Four Illustrious Names Join the IMRO Radio Awards Hall Of Fame 2023 #IMRO23

Four Illustrious Names Join the IMRO Radio Awards Hall Of Fame 2023 #IMRO23


Dublin, 11th September 2023 – The IMRO Radio Awards Hall of Fame, since its initiation, stands as a beacon of excellence in the realm of Irish radio. Past inductees have been luminaries of the industry, with names such as Joe Duffy, Marian Finucane, Pat Kenny, Ian Dempsey, Aine Lawlor, and Gay Byrne gracing the honour roll.


This Wednesday, September 13, the annual Hall of Fame ceremony will take place at the IMRO office in Dublin. The IMRO Radio Awards Committee proudly announce the induction of four new members into its Hall of Fame. These inductees, chosen by an esteemed group of their contemporaries in the Irish radio community, span from national to local broadcasting. They have been selected not just for their longevity in the industry but for the unparalleled skill, unwavering passion, and deep love for radio they’ve showcased throughout their careers.

The 2023 inductees are:

  • John Bennett MBE from BBC Radio Ulster, whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the broadcasting landscape.
  • Joe Finnegan from Shannonside Northern Sound is celebrated for his captivating voice and compelling storytelling.
  • Paddy Halpenny, formerly of Communicorp, whose leadership and vision have been instrumental in shaping the direction of Irish radio.
  • And Mary Wilson from RTÉ Radio 1, renowned for her incisive journalism and unwavering dedication to truth in broadcasting.

The legacy these figures are creating is a testament to the power and influence of radio in Ireland. As the IMRO Radio Awards Hall of Fame continues its tradition of honouring the best in the industry, the class of 2023 is a reminder of the enduring impact of these icons in the world of broadcasting.



John Bennett, MBE, is one of Northern Ireland’s best-loved and most versatile personalities. Since joining the BBC in 1956, he has presented music, entertainment, sports, and current affairs programmes with equal prowess. His distinctive voice, warmth and breadth of knowledge have forged special bonds with listeners worldwide for close to 7 decades, sharing in their highs and lows and always giving them a voice.

John launched BBC Radio Ulster, with Gloria Hunniford, on New Year’s Eve in 1973. He is the head of the Station’s family. He is also well-known as “The President” of The Sunday Club – a 2-hour programme of beautifully curated music, mystery voices, yarns and listener requests – closing our weekend out: one which he has presented for the last 44 years. Such is its popularity that in 2015 the Station introduced The Saturday Club to its schedules. Again, John’s charisma and deep understanding of the audience made this a run-away success.

His appreciation of pace and tone and his ability to put even the biggest star at ease make him a master of the long-form interview. His celebrity interview series “With Bennett” has taken him into scores of starry living rooms and hotel foyers – from Spike Milligan to Janet Street-Porter and Jasper Carrot – and his special Christmas morning programme, “Calling Home”, has connected families at home and abroad for several decades.

John presented BBC Radio Ulster’s morning show (9000-1030) for 10 years, from 1993 to 2003. Spanning current affairs, entertainment and music, his understanding of “good radio” made it a superb listen. His irrepressible passion for football also made him a go-to commentator for hundreds of live matches – not least at Wembley Arena.

In January this year, John was awarded an MBE by King Charles III in his inaugural New Year Honours list for services to Television and Radio Broadcasting. This was widely celebrated by listeners, colleagues and industry professionals, coming in his 80th birthday year.

In a news article about The Sunday Club, John recently spoke of his special bond with listeners:

“I get emails, texts and letters from quite literally all over the world. People tune in from Japan, Australia, and the States, and they’re not all ex-pats, just people who picked it up on the internet and like the music. It’s like a family, a communion with a small-c. They write and tell you their problems. It’s nice.

“I’ve had correspondence that has reduced me to tears. People ask me for details of the signature tune that we use because their mother, or their grandmother, wanted it played at their funeral. A fortnight ago someone asked for a dedication for a lady because she was very ill, and apparently, she heard the programme, was delighted to hear her name mentioned and died that night, just afterwards. They just got in touch to say thanks for playing it, to say she so enjoyed it, and that she was happy in the end.”



