The Echo celebrates 40 great years

By Aideen O'Flaherty

THIS week 40 years ago, the first edition of the Tallaght Echo went to print – setting in motion the enduring history of one of Dublin’s leading local newspapers.

In the four decades since the paper started being published it has grown to cover the surrounding suburbs of Clondalkin, Ballyfermot and Lucan, and it continues to report on local issues for a loyal readership.

Echo Team page FRONT compressor

Echo staff keep their social distance as they continue to deliver The Echo to you after 40 years in business (Image: Andy Davies, Celtic Photography)

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, which has temporarily scuppered plans to celebrate the milestone anniversary, the paper is still on shelves every week thanks to a dedicated workforce and the support of the community – which has always been at the forefront of the paper’s output.

Tallaght locals David Kennedy, Mervyn Ennis and Dominic Finnegan produced the first edition of the Tallaght Echo on May 1, 1980, after noticing a gap in the market for a paper in the area after Eddie Brennan ceased publishing the Tallaght Magazine a year prior.

“I felt that the Tallaght Magazine was an important element of the development of a place like Tallaght,” explained David Kennedy, the editor of The Echo.

“The way The Echo started initially was that I asked Mervyn and Dominic to get involved, after a period of time they dropped out and I continued on my own.

“The paper consumed me from that point onwards.”

At the point when he started the paper, David and his wife Liz, who is The Echo production manager, had three young children who were all under three years old when the paper was first published, and they all now have senior roles within the paper, including his daughter Emma, who was 19-months-old when the paper started, and is now the MD of the title.

“My earliest memories are of selling The Echo on the road I grew up on, and not really registering it as a business – it was just something my dad did,” said Emma.

“I can also recall how we’d sit on the sitting room floor and count the money from the paper sales.

“I remember the papers being stacked in my parents’ spare room, and my dad setting up a little dark room for the photographs so he could produce his own photos.”

Echo Zoom Staff compressorSome of The Echo staff at a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, staying connected to each other and staying connected to the community. See the first edition of The Echo on pages 51 to 66.

She added: “The Echo has always been part of our blood, my brother Peter is accounts manager and my sister Brenda is HR manager and also a sub-editor”.

Brenda has worked in the administration side of The Echo since her first summer job on reception in 1995. In 2012 she took on the role of HR manager and in recent years has become involved in the editorial side sub-editing.

“I was only 5 months old when The Echo started and growing up I never thought I’d end up as HR manager. However, I really enjoyed interacting with staff and it seemed like a natural fit for me, I’m a real people-person.

“I also discovered I had a huge interest in the editorial side and a big part of my job now is sub-editing”.

Peter Kennedy, the eldest, has worked in The Echo since he started coming from school as a teenager in his uniform to help out in accounts. He went on to study Business Administration and Accounts and has been accounts manager for the past 10 years.

“I remember coming from school and throwing the school bag into the corner, disgusted that I had to work.

“But in the end the accounts bug bit me and I really enjoy the number-crunching side of the job. which has become quite a challenge with GDPR, payroll and the revenue to deal with. And now with Covid-19 the challenge is even bigger”.

Since those early days The Echo has grown from being a family operation where the paper was compiled by journalists in the Kennedys’ household, to being a fully-fledged title with a varied team of employees, many of whom are from the local area, who are based in the paper’s Tallaght office.

When asked about what he is most proud of as the editor of The Echo, David said it was the committment of the staff we’ve had over the years.

They bring awareness of local issues to local people, and make a difference in the community. One of the big issues was the Tallaght Hospital Action group in the 1990s, which was instrumental in getting a hospital in the locality.

In relation to the present day, commenting on the support the paper has received in recent weeks, Emma said: “The support and loyalty of the readers has been phenomenal, and the advertisers are coming back to us too.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by everyone’s support.

“Once the panic subsided after the coronavirus restrictions were announced, we had no choice but to sit back and adjust and set out clarity about what the future holds.

“The most important thing for us was that the paper remained on shelves and held its own, and that the community still had The Echo.”

Reflecting on the past 40 years of the paper, David said: “It’s incredible to get to this point from when we started.”

Emma added: “As a family we’re delighted we’ve got this far, that it’s been such a success.

“Through a lot of different circumstances, the paper has sustained itself, and we’re optimistic and excited about what the future holds.”

“My parents dream, from day one, for The Echo has come true and not only in Tallaght. In our first ever editorial (as seen on page seven of our first edition in this week’s Echo) it reads, ‘...it’s part of our dream that someday ‘Tallaght Echo’ may become the weekly ‘Tallaght Echo’ adding life and spirit to our community’.”

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