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Bill O'Herlihy: I wasn't sure I was good enough to be Film Board head

The new chairman designate of the Irish Film Board tells Oireachtas committee that he decided to “give it a lash” in the end.

Bill O'Herlihy appearing at the committee today.
Bill O'Herlihy appearing at the committee today.

BROADCASTER AND PR man Bill O’Herlihy said that he had been doubtful that he was “good enough” to take up the position of chairman of the Irish Film Board (IFB) when it was first offered to him.

O’Herlihy told TDs and senators today that he had to “think about” taking the job. The RTÉ presenter, head of his own public relations company and former Fine Gael party strategist, did not apply for the post as chairman of the IFB but was offered the role by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan. His appointment was announced in March.

Today, he told the Oireachtas committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht  that he had to pause for thought when offered the role. He said:

I just wondered whether I was the right person for the job.

I wondered if I was good enough to do it and had I time enough to do it.

But in the end, he decided to “give it a lash, in the immortal words of Mick Doyle”.

O’Herlihy outlined a number of ambitious targets the IFB and the Government have for the film and audio-visual industry in Ireland, including the number of jobs in those sectors from 5,000 to 10,000 jobs by 2016 and to double turnover from €500m to €1bn. These are targets that were set out in the Creative Capital report delivered by the Government in 2011, as reported in this Silicon Republic article from the time.

O’Herlihy said the projected increase in employment and turnover in the sector “isn’t unreasonable at all” but that factors like investment in film-making education needed to be in place.

He was officially rubberstamped in his new role by today’s meeting of the committee, with Labour TD Gerald Nash telling O’Herlihy that he believed him “eminently qualified” for the role and independent Senator Fiach MacConghail saying that O’Herlihy’s was an “enlighted appointment”.

Both MacConghail and Nash both made declarations at the beginning of their comments that they have some interest in the film area. MacConghail put on record that he has produced films in the past which received funding from the IFB while Nash declared that he is a director of a film company.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, independent TD, Barry Cowen, Fianna Fáil TD, and Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, Fine Gael TD, all asked about the IFB’s intentions to cultivate film-making and distribution in the regions.

Catherine Murphy, independent TD, posed the question asking O’Herlihy why he had felt the need to “think” before taking the role in the IFB.

O’Herlihy on his qualifications for the job

O’Herlihy said he believed he could contribute to focusing on training for people both in front and behind the camera because of his years of broadcasting. He also pointed up his years as a PR executive and promotional skills and mentioned that he produced and found independent finance in the past for a series on the diaspora called The Distant Drum, and for a documentary on Sean Lemass.

O’Herlihy also listed the achievements of the Irish Film Board in recent years, mentioning Oscar-winning IFB-funded short films, the impact on tourism of seeing Ireland on the big screen and the economic importance of the industry in potential job creation.

He also mentioned Glen Hansard taking an Oscar for Best Original Song for Falling Slowly from Irish film Once “back in 1908″ (sic – 2008).

O’Herlihy’s memoir, We’ll Leave It There So, was launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in October of last year. The Taoiseach paid tribute to Bill saying: “There’s something about Bill O’Herlihy” and hailing O’Herlihy as a “a friend, a mentor and a person you can be absolutely proud of”. You can hear the audio of Kenny’s speech here.

The Oireachtas committee said it might call O’Herlihy back to present to them in 12 months’ time when he had been in the role a substantial amount of time. “I’d prefer not but if I have to I will,” said O’Herlihy, laughing.

Read: Bill O’Herlihy named as Irish Film Board chairman>
Listen: ‘There’s something about Bill O’Herlihy’ – Taoiseach hails ‘Billo’>

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