RTÉ journalist and newsreader Una O’Hagan doesn’t like the word “retirement”. But come Sunday at about twenty-five minutes past six, she will be signing off on her last Six One News after 34 years with the station. She joined Ray D’Arcy in studio to talk about some of the most memorable moments of her career and her plans for the future.
How is she feeling ahead of her last day?
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be a bit sad, of course…I’ve had a great career. It’s not exactly a sudden decision after 34 years.”
Ray asked if she’ll be doing a special sign-off for her final broadcast. Una believes that it’s not about her.
“I’ve thought about how I’ll sign off and it’ll be the usual way…I think everybody else has just said, you know, ‘That’s it. Goodnight’. Because really, that’s what the news is. That’s reading the news. You’re not the news.”
During their conversation, Una remembered her first broadcast on Radio 2 news on Christmas Day 1983.
“I was given a very brief run-through – and you can imagine how brief that was – because everybody was trying to head off for their Christmas holidays…I only had the one bulletin that day. I think it took me about two and a half hours to actually write it…It was the longest two and a half minutes of my life because I could imagine my family were listening. Everybody was gathered around the radio saying, ‘Is she going to make a mess of it?’“
Una went on to be the first female host on Morning Ireland (“Not many people know that”) and a reporter for Newstime. She recalled meeting Nelson Mandela shortly after his release from a South African prison.
“This man had been in, basically, solitary confinement for about 30 years and he just dominated the room…there was something about him.”
Another highlight was what she dubbed her “helicopter moment” while reporting on the returning Italia ’90 team. Lacking the modern satellite trucks of today, she had to get the tapes of the footage back from Dublin airport in time for the bulletin. There was one small problem: “hundreds of thousands of people had gathered” to welcome the team back to Irish soil and Una and the news team couldn’t get out of the airport. They remedied this problem by commandeering a helicopter piloted by Charlie Haughey’s son for their last-minute dash back to studio.
It couldn’t all be helicopter moments and even though Una has “erased” all memories of her on-air mistakes, she did share one story with Ray about an interview with former Tánaiste, Dick Spring, during her time at Morning Ireland. It didn’t go according to plan.
“I had 3 minutes to fill and I had about 5 or 6 questions written down. And I got through them in about 35 seconds and I had the rest of the time to fill. And you know when you have that film of perspiration…He [Spring] could be pretty sharp. I don’t think he was a morning person. And I was also unused to doing it…I don’t know why he did it but I’ve always remembered it.”
Una explained that her decision to end her work as a newscaster was a bit of a “now or never” moment.
“I’m 55. I have 5 more years before I can retire. And I thought I want to do something different...I wondered if I was going to have that kind of ‘dark night of the soul’. The ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’. But I haven’t.”
Una was inundated by well-wishers who messaged the show. Listeners described her as the “Queen of cool” and “a true professional”, praising her “wonderful speaking voice” and “classy demeanour”. One texter summed it up best:
“Shocked to hear Una O’Hagan is retiring from the news. I’ve always loved her as one of our own. It’s like losing a limb after hearing this.”
Listen back to the whole interview with Una O’Hagan on the Ray D’Arcy Show here.
After bringing us the news for 34 years, journalist Una O’Hagan is leaving RTÉ and she joins Ray D'Arcy live in studio now.// Watch // Like // Share //
Posted by RTÉ Radio 1 on Thursday, February 22, 2018
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