Born in South Armagh in 1950 to Eileen and Michael Mallie, one of a family of six, 4 boys and 2 girls. Educated in Newry at Abbey CBS Grammar. Graduated from Trinity College Dublin 1974 in Gaelic and Spanish (also speaks French).
Worked as a researcher in Irish Language for RTE. Trained as a radio current affairs producer for the BBC in Belfast. Joined Downtown Radio in 1976 as a reporter and became political correspondent in the 80’s.
Hit the headlines in 1981 arising from a number of stories of international interest. In 1989, he formed his own company Eamonn Mallie News Services.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM A JOURNALISTIC CAREER
1981: Returned supermarket tycoon Ben Dunne, of Dunne Stores to his family following a kidnapping between Newry and Dundalk.
1981: He was the only broadcaster with a recording of DUP leader Ian Paisley’s famous escapade on the Antrim Hills when he reviewed his troops brandishing legally held firearms licenses. In the same year he got an exclusive interview with IRA jail breaker Gerry Tuite who had escaped from Brixton prison.
1981: Mallie broke the news that the first IRA hunger strike had come to an end and also revealed that a new hunger strike was resuming which resulted in the deaths of 10 men in jail.
1979: Mallie reported from Mullaghmore in County Sligo on the IRA killing of Earl Mountbatten and his family and later that day reported on the killing of 18 British soldiers at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint.
1993: He forced former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew to tender his resignation to Prime Minister John Major when he revealed incontrovertibly that the British Government was engaged with Sinn Fein and the IRA while the IRA was continuing to bomb and shoot. The then Secretary of State continued to deny that the government was in communication with Republicans. This became known as “the back channel”.
2009: Mallie’s says that the most enjoyable story he covered in all his years was the birth of sextuplets in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
He considers Margaret Thatcher and the late Charles J. Haughey as the two rudest public figures he ever interviewed. That does not mean he is not fascinated with either character.
He states that his biggest failure as a journalist was allowing George Bush and Tony Blair off the hook when they came to Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. He deeply regrets that he did not crash the train, not having spotted that the press conference was carefully managed in such a way that the roving microphone wouldn’t ever reach his hand. The key question he wanted to put so desperately to these two men was “prove to me that you have evidence that weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq” to justify going to war there. It still rankles with him that he did not raise his voice to defy the news management at play.
He was blamed in some quarters for derailing the peace process following a fusillade of specific questions which he put to decommissioning chairman General John de Chastelain. Following his return to report on what the IRA had been doing with its arsenal, under fire, he spoke carelessly of having witnessed the IRA “putting their tanks beyond reach”. Mallie wanted him to be specific regarding what he had seen in layman’s language while he chose to use military parlance such as “ordnance”. The fall out resulted in Ulster Unionist Party Leader and First Minister David Trimble withdrawing from the process.
Throughout his career, Mallie has interviewed Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, all Secretaries of State of Northern Ireland going back to 1976, as well as all Prime Ministers of the Irish Republic from the 1970’s.
President Clinton and senior American politicians such as Senator George Mitchell have all been regular targets of his rapid fire line of questioning.
Mallie caused considerable panic at the end of the Gulf War when he broke rank and directed a question at Princess Diana during a visit to Northern Ireland. He asked her how she felt about the ending of the Gulf War. It had always been protocol not to ask members of the Royal Family questions. Mallie admits he is not good at standing on ceremony. Diana courteously listened and replied and expressed her delight that the war was over. It emerged later that she had a “personal interest” in one of the “boys” coming home.
Mallie claims he has always been an outsider with leanings to the left, but committed above all to democracy and accountability. He vehemently opposes the application of violence but is always willing to probe and investigate why people use violence for political reasons.
It was for this reason he uniquely sought permission to visit UVF and IRA prisoners in the Maze prison in 1979 where he spent over one hour respectively with a UVF man and with a young IRA man, totally unknown to him prior to entering the jail. He spoke only Irish to him throughout the hour with a fluency which shocked him. That man was later to become the biggest icon in Irish Republicanism in the past quarter of a century. He was Bobby Sands who died on hunger strike in 1981.
Mallie continues to ply his trade as a journalist in Northern Ireland. He believes his best stories have yet to come. He is a regular contributor to discussion programmes on radio and TV at home and abroad.
Mallie has worked for: RTE, BBC, Downtown Radio, Cool FM, ITN, Channel 4, AFP, Today FM, IRN, NBC, CBC, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio Wales, NPR, SKY, GMTV.
In the past two years, Mallie has been a leading force and trailblazer in espousing the adoption of new media, being a prolific Twitter user and blogger.