and the world.

It’s the essence of what radio is and does.

With its sense of shared connection community the idea that though we might be on our own or even lonely we are not entirely alone in our world.

Someone is speaking someone is listening

As a huge radio fan myself I am mindful of how we don’t just ‘listen’ to the radio

Rather we ‘attend’ to it

In the sense of the word’s Latin origins ad & tendere we ‘stretch out’ towards it.

In fact so vital is radio in our lives that I believe if you asked people to commit to paper or a screen what your medium has meant or means to them

The song playing on the car radio on the way to the birth of their first child

A father’s favourite piece of music after he is long dead

The airways jammed with disembodied voices of discombobulated people full of shock and shared humanity on that never-ending day we didn’t yet know as 9/11

In recounting any of this all of this you would find they had written a love – letter to radio.

Power and responsibility of radio

But good radio is not just good for the heart the soul it’s also good for the economy

EU-wide, the Radio Sector is worth €8.4 billion and supports over 70,000 jobs. Your own among them!

In Ireland of course we have a particular love of radio the signature tunes the voices we hear punctuating our work our day our year.

It’s no surprise that in a country with a passion for current affairs our most popular station RTÉ Radio 1 is dedicated largely to talk news what’s going on around the country and the world.

Having celebrated 80 years of uninterrupted broadcasting in January 2006, RTE is amongst the oldest if not the oldest public-service radio station operating continuously in Europe.

Our national broadcaster is not alone a rich source of entertainment with a major commitment to the Arts.

It is equally a vital forum where our citizens inform themselves where they form opinions about the issues of the day and particularly about politics and politicians.

In the popular sense while people don’t always believe what they read in the papers….the intimacy and immediacy of radio that innate sense of physically and psychologically ‘attending’ can give people a sense of ‘well if I’ve heard it here it must be true’.

Particularly, when people have built up a relationship of trust with the station or the show radio has a major psychological ‘in’ with its audience.

And with that huge power of radio comes equally – huge responsibility

Yes radio gives a voice to the voiceless exposing wrongs injustice…. Exclusion.

Here at home for example we see this in the work of Brian O’Connell on RTE who has been making such compelling radio in recent months the kind that must be facilitated and encouraged at every turn

Equally politics and public life are scrutinised by radio journalism and comment.

Certainly, in a functioning democracy, healthy scepticism in that coverage is essential in fact a pre-requisite.

But while scepticism is one thing Cynicism is another.

And today I congratulate radio journalists in Ireland for refusing to adopt a constant jaded no-holds-barred cynicism in how radio engages with politics and public life.

Because if such an attitude ever took hold you know it would damage the serious and well – deserved trust radio holds.

But it would damage equally the intrinsic goodness of the idea of public service

The sense of what can be achieved for the good of society in our public life

Because if chronic cynicism ever becomes an automatic attitude to public life rather than a reaction deserved by it

It will damage not just the truth and value of debate but the truth and value of the democratic process itself.

Furthermore just as radio speaks it must also listen it too must ‘attend’

We’ve all heard the line ‘bad news sells’.

Yet… in the worst of the economic downturn time and again we heard even news addicts say ’I couldn’t take any more of the bad news about banks and bailouts I switched to Lyric FM in the car in the mornings Marty Whelan makes me feel so much better.’

And today I would say to you who work in radio to heed the human response not to be bombarded constantly with bad news.

Not that you should be ludicrously sweet.

But because even in the most human personal terms it can never be the default position in radio where serious news and bad news are one and the same thing.

In fact good news feel-good news is very much serious news.

In our own case whether it’s about the community that comes together to help out in the floods

Or about 18 year olds going out to teach 80 year – olds about the web

This is indeed serious news good news and all the better in difficult times

It lifts us up it sustains us in our lives

Above all…. it reminds us that we are not passive consumers we are active citizens who can work together to make the changes we want to see in our society.

In a democracy in Europe particularly coming up to the elections…. we need more of this

It is a fact that for too many people their engagement with our European Union lasts about as long as the flash photography at a Brussels Summit

Therefore we need more coverage of the engaging news of Europe.

Good and engaging news of our countries and our communities doing business together

Of reading each other’s literature

Of watching each other’s plays

Of playing and listening to each other’s music

On the airways the strange, magnificence of The Gloaming scouring the great European cities

The music of Ennio Morricone and Scala mesmerising listeners here…

To borrow from Umberto Eco we can call it an Erasmus for Radio.

Ireland Recovery

You have come to Ireland at a time when we have good news of our own.

Due to the hard work and sacrifice of our people our economy is in recovery.

61,000 new jobs last year alone.

In December we exited the EU/IMF bailout out, the first affected-country in Europe to do so.

The decision by Moody’s to upgrade our status to positive and the equally positive reaction to our bonds means the markets are looking at Ireland and liking what they see.

We are good for debt good for investment good for competiveness good for jobs.

Yes we have a long way to go and this is just the beginning but at last economically we are on the right road.


And it is here you find us in your work with a powerful and enduring medium.

Just as in past centuries fire and bells announced plague or war or famine in the last century people gathered around radios to hear news of coronations, abdications, elections won and lost, wars declared and ended in our case an Emergency endured.

In Rwanda radio stations scattered fear, loathing and genocide over frightened populations.

In London during the Second World War at eight in the evening Franck Bauer would take his place at the microphone at Radio Londres with the words

Ici Londres les Francais parlent aux Francais

They and the speeches of Charles de Gaulle were heard by the Resistance in every part of occupied France including by our own Samuel Beckett who operated under the codename Gloria.

Delegates radio is just as potent today

It is yours to reflect and affect the lives we live

May you use it wisely and well in all your radiodays.