"The best person gets the job - it's not about gender" - Today FM's Fergal D'Arcy
"It’s not about fucking gender. It’s never been about gender."
Today FM's Fergal D'Arcy is giving JOE a piece of his mind.
Gender balance on Irish radio continues to be a fiercely-debated issue, with some calling for the introduction of quotas to bring about an equal share of male and female voices on the air.
The Off The Charts presenter, who started with Today FM in 2015, insists he has fought hard to reach his current position as a popular nationwide broadcaster, having climbed the radio ranks with determination and passion.
Still, there are those who might point to his prominent billing on Today FM as an example of gender inequality in action.
Asked if he ever feels like his success means that he's taking up a space that could be occupied by a female voice, D'Arcy is quick with an answer.
"I think that’s a bollocks question," he fires back.
"I’ll tell you the reason why. Not in the name of God would I think, ‘Fuck, I’ve taken this position off a lady', I definitely don’t think like that. I was brought up to believe that everyone is equal. I was taught that everyone should be treated the same.
"The job goes to the person who has deserved the job, the person who has worked hardest for it. I can tell you straight out that there are several fabulous female broadcasters out there that would definitely have been worth getting my job, and if they wanted it, they could have. But the job was offered to me - fair enough. That didn’t happen because Fergal is a boy; that happened because Fergal was in the right place at the right time.
"If you look at Newstalk’s new weekend schedule," he continues, "you have Jess Kelly heading up a new show. She's a fabulous broadcaster. I’m delighted with Jess being on there. You have Andrea Gilligan, another fabulous broadcaster.
"Would you say to them - ‘Well now Andrea, do you think that you got that job when maybe a fella should have gotten it?’ You wouldn’t say it. No way in your life would you say that to a girl. So we can’t live in this life of double standards.
"The fact of the matter is that everyone is equal - there is no, ‘I have a dick, I have a penis’ - the fact of the matter is that the best person gets the job. It’s not about fucking gender. It isn’t about gender. It’s never been about gender. If you look at most radio stations around the country, it’s pretty equal."
'A bad rap'
D'Arcy reckons that his station gets a bad rap on the equality front.
"The ladies who work in Today FM are absolutely brilliant," he notes.
"I work with the best female broadcasters in the country; Louise Duffy. Tara Harrison. Shelly Gray. Alison Curtis. You’ve got Shauna O’Reilly on the Breakfast Show, Maria Devereux with Dermot and Dave."
He brings up criticism that has come his way via forums and social media, arguable white noise that's maybe best avoided for someone in his position.
"This is what I’m saying, though! That’s the kind of shit that you read there. ‘Why did Fergal D’Arcy get that job? He’s from the country, he’s a man who got that job.’ And you’re just going, ‘What the fuck?’
"Don’t you know the worst thing about it; I went on The Last Word and they were talking about double standards, and they were talking about Harvey Weinstein, and they were talking about people getting touched up."
D'Arcy details his own experiences to JOE:
"I get touched up and fucking groped all the fucking time, right. I get touched up and groped all the time. I’m no oil painting, right, but this happens all the time. They asked me my opinion on it, and I gave my opinion."
Following his Last Word appearance, a listener would voice their displeasure.
"I got sent a tweet into my show, into the station, on Christmas week when we were doing shows trying to help people, shows that recognise people who are doing good in society.
"One person sends out a text and she says, ‘I can’t listen to Fergal D’Arcy since he was on The Last Word [because of] some of those comments he made.' I got on to Susan Keogh [Today FM newsreader] and I asked, ‘Susan, did I say anything wrong?'
"I went back and listened to the interview - I didn’t say one thing wrong. The sad thing about it is that there are people out there like that who just hop on the fucking bandwagon and have an opinion."
'Everyone has an opinion'
Isn't that the danger, though, when your voice reaches thousands every day?
"With social media, everyone has an opinion on it," says D'Arcy, "And yes, it’s a pain in the arse. When you look at that kind of stuff, and if you want to be sucked into that kind of stuff - that’s great.
"But if you have the attitude that I have, and I know that Dermot and Dave have - we’re not old-school DJs, we don’t talk down to people, we talk to people, we listen to people. That’s what we do. And, in fairness, I think anyone is worth that."
Swapping the studio for the stage
D'Arcy is set to swap out the studio for the stage when he takes to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from 23 - 27 January for Spamalot, a "borderline panto" musical that knowingly rips off Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Though acting is more of a professional hobby for the Ballinasloe native, he feels no fear when stepping out in front of an audience, having done so since he was nine-years-old.
"I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous," he says. "It’s weird. Fear can blindside you every now and then, but the minute you go onstage you go into robot mode and just do it. You become someone totally different.
"I don’t mean like Christian Bale in American Psycho or anything, but from the minute I step out onto the stage, I am the character. I played St. Jimmy in American Idiot and I was a total horrible bastard. I remember thinking to myself - ‘Jesus Christ’ - but the whole thrill of being someone else for an hour is unbelievable."
Thankfully, D'Arcy can switch it off just as easy. The broadcaster is known for having a strong positive mental attitude.
"People can be cruel," he admits. "Haters are going to hate. You’ve got to accept that. You’ve got to. When it comes to working in media and in radio, you always have to have that positive mental attitude. The attitude of ‘I didn’t come this far to come this far’ - I’m going forward. It can’t be this attitude of, ‘Oh, everyone hates me’ - once you start thinking like that, you have defeated yourself."
Fergal D'Arcy was speaking to JOE ahead of his performance as Patsy in Spamalot, which runs from 23 - 27 January in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.