Northern Ireland

Denis Murray reflects on his career for BBC TV series

Image caption Denis Murray was the BBC's Ireland Correspondent for 20 years

Denis Murray was the BBC's Ireland Correspondent for 20 years. In a new three-part series for BBC Northern Ireland televison, he looks back on his career in front of the camera.

The one thing a reporter is supposed to do is leave him or herself out of it - the story, what you're reporting on, is what's important. The song, if you like, not the singer.

So it has been a novel experience making these programmes.

Having spent more than 35 years telling other people's stories, here I am telling my own.

Twenty years in the one job is a fair old length of time, and those two decades spanned some of the worst atrocities in the Troubles, the peace process, the talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement, the final, secure establishment of power-sharing and devolution, and a ton of other stuff in between.

For instance, one of the last stories I did was Dustin the Turkey heading for the Eurovision Song Contest.

As I finished my piece to camera: "Denis Murray, BBC News, at RTE's rehearsal rooms, Dublin," - Dustin in the background, yelled out "hey, ye're no Terry Wogan, are ye?" You couldn't make it up.

One of the things I was always enormously pleased to do as the BBC's Ireland Correspondent (actually all the reporters loved doing it) was Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent.

If you're not familiar with the programme, it's made up of reporters from around the world delivering a script approximately four minutes long.

It's a chance to stretch out, to communicate a mood, to say the things there isn't room for in a news despatch.

For instance, I remember Ben Brown doing a heart-stopping piece about Kosovo, and whether friends he had there had survived the conflict or not. Happily they had.

So I have rather presumptuously borrowed that title for these three programmes.

And they are my chance to talk about things that would have been out of place in a news report.

I will just give you one taster (you'll have to watch the programmes!) - ever been to the loo in Downing Street? I will say no more.

Making the series was also a different experience in terms of script-writing.

I'm not suggesting for a second that writing for news isn't a rigorous process. On the contrary, I've seen shouting matches about whether it's an "and" or a "but", whether it's a full stop or a comma.

But I'd never written a script like this before, one about what I thought and felt.

Producer Rachel Hooper was just amazing in this respect, keeping the focus where it should be, as did Mickey Magowan of Imagine Media, who'd run with the idea for the programmes in the first place.

Downing Street Declaration

I had also never worked with a director before either - in news the cameraman is effectively the director.

We had a proper clapperboard - like making movies! And director Sean McGuire did trojan work.

I had worked with Rachel before, as I had with cameraman Mark McAuley. You won't know the name, but you've seen his pictures from around the world.

Making any kind of television programme involves compromises - there were loads of things we would love to have included, not least thanks to all the people I've worked with - tv news is definitely a team affair.

Unfortunately, there's only so much that will fit into a half-hour programme.

I hope you will understand and not be offended by something: a journalist may report on truly awful things, but still be proud of the report when it goes on the air.

I was blessed over 20 years, to work with great cameramen, great producers and great picture editors.

Part of the point of the programmes is to remind us of some of the things we've forgotten - like the Downing Street Declaration, without which none of the paramilitary ceasefires would have happened.

That was part of the political manoeuvring, but one of the things that struck me most forcibly during the filming was that while many people are remembered with memorials, many of the victims of the troubles died lonely deaths, and are remembered only by the people who loved them, and by single headstones, where only the bereaved go. We should all remember them.

It was sometimes painful looking back, especially at our most troubled times.

But all I could think at the end was - what a privilege to be the BBC's Ireland correspondent for 20 years, "an eyewitness to all our yesterdays".

From Our Ireland Correspondent begins on BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday, 3 October at 2235 BST.