Inside Jenny Greene’s dramatic 2FM departure and return
Public uproar ensued after Jenny Greene left RTÉ. So how come she's still there?
Jenny Greene: 'I think I was trending after Brexit and the Grand National'
It’s a grim but commonly accepted truth that if you are trending on Twitter, you’ve either done something fairly ignominious or you’ve died. On March 12th, it was Jenny Greene’s turn.
“I think I was trending after Brexit and the Grand National,” Jenny laughs, some two months later. “It was a really overwhelming day. I felt like I’d died, genuinely. It was like a living eulogy. Even my Mum and Dad down in Cork were on Facebook and Instagram and couldn’t stop reading all of the stuff until my Mum went, ‘Jesus Bill, get away from the computer’.”
That morning, Greene – an RTÉ 2FM presenter for some 12 years – had released a statement noting that “with a heavy heart” that she was leaving the station. The public’s reaction was largely unanimous: “Big mistake, 2FM. Huge.”
It had been announced hours previously that a significant scheduling reshuffle was underway: Bernard O’Shea had departed the station and Doireann Garrihy was joining the stable. Jennifer Zamparelli, formerly a Breakfast Republic presenter with O’Shea, would fill the 10am-1pm slot vacated by Greene and Nicky Byrne, after a five-year run together.
Her aversion to an evening slot had little to do with any perception that it was a sort of demotion
As Byrne returned to touring with Westlife – a move that had been nearly a year in the making – it was assumed that The Nicky Byrne Show With Jenny Greene might simply become, well, The Jenny Greene Show. Not so. Greene had instead been offered an evening presenting slot from Sunday – an offer she decided not to take up.
“Having started off in the evening time and progressing on to a very successful daytime show, going back to the evenings on 2FM just doesn’t feel like the right decision for me both professionally and personally,” she said.
Two months on, in Brooks Hotel, Greene cuts a decidedly relaxed figure, as well she might. Once the online chatterati had their say about Greene’s departure, the general consensus was that 2FM were letting one of their most capable presenters fall through their fingers.
An online campaign to reinstate her promptly ensued.
“Obviously we knew Nicky was leaving for Westlife and they [station bosses] had spoken to me and told me they’d move me from where I was,” recalls Jenny. “It would be later in the day, but still daytime, and I was like, ‘grand, no problem’. When they called me in for a meeting on March 4th. I was totally aware of what was coming next. When they told me that I would be Sunday to Thursday at 8pm until 12pm, I just said, ‘wow’. That’s all I said. I was in shock for 20 minutes, said, ‘thank you very much’ and walked out to the car, and thought, ‘what am I going to do?’”
Her aversion to an evening slot had little to do with any perception that it was a sort of demotion: “I’ve done that [evening] shift for years and I know how not conducive that is to my life, and I didn’t want to do it again. When I did it before, I was single and DJing at weekend and now I’m not. If I went back to evenings, I’d be on my own all day and at work, and I’d come home and Kelly” – Kelly Keogh, Greene’s wife – “would be gone to bed. It was never a case of, ‘I think I’m too good for that slot’.
“To be honest, Dan Healy was shocked and I think he was genuinely upset [when Greene told him she was leaving],” she continues. “I had the [RTE Concert Orchestra] gigs on the line too, so I don’t think he expected that outcome.”
2FM had long wanted to engage with listeners online, but perhaps not like this. It wasn’t long before station veterans rang Greene to sound her out about a possible return: “I was like, ‘how can I? I’ve just put out a statement. That’s not even remotely on the cards’”
When asked about whether other stations or media outlets made an approach in the meantime, Greene remains politely circumspect.
“I hadn’t even got that far to be honest,” she says, when asked about figuring out a next move. “I’ve worked full-time in radio and DJing since I was 17. My emotions were all over the shop so I had decided to take the summer out from radio to figure out my next move. I already had a full summer of DJ gigs and festivals booked in with Al Gibbs so I knew I wouldn’t starve.”
Still, what happened next must have made for an interesting meeting between Greene and Healy, I observe. For her part, Greene is sanguine about the episode.
“[Dan] really just held his hands up, and when we sat down it was emotional,” Greene recalls. “He said, ‘we can make this work. I just need a little bit of time to play human Jenga’.”
