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Damien O'Reilly
EU Affairs and Communication Manager, ICOS

Letter from Brussels - June 2023

“How are you settling in?” It’s a question I am asked regularly. I am six months in my new role here in Brussels and the time has zipped by. People also ask me if I miss the radio business.

Truth be told, I don’t. That is a blessing because, as you can imagine, there is a great buzz to working on radio and there was that initial worry that I might miss it. With all due respect to my former colleagues and employers, it was time for me to move on and whatever motivated me to make the big leap, it feels like it was the right move. I left on the best of terms with everybody and left my programme in tip-top shape.
I spent 24 years in RTÉ and loved it. I never expected to end up working on agricultural programmes but a bit like joining the Gardaí, you never know where you will be stationed! I worked across a range of areas including news, current affairs, and sport but it was reporting on farming where I spent 99 per cent of my time. It was the best job in RTÉ, taking me across the country and across the world and, many times, to Brussels to talk to farmers and report on agriculture.
RTÉ has a long tradition in agricultural programming and a variety of such programmes have been broadcast over the past 60 years. As time went by, the shows evolved, and the latest iteration is, of course, Countrywide, which airs on Saturday morning. I remember approaching my bosses with the idea of a live one-hour rural/farming magazine programme on Saturday to replace the half-hour recorded programme I was presenting at the time, called Farmweek. Eventually, they gave it the green light and we went to air in September 2009, the morning after Ryan Tubridy presented his first Late Late Show. I am a month older than Ryan and the two most interesting phases of our broadcasting careers began and ended at roughly the same time, albeit he bowed out of the Late Late a few months after my last broadcast. I sent him a text to welcome him to the 50 club! We were both born in 1973, the year Ireland joined the European Economic Community and the year ICOS opened its office in Brussels.
The opportunity to run this office was a case of perfect timing. I was ready to move on to a new career and having worked so deeply in agriculture over the best part of a quarter of a century, it was the perfect fit. I am reading the same material, attending the same meetings, chatting to the same people I did when working in radio. ICOS is part of the broader COPA COGECA family and the cosmopolitan feel to the office is energising.
Alongside my great colleague, Liam MacHale, of the Irish Farmers’ Association, we are on the top floor of our building, sharing with our colleagues from France and Sweden. As I look out one window, I can see the corner of the iconic EU Commission Berlaymont building and out of the other window, the EU Parliament is visible. We really are at the heart of the action here, as we have been for 50 years now.
A new job, a new home, a new country – it is quite the life change. And, yes, I am settling in well!