How to be an Active Citizen - RTÉ Radio Series and Podcasts

active-citizen-wide How to be an Active Citizen is a six-part series of educational radio programmes aimed at helping listeners to be active citizens in their own lives.

The series combines real-life examples with practical advice from experts and activists about how our government and institutions work and how we can get involved in decisions that affect us.

The series was originally broadcast on  RTÉ Radio 1 Extra  the digital channel in May/June 2016. 

You can listen to the podcasts of the programmes below by clicking the play button.

You can also download the podcast in mp3 format by clicking the download button Image result for download icon  on each programme image.

  Episode 1 How to Vote

Voting is democracy in action, yet a significant proportion of citizens choose not to cast a ballot in elections and referenda.  In this programme, listeners learn about how representative democracy works in Ireland, including how to register to vote, how the proportional representation system works, and why every vote counts.

Programme contributors:

  • Dr Theresa Reidy, political scientist, University College Cork
  • Ríona Ní Fhlanghaile, Franchise Officer, Department of the Environment
  • Jeanne McDonagh, campaign manager for Dáil and Seanad elections and Marriage Equality referendum

Case study:  Nathan, a young member of the LGBT community, describes what it was like to vote for the first time and to be involved the 2015 Marriage Equality referendum campaign.

Episode 2How to be a Citizen Watchdog

There are many ways that citizens can be active in ensuring that public officials are held accountable and that our public services are properly administered.

This programme explains how the Ombudsman and the Standards in Public Office Commission work to handle individual complaints and improve services and standards. Experts advise listeners when and how to complain about services or standards in public life. 

  Programme contributors

  • Peter Tyndall; the Ombudsman
  • Dr Imelda Higgins BL, a barrister and corruption law expert
  • Nuala Haughey, Open Government Project Manager, TASC
Case study: Elizabeth, a mother from the south east of Ireland, describes how she turned to the Ombudsman for help in reversing a decision by the Health Service Executive to disallow a medical card for her son, who has autism.
Episode 3How to Work for Change

Laws and policies are among the key tools that governments use to answer needs and find solutions to problems in our society, and to define and protect our rights. In this programme, listeners learn how laws and policies are shaped and made and how as citizens they can engage with the national political process to bring about changes they seek.

Programme contributors:

  • Eamon Timmins, Chief Executive of the charity Age Action
  • Robert Dowds, a former Labour Party TD
  • Mark Brennock, a lobbyist with Murray Consultants

Case study:  Mariaam Bhatti and Grainne O’Toole of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland share lessons from their successful campaign to end forced labour in Ireland.

Episode 4How to work with your Local Government

From planning regulations, to traffic laws, parks, water services and libraries, local government plays a huge part in citizens’ lives. In this programme, listeners learn how our councils work, and how citizens can get involved in solving local problems and issues.

Programme contributors:

  • Senan Turnbull, former Fingal County Council Director of Services
  • Victor Boyhan, independent councillor, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council
  • Michael Judd, Back of the Pipes Residents Association, Dublin

Case study:  Gerry Cunnane from the community energy group Transition Kerry and Micheal O’Cuileain from Kerry County Council explain how they worked together to reduce energy costs in Tralee.

Episode 5How to Speak Up 

Whistleblowing takes different forms. Many cases of corruption and abuse of children, disabled, and elderly people that we know about have been exposed by people who have spoken up. In this programme, listeners learn how they can safely report abuse or wrongdoing and the legal protections that prevent whistleblowers from being penalised for making a protected disclosure.

Programme contributors:

  • Leigh Gath, confidential recipient for the Health Service Executive
  • Susheela Math, Legal Counsel with Transparency International Ireland
  • Dr Tom Clonan, academic, journalist and whistleblower

Case study:  Former Health Worker Louise Bayliss shares her experience of speaking up in exposing how patients with mental were treated in a Dublin institution. 

Episode 6How to make the most of your Right to Know 

The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) is not just a useful tool for journalists – it is also a powerful way for citizens to access their own personal information as well as other records from hundreds of public bodies.

In this programme, we explain how to use the Freedom of Information Act and when and how to exercise your right to know under FOI. 

Programme contributors:

  • Peter Feeney, former FOI Officer at RTÉ, currently the Press Ombudsman
  • Richard Dowling, RTÉ journalist and experienced FOI user
  • Dr Nat O’Connor, Lecturer in Public Policy & Public Management, Ulster University

Case study:  Ciara McGrath, from the charity Crosscare, and Voldamars Svickis, explain how they used FOI to access Voldamars’s case file from his local social welfare office, and how this helped him to overturn a decision not to pay him unemployment benefit.

Further Resources

How to be an Active Citizen is based on TASC’s Toolkit to Open Government, a set of guides to how government works and how to get your voice heard. See below for the guides that are already available in PDF format. You can read all ten guides online at

TASC Training 

TASC provides training on topics covered in the Active Citizen radio series. We are available to deliver tailored training to groups or individuals. See upcoming training events . For more information, contact us on


The How to be an Active Citizen radio series was produced by Aileen O’Meara Media and funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland from the television licence fee, and by TASC.