Mary Sheerin continues her series marking the 90th anniversary of Ireland’s broadcasting service
On 3rd September, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. In Ireland, as we are aware, it was always known as ‘The Emergency’.
That evening at 7.00 pm , Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, gave a broadcast to the nation affirming Ireland’s neutrality:
“With our history, with our experience of the last war and with part of our country unjustly severed from us, we felt that no other decision and no other policy was available to us.”
Needless to remark Britain was not pleased but de Valera held firm.
The Emergency Powers Bill was immediately passed. This gave the Government new powers to retain Ireland’s neutrality. The Emergency was a challenging time for Radio Éireann. Strict censorship laws were imposed and rigorously enforced on all Irish media between 1939 and 1945.
Frank Gallagher, a seasoned newsman, was appointed Head of the Government Information Bureau. All news items – and these were mere snippets from official communiqués without any comment – had to be read over the telephone to Frank Gallagher for his approval.
Ironically, Gallagher had been Assistant Director at Radio Éireann. Now he held the position of their censor.
Even weather forecasts were prohibited – this was tough on farmers and fisherman naturally, but it left Radio Éireann in the position that even if a sports commentator was covering a match he couldn’t say something as simple as: “It’s a fine day here in Croke Park …”.