The online din forced 2FM into something of a volte face; an unprecedented move in RTE. Two weeks after announcing a new schedule, another shake-up was afoot. Greene would return to daytime radio with her own drive-time show. In other changes, drive-time host Eoghan McDermott will now co-present a new breakfast slot with Garrihy. Breakfast Republic co-presenter Keith Walsh would now present a weekend show and Lottie Ryan, mooted to take the reins as a breakfast presenter, would return as an entertainment reporter.
Media is a precarious and uncertain beast anyway, but did the shuffle (and reshuffle) result in any toxicity in the working environment down in Montrose?
“I don’t know, but look, I wasn’t in there,” says Greene. “I think it was bad in there before but it’s turning around now – not because of me necessarily but because of all these changes with Nicky and Breakfast. Nobody likes change and that much change is hard for people to deal with. The whole atmosphere in the office is different because we’ve all been sitting on top of each other and suddenly all these people are gone.”
Once the brouhaha about the reshuffle died down, another strand of online chatter started up, calling it a publicity stunt.
“What a brilliant stunt that would have been,” Greene counters. “Or it would have been if I hadn’t been awake for weekend on end having mini panic attacks at four in the morning going, ‘Oh God, what have I done?’”
From this month, 2FM will bear the distinction of having a straight run of female presenters on daytime radio: Zamparelli, Greene and Tracy Clifford
Last weekend, when asked about the changes in 2FM, former station boss John Clarke told the Irish Independent: “It’s great to see a bit of sense that they re-engaged with Jenny Greene – a jewel in the crown – especially when back in the day Ian Dempsey was let go by management, something I would never have let happen.”
It’s undoubtedly a moment of great validation (or, depending on who you ask, vindication) for Greene, but she admits that she is approaching her return to 2FM’s airwaves (on June 10th) with no small amount of trepidation. It will be the first time she has officially taken the rudder solo on a chat show.
“I have Caroline [Clarke, producer on her former show] so that brings back some familiarity,” Greene reasons. “It will be just as fun as the show in the mornings, but obviously different as we’re missing a massive piece of that.”
Greene and Byrne made for a natural, easy pairing, and unofficial sources have long noted that they’ve had each other’s backs, both on- and off-air. Still, there had been a niggling sense that Greene, a radio veteran, had very much taken newcomer Byrne’s hand and taught him a thing or two about radio.
“Only insofar as I knew the [production] desk inside out, but aside from that, even though I’d been on air a long time, I’d never done daytime radio,” counters Greene. “I’d never really had to give much of myself on air, but then I went from doing music shows to doing three hours a day where you have to give a lot of yourself on air. I think the reason the show worked is because we both gave all of ourselves on air and he brought that out in me. Nicky is pretty guarded as well, but soon we were talking about bowel movements and him falling into his green bin and getting stuck there.”
Much had also been made of the show’s title – The Nicky Byrne Show With Jenny Greene. Last year Greene noted that she didn’t want to change the name to something where the two got equal billing, “out of principle”.
“It honestly wasn’t an issue and to be honest people forget that five years ago, I didn’t have the profile he did and we weren’t looking at two complete equals in that regard,” Greene asserts. “People were tuning in because it was him. Nicky talked to me about changing it a bit but I thought, ‘there’s no point’. If we changed it, we’d only make a big deal out it and make it look like we had a problem when we didn’t.”
From this month, 2FM will bear the distinction of having a straight run of female presenters on daytime radio: Zamparelli, Greene and Tracy Clifford.
“I think it’s brilliant at the moment – it’s sort of hard to comprehend for people because it’s never been done,” says Greene. “If you think of 2FM years ago, it was Ryan [Tubridy], Gerry Ryan, Larry Gogan, Rick O’Shea and Will Leahy – no-one went, ‘God I think that’s too much’.
“Fair play to them, this will be the norm for people and soon people won’t see it as unusual. It’ll just be that people get a job on merit, regardless or whether they’re a man or woman. I think other stations will start to follow suit. At least we can say we were the first ones.”
Jenny Greene returns to 2FM on June 10th at 3pm