Joe Finnegan is a household name in Irish radio broadcasting, having worked for over 34 years as a highly successful current affairs presenter, journalist, director, and station manager at Shannonside Northern Sound. He started his career in radio in the mid-1980s, and in 1989, he was instrumental in the setup of the station that was Shannonside and was one of its shareholders. Joe was the first voice heard on Shannonside Radio, covering counties Longford, Roscommon, and South Leitrim. In 1995, Shannonside and Northern Sound’s licences were combined to create the first regional station in Ireland, which broadcasts to 5 counties in 3 provinces.

As station manager, he and his fellow directors developed and implemented a successful programme policy which not only made Shannonside Northern Sound the most listened-to station in the region but it also involved the recruitment and training of staff who went on to achieve great recognition within the two main National Broadcasters.

In The RTE Family, Damien O’Reilly, Sinead Hussey, Fran McNulty, Justin Treacy, and Declan Mc Bennett, among others, started out in the Shannonside Northern Sound School of Broadcasting, as did Paul Quinn, Mairead Cleary (Virgin Media) and Grainne McElwain (TG4/GAA GO)

The station consistently remains in the top 5 local radio stations in the country. He was a contributor to the formation of IRS and Learning Waves and would have been the point of contact for the IRTC and the BCI from 1989 until 2007.

The JF Show debuted in 1989 and quickly gained a reputation for its insightful and engaging coverage of local, national, and international news and current affairs. The show features a mix of interviews, debates, and analysis and has become a must-listen for anyone interested in politics, business, or social issues in the region. Joe’s interviewing style is one of the reasons why the JF Show is so popular. He will ask tough questions while still maintaining a respectful and engaging tone with his guests. His ability to put his guests at ease and encourage them to share their thoughts and opinions has made him a favourite among listeners and guests alike. Joe has interviewed everyone from local politicians and community leaders to national and international figures. The JF Show has won numerous awards for his broadcasting, including several PPI/IMRO National Radio Awards.

Following Radio Kerry’s acquisition of Shannonside Northern Sound in 2006, Joe oversaw the transition before stepping down from his role as Programme Controller in 2008. Joe continued to present the JF Show and work with the new management to help continue the success story that is Shannonside Northern Sound.

Joe’s achievements in broadcasting are a testament to his talent and dedication. He has played a pivotal role in the development of Shannonside Northern Sound and has helped to make it one of the most successful radio stations in the country. His work on the JF Show has helped to shape public opinion and has provided a platform for people to engage with important issues in a meaningful way.

In conclusion, Joe Finnegan is a highly accomplished broadcaster who has made an indelible mark on Irish radio for more than 34 years. He is a true icon of Irish broadcasting and a shining example of what can be achieved with hard work, talent, and passion.



Patrick (Paddy) Halpenny, AKA ‘the General,’ was Chief Executive of Communicorp from 1997 to 2013. When he joined Communicorp, it consisted of 98FM in Dublin and Kiss in Prague. During the next fifteen years, Communicorp grew to a portfolio of 42 stations in 9 countries.

Communicorp owned and operated two Irish national stations, two local stations in Dublin and one regional youth station. It became an international radio operator with stations from Dublin to Tallinn, Budapest to Helsinki and Sofia to Kyiv.

Paddy Halpenny thought deeply about the Irish Radio Market and how it should develop into a strong and independent sector that could withstand any number of unforeseen challenges.

As important as the regulator, the shareholders, and the on-air talent are, Paddy believed most in the professional development of the executives who ultimately operate the radio stations on a day-to-day basis. He poured a huge amount of his time into mentoring his people. What Paddy liked to call the “reading and writing” what consultants call the “brilliant at the basics.”

Paddy was a stickler for accuracy in numbers and language, underpinned by his ability for thinking about what was not around the next corner but the fifth next corner!  Paddy steered Newstalk from a Dublin station to a successful National station. He valued creativity and risk, which resulted in the hiring of new talent who were to become our brightest and best.

With the collapse of INN in 2010, he oversaw the replacement of a cost-effective and accurate National hourly news service for local radio.

Paddy is a major contributor to the success of the Irish Radio Sector, and much of what he achieved went unnoticed by those outside the industry.

Deeply private and highly intelligent, Paddy kept a low profile, happy for others to stand in the limelight as he continued to drive the business to the highest standards.



