Monday 24 October 2016

'I knew John Gilligan and he disgusts me', says Joe

Paul Williams and Joe Duffy
Paul Williams and Joe Duffy

Broadcaster Joe Duffy is "disgusted" by criminal John Gilligan, whom he knew from his native Ballyfermot.

Twenty years on from the murder of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin he says he is still shocked by the shooting.

"I knew Veronica, I just thought she was so brave, so decent, coming from relatively humble beginnings, a worker and like the rest of the country, I was deeply shocked," said Joe.

"For her to be assassinated like that was beyond belief - and the fact that John Gilligan is from Ballyfermot disgusted me to the core."

Reflecting on the current gangland feud that has seen seven people lose their lives since September, the Liveline host says criminals like Gilligan made a choice to enter a life of crime.

"I knew him from Ballyfermot and I don't hold with this argument that deprivation means that somehow robbing is justified.

"People who go near crime, and the likes of Gilligan, they make a choice. These guys will not study 12 hours a day to get into Trinity or wherever, they take the easy option. They make choices," he added.

Following Veronica's murder, it was Joe's idea to have flowers put on the gates of the Dail in her memory.

"People were ringing in and everyone wanted to do something and I just suggested flowers at the gates of the Dail," Joe said.

"The five of us [his wife June and their children], including the three kids, went in and I did a painting of Veronica, leaving a little poem."

Duffy bumped into Veronica's husband Graham Turley recently, who said the family still have the painting in the house.

"They were really moved by all the flowers, but he kept that little drawing I did," he said.

The fact that the gangland issues have hit him personally, means that Duffy, unlike most of the rest of the country, has little time for RTE's hit drama, Love/Hate.

"I don't like Love/Hate. I get annoyed when a judge said recently 'this is straight out of Love/Hate'. This particular crime was committed before Love/Hate and I suspect the scriptwriter of Love/Hate was using the crime as part of the script. It's just entertainment.


"I know people who live near some of these guys [gangsters] and they're not nice people.

"You're living in fear that your kids will end up kicking their car accidently or the ball will go through their window and it's not nice.

"I know I'm in the minority and I know the acting is brilliant, the script is brilliant and the directing is brilliant, I just don't like it because it's too close to home," he added.

Thought by many as one of the most iconic voices of Irish radio, he has no intention of packing in work... ever - insisting his work ethic just wouldn't allow him to do so.

Duffy has been on the RTE airwaves for more than 16 years now, letting listeners call in and 'talk to Joe' and he doesn't see that ending anytime soon.

Duffy said his work ethic derives from his upbringing in Ballyfermot, where he was heavily influenced by his father.

His roots in the area are very strong, with his mother still living there to this day.

"I like working, I can't ever see myself retiring, I can't see myself not working. It's in my DNA to work," Duffy said.

"The work ethic was always big in my family. My father would get up at six every morning, as I do myself.

"He had this statue of St Joseph the worker and he blessed himself with it every single morning and had a little prayer before he went to work.

"I don't think he ever missed a day of work sick and he used to work five-and-a-half days," he added.

Duffy himself has been working away since he was a 12-year-old, where he would receive 30 shillings each week for operating a lift.

That enthusiasm for work has been passed down through the generations of the family, with his three children, triplets, Sean, Ronan and Ellen, all having part-time jobs while they study.

Duffy was even a parole officer in prison before he took to the RTE airwaves.

However, his ability in that position was put into question - by a prisoner.

"I've done a few programmes in prison and this prisoner came up to me at the end and he says, 'was your name Joe Duffy, a probation officer?' I said 'yeah', so he said 'you're not a bad broadcaster, but you were a brutal probation officer'. I said 'why do you say that?' He said 'because I'm in prison, and you were my probation officer'."

Back to his roots, and Duffy, who has to deal with housing issues on his show regularly, insists that much needs to be done to revamp Ballyfermot, after years of mistakes.

"There were times when you couldn't put Ballyfermot on a job application, because it had such a bad reputation. It's a difficult area," he said.

"Even look at all the other corporation estates in Dublin now - Darndale, Fatima, Dolphin's Barn, O'Devaney Gardens, Ballymun - they've all had to be regenerated.

"What does that mean? So the council should be back building houses.


"That was a disgrace that for the last few years, they've built very, very few houses, but they should be back. They should be well designed and well planned," he added.

He said the area was so badly planned and underdeveloped when he was growing up that it was even singled out by his professor in one of his first lectures at Trinity.

"I remember one of the first lectures I attended in Trinity on social work, the lecturer said, 'today we're going to take a little trip to one of the most socially-deprived areas in western Europe' and he brought us to Ballyfermot," he said.

"I waved to my mother as we went by my house in the lecturer's car.

"My mother still lives there, she still does the church collection," he added.

The radio host is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve when speaking about emotional issues - something he is at pains to explain is not an act.

"The criticism I bridle at is when someone writes, and they do write from time to time, 'oh he was just putting it on'," he said.

"I put nothing on, honestly. My reaction is always genuine."

He referred to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal as one case in point, where he was understood to be silent and in tears when listening to callers.

"The church, these guys were preying on the likes of Ballyfermot. Where all the sex abuse happened in Dublin, invariably it happened in working-class areas," he said.

"This was where if they went to the priest they probably wouldn't have been believed. Would they write to the diocese?

"They probably had trouble writing and wouldn't have been part of a network that had any powerful friends," he added.

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