Obituary: Joe Barry, former RTÉ general manager who managed the transition to the 24-hour model and presided over Ireland’s Eurovision golden age


Former Raidió Teilifís Éireann general manager Joe Barry, who has passed away at the age of 90, was a significant figure in broadcast in Ireland who has steered RTÉ through some challenging times.

after his 5-year tenure as DG, since 1992, RTÉ has ​​organized Europe Regional Song Contest four times, in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997.

The 1994 competition included, at his encouragement, a sporadic performance by Riverdance, which quickly became a major part of Ireland’s cultural heritage.

He also oversaw the launch of Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4) in October 1996 as well as RTÉ’s online services in the same year and the opening of new studios on Father Mathew Quay in Cork in October. 12 earlier.

Barry laid the groundwork for the studio’s expansion in the region and helped RTÉ’s offerings in the transition to a 24-hour model that allowed it to compete with international offerings coming to Ireland at the time.

In a eulogy at Barry’s funeral, his eldest son, John, recalled how the family celebrated their father’s 90th birthday in April: “We are so grateful to have him in our hearts. for a long time.”

He said his father’s work as an outside broadcaster suited him well, and ranged from covering the Olympic Games and all-Ireland finals to his visits to Ireland. Pope John Paul II and US Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Barry enjoyed his time as general manager, although there were some nervous moments – for example, when Gay Byrne interviewed Annie Murphy about Late evening in April 1993 about her relationship with Bishop Eamonn Casey.

It was widely criticized for what people considered a patronizing tone on the part of Byrne. Meanwhile, Gerry Adams’ appearance on the show in 1994 was his first TV interview after the Season 31 broadcast ban on Sinn Féin was temporarily lifted.

Barry is “extremely proud” to have produced bilingual drama for many years and across the country Trom agus Eadrom with his friend and Corkman colleague, the late Liam Ó Murchu. He also participated in the creation of the series Nationwide, this reflects his ambition to create “a news program that airs almost every day that just delivers good news and makes people feel good and that will happen across the country”.

Denis Joseph Barry – but always known as Joe – was born on April 18, 1932 in the western Cork town of Dunmanway. His father, Eugene, was a seamstress by profession while his mother, Catherine, came from a family of farmers, and they lived with their four children on Castle Street in town.

Barry’s father died when Joe was four years old, although a modest fund was set aside for his education.

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He eventually left school at the age of 16 or 17 and played an important role as a breadwinner along with his older sister, Sheila, who became a nurse in Cork.

The young Barry got a job as a technician at Cork in 1956 with the Department of Post and Telegraph (later transformed into the Department of Communications, in 1984), which at the time supervised Radio Éireann. and then he moved to Dublin.

The radio service was transferred in 1960 to a separate broadcasting agency that would also be responsible for the new television service and then called Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ).

Barry developed the role as an engineer, specializing in outside broadcasts. He takes great pride in his skill in solving difficult problems that arise in that field.

Formerly Head of External Broadcasting, he was appointed General Manager of the station in 1992, a position he held until his 65-year-old retirement in 1997.

In her book, Inside RTÉ: A Memoir (2014), former radio and television producer Betty Purcell recalls in 1995, when she was elected an employee representative of the RTÉ Authority, she began to fulfill her promise to release a monthly newsletter for colleagues.

Barry initially opposed the idea on the grounds of confidentiality, but eventually conceded on the condition that the document could be pre-examined to make sure no commercial information emerged that could benefit the stations. rival television.

Another member of the administration at the time was Connemara film producer Bob Quinn, who struggled to get a complete ban on advertising and sponsorship in children’s shows.

Barry replied that a total ban would cost €4 million and 50 jobs would be lost, but he took it upon himself to set out a detailed set of restrictions, including limits on the length and frequency of commercial leave. as well as the removal of funding.

In a tribute on, broadcasters Bryan Dobson and Sean O’Rourke wrote: “Joe Barry demonstrated great corporate humanity and generosity in the aftermath of the popular vote. first owner in South Africa in 1994 when Baldwin Freeman, who had been the RTÉ operator and repairman in those historic days, was murdered in Johannesburg. “

A Baldwin Freeman Fund, which includes quiz nights, has been established at RTÉ for his dependents, and Barry ensures that the station matches any funds raised.

Upon his retirement, he was appointed to the RTÉ Agency in 2000 by the Minister of the Arts Síle de Valera in 2000 and served for four years, during which time he became president.

He was also asked to sit on the board of directors of the National Gallery of Ireland, which he found interesting.

Personally, he and his wife, Aileen (née McGahey), have a family of four – John, David and Brian, and a girl, Linda, who passed away in San Francisco two years ago as a cause cause of great grief.

In a statement the day after his death, President Michael D Higgins said: “As Secretary of the Department of Arts, Culture and Cruises, I have the honor to regularly work with Joe and evaluate appreciate his great contribution over the years, which has so many highlights. including storage Europe Regional Song Contestfounded the Irish Film Board and launched RTÉ’s 24-hour service in 1999 and Lyric FM.

“His invaluable stewardship of the founding of TG4, then Teilifís na Gaeilge, in Baile na hAbhann in 1994 was a pivotal moment in public broadcasting in Ireland and provided a source of energy. value, respect and creativity for the Irish language as well as creating jobs for a whole new generation of Irish speakers. ”

In a statement following his death, the current general manager of RTÉ, Dee Forbes, said: “While I do not know Joe personally, I am aware of his legacy in promoting the level RTÉ’s regional representation and employment, his perseverance in transforming our services with the 24-hour model we know today, and his strong passion for broadcast national public service, especially in the context of increasing competition. ”

Joe Barry passed away peacefully on July 6 at the Blackrock Clinic in south Dublin. Predestined by his daughter, Linda, he is survived by his wife and sons, daughter-in-law Maureen and Deborah, his nine grandsons, brother Billy, sister Sheila, nieces, nephews, giants family and friends.

His funeral Mass took place Tuesday morning at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Foxrock, followed by a cremation at Mount Jerome. A video record of the volume was made available at Obituary: Joe Barry, former RTÉ general manager who managed the transition to the 24-hour model and presided over Ireland’s Eurovision golden age

Fry Electronics Team

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