By David Davin Power
Wesley Boyd served as Head of News in RTE during the most violent years of the Troubles,
and was widely credited with maintaining the reputation of the station for impartiality and
even-handedness during a period of intense political turmoil.
He expanded the station’s fledgling Belfast bureau and, throughout his career, kept a sharp
focus on RTE’s northern coverage. When he retired he informed staff there that ‘even in
the darkest days it was a pleasure to visit the Belfast office.”
Throughout the ‘80s he also oversaw the growth of the News Division and the introduction
of new technology, as film gave way to video. He succeeded in acting as midwife to Morning
Ireland, the news programme with arguably the longest gestation in RTE history.
He also inaugurated 2FM news to cater for a younger audience – with news on the hour every
Hour – invested in regional news;, opened and staffed a new Midlands Studio in Athlone;
was a fierce defender of News Division both editorially and financially. He always battled
hard for often scarce resources.
A native of Co. Fermanagh, Wesley Boyd could reminisce about accompanying Lord
Brookeborough on his election campaigns as a cub reporter in the 1950s.
He served as London Editor of the Northern Whig until that newspaper’s demise in 1964,
when he moved to the Irish Times as Diplomatic Editor. In 1974, he succeeded Jim
McGuinness as head of news amid government concerns about the latter’s Republican
leanings. Later, Wesley Boyd would defend the reputation of his predecessor, insisting that
McGuinness never allowed his political beliefs colour his professional decisions.
The station was at the time the epicentre of official concerns about the impact of the
Troubles on society in the Republic. His appointment came soon after a Fianna Fail
Government had sacked the entire RTE Authority in a row over an interview with IRA leader
Sean MacStiofain. The FG/Labour administration that succeeded it was no less hostile to
the broadcaster with Conor Cruise O’Brien, the minister in charge of RTE, claiming the
Provos were ‘in spiritual occupation’ of the station. Wesley Boyd clashed frequently in
private with the Minister and subsequently in public when both had moved on. As a
Northern Protestant the authorities might have thought him more sympathetic to the aims of
Section 31 – the measure implemented to ban the voices of Republicans from the airwaves,
but he vocally deplored the legislation he was forced to implement
He faced his own professional challenge in when a Morning Ireland report on the removals
of the IRA unit killed in Gibraltar blatantly breached Section 31. The controversy led to an
enquiry and the departure of the reporter involved, Jennie McGeever, who went on to forge
a highly successful legal career.
Wesley Boyd’s somewhat dour countenance hid a convivial spirit, who liked nothing more
than swapping stories and anecdotes with colleague over a couple of pints, often in the Mill
House in Stillorgan. A noted raconteur, he was one of the few survivors of a journalistic
generation whose experience spanned hot metal, filmed reports, video – and ultimately the
He is survived by his daughters Deirdre, Joanne and Helen and his son Brian.