Mark Cag­ney

An­drea Byrne talks to the broad­caster about 20 years of early starts!

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“My fa­ther was a mu­si­cian and mu­si­cians used to have a say­ing, ‘ e gig is when the gig is. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. And if you’re go­ing to do it, don’t com­plain about it,’ so here I am 20 years on and I have no com­plaints,” laughs Ire­land AM an­chor Mark Cag­ney, when I ask him if he’s ever got used to his daily 3am alarm.

e vet­eran broad­caster is speak­ing just a er re­turn­ing from a month’s break. In tan­dem with its re­named TV chan­nel, Ire­land AM has been given a bit of a re­vamp, with lots of new tech like gi­ant plasma screens and elec­tronic tablets for all the pre­sen­ters.

For Mark Cag­ney, his hol­i­days are his chance to un­plug and si­lence all news alerts. Dig­i­tal detoxes are all the rage, but Mark has been feel­ing the bene t for years: “It’s eas­ier than you think, if you com­mit to it. For the rst few days, you think, ‘Oh am I miss­ing out on some­thing? What if some­thing im­por­tant hap­pens?’ But here’s the irony. When you come back, you re­alise you haven’t missed that much and it’s very easy to catch up. We’ve conned our­selves into a state of mind where we are liv­ing in fear of miss­ing out on stu that we prob­a­bly didn’t need to know in the rst place.” e chan­nel now known as Vir­gin Me­dia One is cel­e­brat­ing 20 years on air later this month. “If you go back 20 years, there were a lot of broad­cast­ing en­ter­prises start­ing o and in those rst cou­ple of years, there were also a few high-pro le ca­su­al­ties. So it’s not a mi­nor mir­a­cle, it’s a ma­jor mir­a­cle,” he says of the chan­nel’s sur­vival in such a fastchang­ing busi­ness. “Let’s be very hon­est: TV3’s his­tory com­mer­cially was quite che­quered, but we sur­vived and then to have been bought by Vir­gin, who have very deep pock­ets, means there is now a sense of se­cu­rity that wasn’t there be­fore. Ob­vi­ously, an or­gan­i­sa­tion like that has big plans and deep pock­ets to nance them so there’s a huge sense of op­ti­mism in the place be­cause the fu­ture looks very bright.” With­out doubt, the chan­nel’s great­est suc­cess story is Ire­land AM, which Mark has been in­volved in from the out­set. It went live on Septem­ber 20, 1999, a year a er TV3 launched. Few thought it would work. “We deal with just about any­thing and ev­ery­thing that might be of in­ter­est on any given day,” says Mark. “You can have all the fancy sets you like and the best tech­nol­ogy but broad­cast­ing is about com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween two sets of peo­ple. It’s like any re­la­tion­ship: you meet each other,

e gig is when the gig is. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. And if you’re go­ing to do it, don’t com­plain about it

you’re in­ter­ested, hope­fully you give it time. We were lucky; we were al­lowed the time to build a trust with the au­di­ence. at trust is sacro­sanct to us. ere is no real arti ce; what you see is what you get. If you like it, then chances are, you’ll like us. And over the years, more peo­ple have liked us than not.

“How do you make a great band? Well, hope­fully, you find the right peo­ple and then you get re­ally, re­ally lucky. We found the right peo­ple and we got re­ally, re­ally lucky. Be­neath all of that is an im­mense amount of work from the pro­duc­tion team. This show is an in­sa­tiable beast. It’s al­ways hun­gry. We’ll do from three to five in­ter­views a day and the same num­ber of demon­stra­tion items, so some­times eight or nine items a day, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year.”

Mark was born in Cork and lives in Sut­ton in Dublin with his wife Au­drey and their four chil­dren – two in se­condary school, one in col­lege and one re­cently nished. It’s a busy house. When Mark rst started Ire­land AM, his el­dest was in pri­mary school; now he’s 25 and Mark o en meets him at 3.30am when he’s com­ing in from a night out and Mark is head­ing o to work. “ ey are all still at home. e way things are at the mo­ment, they’re never leav­ing,” he says.

Do any of his chil­dren want to fol­low in their fa­ther’s me­dia foot­steps? “ e youngest, Mary, has the per­form­ing gene. She gets it from my fa­ther and my aunt, who were mu­si­cians and per­form­ers. She tells us that she wants to do drama in col­lege. She’s only 14 but from the mo­ment she got on stage from the age of four, she has loved it. She’s in a mu­si­cal theatre group and they do shows in the Helix twice a year.” A reg­u­lar gym-goer and Pi­lates en­thu­si­ast, Mark says that now, at the age of 62, he is in bet­ter shape than he was 20 years ago. It helps that his wife is a Pi­lates in­struc­tor. “She used to have her own stu­dio but now she free­lances and has a core clien­tele. We’re not a re­ally sporty house­hold, but we are aware that if you don’t take care of the engine, the car will stop at some stage or an­other.”

With over 40 years work­ing in me­dia, the pre­sen­ter is show­ing no signs of slow­ing down. “I have a new TV wife this year,” he says of his co-an­chor Ciara Do­herty. “She is bril­liant. A re­ally bright, smart woman, but great fun too. She has brought a new di­men­sion to the show. And now that Ciara is preg­nant we’re all very ex­cited.

“When peo­ple ask me about how long I will con­tinue, there is a side of it that they don’t take into con­sid­er­a­tion, which is that I have to be asked to con­tinue. Now I’m no spring chicken, but I am t and healthy and I love what I do. In an­swer to your ques­tion, I will con­tinue to do it for as long as they ask me!”

Ire­land AM, Mon-Fri, Vir­gin Me­dia One

Mark with his co-pre­sen­ters on the set of Ire­land AM

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