Shannonside Northern Sound broadcasts around several counties, including Roscommon, Longford, Cavan and Monaghan. Joe Finnegan spoke to Irish Country Living about his life and career.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Birmingham, where we lived for five years. We then moved back to Ireland to my father’s home farm, just outside Knock in Co Mayo. I was one of 10 children.

My father was a farmer all his life. To support such a large family, my father was constantly expanding the farm by buying bits of land and, more importantly, reclaiming old land. We had a 40-cow suckler herd, which was quite large for the time. In many ways, my father was ahead of his time. We were one of the first in the area to buy a forage harvester. He did a lot of contract work, including turf, hay and silage.

I live in Roscommon town, which I feel is a very warm, tight-knit community. I’m constantly out and about throughout the region trying to get to know the people and I like to think that the people know me.

I’ve been working in Shannonside radio station for the last 28 years. I’m still presenting the current affairs show from 9-11am, Monday to Friday.

How did you get into media?

I always had a massive interest in media, but when I was starting in third level in the mid-80s, study options in media were few and far between.

I worked on the farm until I went to college in 1984. I went to catering college, where I trained to be a chef. My plan was to work in a local hotel when I finished in college.

At that time, RTÉ was all there was in the lines of radio. In 1986, Eamon Kelly, a local DJ, set up a pirate radio station in Claremorris. I started presenting the morning show before going to work. I worked there until it closed and another station opened in Castlebar. In 1988, Shannonside started broadcasting and I went to take up a broadcasting/managerial role.

What was your worst

moment on air?

I’ve never had any personal disasters, but I was on air when the bomb exploded in Omagh and for 9/11. Those are days I’ll never forget.

Who was the most

interesting character you have interviewed?

When Albert Reynolds became Taoiseach in February 1992, Shannonside were to the fore because, at the time, RTÉ were on strike.

When Sean Quinn’s empire crashed we were the first to get an exclusive interview and I was the first to get an exclusive interview with Fr Kevin Reynolds in 2011. Those three were the highlights for me anyway.

What would you say is the biggest problem facing the people in your area?

We are rural Ireland and that’s something I always say on the show. The urban-rural gap is definitely widening and this, to me, is a huge issue.

Whatever about having a west of Ireland Taoiseach, I think Leo [Varadkar] is going to have huge difficulty in connecting with rural Ireland.

Rural Ireland is being forgotten about. Pubs are closing, post offices are closing, schools are closing and rural Ireland is becoming more and more difficult to live in.

This is a real live story. They talk about recovery. I say: what recovery? As far as I’m concerned, rural Ireland has seen no recovery and something has to be done.

What hobbies do you have outside of work?

I have my children: Tara (21), Joe (15) and Jamie (14). So when I have spare time I like to spend it with them.

I used to play a lot of golf, but I don’t get out as much as I’d like to any more.

My wife Claire and I set up JMC Promotions, which is now the leading promoter of Irish country music in the country. So at the weekends, we have to go to various events. CL