Áine Mae O’ Mahony, station manager with Kilkee-based Raidió Corca Baiscinn (South West Clare Community Radio), recently celebrated her first year at the helm of one of the most inclusive community radio stations in Ireland. One year in, Áine Mae feels she landed her ideal job, is still enjoying the buzz and is supported by dedicated staff and a dynamic volunteer corp.
Áine Mae epitomises a can-do attitude. Previously a successful restaurateur, losing her sight seven years ago meant she had to reinvent herself and refocus her career goals. With a lifelong interest in radio, she returned to education, completed a certificate in radio programming and then a two-year technology course with the National Learning Network.
She had found her real passion in radio and got involved initially on a voluntary basis and then worked as a broadcaster and producer with community and commercial radio stations. A temporary producer role with RCB instilled a long-lasting love of community radio.
After a number of years’ work experience, including some volunteering, Áine Mae started focusing on her long-term career planning and contacted EmployAbility Clare for support and guidance.
Jennifer Coleman, an employment facilitator with EmployAbility, was blown away by Áine Mae’s passion, enthusiasm and leadership skills. Jennifer referred Áine Mae to a Women in Leadership course, facilitated by Clare Women’s Network, which emphasises women’s strengths, skills and abilities. Since losing her sight, she has the ability to clearly plan in her head – visualising in her mind what she wants to do, despite challenges.
Áine Mae has never let illness or disability impede her goals. She draws her inspiration from leaders who work creatively and honestly for change.
She is also very involved in advocacy work. She worked alongside Senator Martin Conway, presenting to a Government taskforce on a Health Vision Strategy. She also gave a ‘Be The Best You Can Be’ talk to students in schools and advocates on behalf of the Fighting Blindness organisation.
When Áine Mae learned that RCB was recruiting for a station manager, she asked Employability Clare for assistance with interview preparation and presentation skills for her application. It was a tough and competitive recruitment process but, with her enthusiasm and drive, she presented her vision for the radio station to the board.
Once she accepted the position, it was a real baptism of fire, immediately preparing business plans and working with the board to secure funding for the station, to ensure its continued operation. The transition from producer and broadcaster to manager and team leader, with overall responsibility for the station, wasn’t easy, but Áine Mae had immense support from the team around her and took advice from business and community radio mentors.
Community radio relies to a huge extent on volunteers. RCB has an impressive volunteer management and training programme and works in partnership with a number of West Clare community and voluntary organisations. Linking with community organisations and involving volunteers allows everyone to be a part of the inclusive vision.
The station offers everyone involved an opportunity to nurture their creative talents and gain professional skills. Youth groups, disability support organisations and people currently unemployed are actively involved.
“The only qualification a volunteer needs is their willingness to give and to keep on giving. Being a volunteer is self-rewarding and I am glad and proud to still be a member of the RCB team and a volunteer at the same time,” said Richard Hall.
Áine Mae knows that an indicator of success is asking for and accepting help and support from people who can give good advice. “County Clare has excellent supports for jobseekers with an illness or disability. EmployAbility Clare helped me on my journey, worked alongside me to help me set and attain my career goals, linked me to business planning mentors and gave advice on grants for adaptations to the workplace. They were always just a phone call away,” she said.
As RCB is a key employer in the West Clare area, Áine Mae is keenly aware of the benefits of having an inclusive workforce and an accessible environment that offers opportunities to as many people as possible. One year on, she’s busy planning the launch of the new RCB website, meeting President Higgins to celebrate community radio and RCB will hope to work with future investors that see the benefit of the project in the community.
Watch this space, as they say.
By Peter O’Connell