Mary Wilson hails from Drangan in South Tipperary and joined RTÉ’s local radio service in Cork in 1989 after a career in provincial journalism and PR.

Mary later moved to the RTÉ Dublin Newsroom in 1990 to work as a reporter on Morning Ireland and later worked in all areas of radio and TV news as a correspondent, editor and presenter.

Mary was the station’s legal affairs correspondent and editor for ten years, 1996-2006, winning the National Journalist of the Year Award 2000 and multiple awards in the Justice Media Awards for her news and documentary coverage on radio TV and Primetime.

In 2006, Mary was asked to anchor the newly launched Drivetime radio show and stayed with the show for 14 years bringing listenership to a high of 265,000 listeners.

In 2020 she returned to Morning Ireland to join the presenting team on the most listened-to programme in the Irish radio Market.





– ENDS   –



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IMRO Radio Awards Hall of Fame inductees to date:

Micheál O’Muircheartaigh – RTÉ Radio 1

Jimmy Magee – RTÉ Radio1

Des Whelan – WLR FM

Marian Finucane – RTÉ Radio 1

Gay Byrne – RTÉ Radio1

Larry Gogan – RTÉ 2fm

Mario Rosenstock – Today FM

Gerry Ryan – 2fm

Ronan O’Rahilly – Radio Caroline

Candy Devine – Downtown

Seán Bán Breathnach – RTÉ Raidio Na Gaeltachta

Joe Duffy – RTÉ Radio 1

Bill Goulding – RTÉ

Liam O’Shea – clare fm

Tony Fenton RIP – Today FM

Paul Claffey – Midwest Radio

Áine Lawlor – RTÉ Radio 1

Walter Love – BBC Radio Ulster

Gerry Anderson – BBC Radio Ulster

Pat Balfe – Communicorp

Des Cahill – RTÉ Radio 1

Henry Owens RIP – Red FM

Seamus McKee – BBC Radio Ulster

Eamon Buttle – South East Radio

Trevor Campbell – Downtown Radio

Ian Dempsey – Today FM

Dave Fanning – RTÉ 2fm

Linda McAuley – BBC Radio Ulster

Séamus Mac Géidigh RIP – RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta

Billy McCarthy RIP – WLR FM

Joe King – Broadcast Technical Services Limited

Pat Kenny – Newstalk

Margaret Nelson – FM104/Q102

Willie O’Reilly

Ian Wilson – RTÉ Radio 1 & 2fm

Sean Moncrieff – Newstalk

Ronan Collins – RTÉ Radio 1

Paul Byrne – Radio Kerry

Declan Meehan – East Coast FM

George Hamilton – RTÉ Lyric FM

Patricia Messinger – C103

Stephen Clements RIP – BBC Radio Ulster/Go Q Radio

Rachael English – RTÉ Radio 1

Keith Finnegan – Galway Bay FM

Albert Fitzgerald RIP – Midlands 103




IMRO Radio Awards Committee

The Radio Awards Committee comprises 12 members representing all sectors of licensed commercial and public radio on the island of Ireland – RTÉ, BBC NI, and the independent commercial radio sectors in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.



IMRO administers the performing right in copyright music on behalf of its members (songwriters, composers, and music publishers) and on behalf of members of the international overseas societies affiliated with it.  IMRO’s core function is to collect and distribute royalties from the public performance of copyright works. With a global scope, we represent creators along the chain of creation. At IMRO, we are committed to creators. We stand up for music and the people who make it and perform it. A community for creators, we listen, advocate, educate, invest, and engage to shape a culture of musical worth. We help music creators to adapt to change and receive a full and fair return for their work. See www.imro.ie


Coimisiún na Meán

The media regulator Coimisiún na Meán was established on the 15th March 2023 further to the provisions of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022, and replaces the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.  An Coimisiún will continue to deliver the functions of the former BAI, including the licensing of radio and television services, the development of codes and rules in relation to programming and advertising standards, and administration of the Broadcasting Funding Scheme. In addition Coimisiún na Meán will begin establishing a regulatory framework for on-demand audiovisual services and online safety, and will undertake a media development role.   More details can be found on its interim website available at www.cnam.ie





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