NEWSMAN AT THE FORE OF RTE’s COVERAGE OF SOME OF THE TROUBLES’ DARKEST DAYS
My FATHER was one of two Derry men heading RTE news on the day of the banned civil rights Bloody Sunday march in the city on October 5 1968.
That was 18 months after my father’s resignation on the matter of principle as editor of the Catholic Herald over his coverage if Vatican ll. His articles from Rome, although acclaimed internationaly, were regarded as too progressive by members of the English and Irish hierachy, including Bishop Neil Farren of Co Derry, his former headmaster at St Columb’s College. Jim McGuiness, according to my father, “made the congent argument that posterity would never forgive RTE if it failed to cover, as well as the BBC did, the historic deveopments in the North of Ireland, which we claimed to be part of our own country”. Thus it was that news cameraman Gay O’Brien obtained remarkable footage of the Co Derry demonstration including protesters being hit with batons by the RUC/PSNI. The film was offered by RTE to other television stations via Eurovision news exchange. Those scenes put to the North’s problems on the international agenda. In August 1969 my father was the senior RTE exeuctive on duty when the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch arrived to address the nation, following the outbreak of serious rioting in Co Derry. He arranged for the annotated script to be typed out. For the record Mr Lynch said:”It is clear… that the Irish government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured and perhaps worse” (not using the word ‘idly’) Many years later my father recalled how Mr Lynch had privately asked him what he thought would happen if he ordered the Irish Army to go into the North, as some had advised. Des told the taoiseach he thought the army would get some 20 miles across the border into Co Derry or Co Down before suffering having casualties in the fight with the British. Mr Lynch told him he had come to the same conclusion.
My father’s parents lived in West End Park in Co Derry and moved to Dublin with their three children when he was 11. He won an all-Ireland scholarship for Good Counsel College in New Ross and took the eduaction, but decided the Augustinan pristhood was “not for me”. He began and ended has 70-year career in journalism with the Carlow Nationalist. His knowledge of Irish, Greek and Latin was exceptional. At 94 he had just completed a book, typed by himself, containing a new translation of the Stabat Mater. Desmond Fisher, former head of current affairs and deputy head of news on RTE, died in Dublin on December 30. He is survived by his his wife Peggy and children Michael, Carolyn, Hugh and John.
With many thanks to: Michael Fisher, and The Irish News, for the origanal stoy.