Memories of 'The Press Gang'

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

At it’s height the Irish Press group of newspapers was one of the highest circulated newspapers in Ireland with a readership of 200,000, by the time it folded in the mid nineteen nineties it owed debts of twenty million and it’s staff of approximately six hundred were owed wages. For a while the staff rebelled, being one of the first titles to publish exclusively online. Unfortunately for them though computer ownership wasn’t exactly widespread never mind being able to access news and other information on devices the size of your hand.

The Press Gang is a collection of the best articles and fondest memories of many of the staff who made the Irish Press and it’s other titles a national institution. Each of the contributors have for the most part since moved on to write for other newspapers. The quality of writing by people who have been in the business for decades shines through not only because of what they write, but the way they are written.

This particular reviewer does have to admit a certain amount of bias in writing this review, particular memories of their world cup coverage lead by sports journalist Liam Mackey (who is one of the contributors to the book), both in 1990; when Ireland played in the soccer world cup for the first time together with Jack Charlton’s world cup diaries gave the paper an edge over it’s rivals with a sense of authenticity guaranteed with ‘saint Jack’s involvement.

As you turn the pages of The Press Gang memories of popular culture bounce off each page. Mentions of one cultural institution of the time after another, from Gay Byrne and The Late Late Show, which before it’s rejig and replacement presenter after another has since lost some of glimmer.

Perhaps in the end it was this titles demise, albeit a good fifteen years or more before, which helped accelerate the downfall of the Fianna Fail party in Ireland rather than the global recession which coincided with it. However, The Press Gang is a fitting tribute to when hacks got their best scoops by sitting in the pub rather than scouring the internet and good journalism was well written and based on what you knew and when you knew it rather than who you knew. When newsrooms, and society in general was full of characters and was less PC just for the sake of it.

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