Naturally gifted radio producer with a strong social conscience

Peter Mooney: November 18th, 1949 - May 19th, 2015

 

Humour, a strong social conscience and an easy mastery of technology were all outstanding characteristics of Peter Mooney, a widely respected RTÉ radio producer and pioneering social worker, who has died aged 65.

Listeners who delighted in programmes such as Soundbites, The Sunday Show and the very popular What If? and Judging Dev series with historian Diarmaid Ferriter may not have been aware of his name, but for the presenters he worked with he brought to these productions a deeply appreciated professionalism.

Mooney worked closely with the Royal Irish Academy also on radio series, including the Thomas Davis Lectures series Our War, about the Irish contribution to the first World War, to which he contributed information on his own grandfather’s service in the British army, and scientific programmes including Icons of Irish Science and Making Sense of it All, on the processes of research.

For Ferriter, Mooney was “a joy to work with … he was skilled enough to be relaxed” live in studio and despite being “a very political animal”, exemplary in his professionalism when it came to dealing with people with whom he might have differed.

Nuanced approach

Joe Duffy

For Ferriter, Mooney brought to historical documentaries “a very nuanced” approach and was quite adamant that history should not be a “politically correct” version of the past.

Remarking on Mooney’s “childlike curiosity” about virtually anything, Duffy added that it was not a childish curiosity, and that politically, despite being a long-time supporter of the Labour Party, he took “a very independent view”, so much so that when, following retirement, he ran (unsuccessfully) for the Seanad in 2011, he did so as an Independent.

Crucially, Mooney’s success as a producer was closely linked to what seemed a natural talent for technology and for the medium of radio.

His great friend, fellow producer Noel Coughlin, observed that Mooney grasped the notion of the internet early on, establishing the first ever website for a programme (Soundbites) in 1994. Later he took to digital radio like a duck to water when many others initially struggled with it.

Tom McGurk, with whom he worked on The Sunday Show, said Mooney was a pleasure to work with, with “a musician’s ear for radio” and “a puckish, funny, lovely Dublin sense of humour”.

Peter Mooney was the youngest of five children – four sons and a daughter – of Gerard Mooney, a tea and spirit merchant, and his wife, Margaret (Madge) Hickey, a clothier, of Thomas Street in Dublin’s Liberties. He was educated at St James’s CBS and UCD, where he took a degree in social science in 1970.

Simon Community

With Comhairle, Mooney was one of the first to bring a new type of outreach, working with homeless youths as young as 12 on the streets.

After joining RTÉ as a producer in 1984, Joe Duffy recalls, Mooney remained very interested in the problems of youth in deprived areas and “really, really encouraged young people to stay in second-level education and to go beyond that”.

Passionate about music, in which he had an eclectic taste, ranging from Maria Callas, to the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, the McGarrigle sisters and the medieval sacred music of Hildegard of Bingen, he also loved gardening and was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, an interest which regularly brought him to the Chelsea Flower Show. He also loved art and was a member of the Tate and Tate Modern museums in London.

It was through his youth work that he met his wife, Mona Somers, a caterer from a prominent family of trade unionists. She survives him, with their children, Colum and Meabh.