Joseph Duffy, Irish broadcaster employed by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), is born in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on January 27, 1956. One of RTÉ’s highest-earning stars, he is the current presenter of Liveline, an interview and phone-in chat show broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1.
Duffy is brought up in Ballyfermot, one of five siblings. His father is Jimmy and his mother Mabel. His father, who has problems with alcohol, dies aged 58 in 1984. His 25-year-old brother Aidan is killed in a road accident on the Maynooth Road in 1991, with Duffy first learning of the “horrific accident” on the news on RTÉ Radio. His brother Brendan is described by him as “crippled, ruined and wrecked by a savage addiction” to sniffing glue which he develops as a teenager.
Duffy attends De La Salle Boys’ primary school, St. Lorcan’s B.N.S and St. John’s De La Salle College. He enrolls at Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) in 1977 to study Social Work and is elected President of Trinity College Students’ Union in 1979, becoming President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) four years later.
Duffy considers resigning from RTÉ in 2007 after the broadcaster forces him to give Minister for Justice Michael McDowell a platform on Liveline to make a “party political broadcast.” He considers it “direct party-political interference” in Liveline. However, he goes ahead with the broadcast and does not resign or make any protest on air.
In October 2008, Duffy is proactive as a supporter of Irish pensioners who march on Leinster House to protest at the proposed means testing of their medical cards in the Government Budget. However, earlier that month, he is reportedly censored by the government when he attempts to continually discuss the effects of the global financial crisis on Ireland. This follows on from the outrage caused when he is held responsible by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan for inciting widespread public fear that Irish citizens are on the verge of losing their savings. Several callers freely speak of their lack of confidence in the banking system, of how they have withdrawn their money from banks, some of which are identified, and are either carrying it around on their person, or considering keeping it “under the mattress,” or burying it in their garden. Lenihan personally calls Cathal Goan, the Director-General of RTÉ, to express his outrage at the sudden increase in potentially disastrous speculation following the show.
The extent of the Finance Minister’s concern first publicly emerges the following morning when he is interviewed by RTÉ’s economics editor George Lee. In that interview, Lenihan insists that deposits are not in any danger and says that people should not be going to banks to shift their deposit accounts “on the basis of unfounded allegations made on radio programmes.”
Rival broadcaster TV3 accuses Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) and Duffy of waging a “dirty tricks” war against them after a late-night game show run by TV3 is berated by callers to Liveline and saying several times on air that he has been unable to get a representative from the station to reply to callers’ concerns. TV3 says a lengthy statement is sent to the Liveline office almost two hours before the September 2009 show goes on air but is ignored, despite the fact that it clarifies some of the issues. The Play TV service is discontinued by TV3 in March 2010 after 29 complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), though TV3 says it is because of a decline in viewership.
Duffy is famous for taking up the causes of the disadvantaged on Liveline, and examples of this include Berry Fleming who lost her job in 2010, and Aubrey McCarthy, who is trying desperately to get his removal business off the ground in 2012/2013.
Duffy is frequently lampooned at length on the satirical TV programme The Savage Eye. It portrays him as a fetish garment clad sado-masochist who derives perverse pleasure by urging his call-in radio listeners in a strong working class Dublin accent, to express excesses of degradation and misery as he “empathizes” verbally and plays with his nipple clamps. He has since questioned viewership figures for The Savage Eye on his daily radio show and has questioned whether it is “blasphemous” on his Sunday afternoon religious affairs TV show Spirit Level.
Duffy is married and is the father of triplets. He currently resides on Dublin’s Northside. His autobiography, Just Joe, is launched by Gay Byrne in Harry’s Bar in October 2011. In 2014, he makes a cameo in Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie as himself. The film is negatively received but is a moderate box office success.
In 1992, Duffy wins a Jacob’s Award for his reports on RTÉ Radio 1’s The Gay Byrne Show. He is named 11th most influential person of 2009 by Village.