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'A pioneering political broadcaster': Former RTÉ broadcaster Brian Farrell has died

He was 85

Brian Farrell
Brian Farrell
Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated 1.55pm

THE FORMER RTÉ broadcaster Brian Farrell has died. He was 85.

An author, journalist, academic and broadcaster, Farrell’s death was confirmed in a tweet by RTÉ News just after 11am this morning.

Tánaiste Joan Burton hailed Farrell as a “pioneering political broadcaster”.

“Brian was able to translate the complex affairs of politics into something that the ordinary man on the street could understand. As an anchor and an interviewer, he brought politics to life and made it interesting and relevant for viewers,” she said.

“His sharp and incisive mind, allied to his deep knowledge of Irish politics, made him a formidable interviewer for countless politicians to have to face.”

Source: RT É

The President Michael D Higgins hailed Farrell as an “outstanding broadcaster and political commentator and in so many ways he set the standard for others to follow, during the early days of RTE television”.

His son Professor David Farrell, who is a political scientist at UCD, thanked people for paying tribute to his father and said he would be missed.

Source: RTÉ

Born in Manchester in 1929, Farrell moved to Dublin during the Second World War and was educated at Coláiste Mhure in Dublin, UCD and later studied at Harvard in the US where he married his wife Marie-Therese Dillon.

He pursued academia in the 1950s where he lectured in the Department of Ethics and Politics before later becoming Associate Professor of Politics and a senior lecturer in Irish government at UCD.

Source: RTÉ

During all this time he was broadcasting on RTÉ having been there from the beginning of Telefís Éireann in 1962.

He presented many of the station’s flagship current affairs programmes including 7 Days, Today Tonight and Prime Time and presented the results programmes for ten general elections.

Source: RTÉ

Farrell also covered extensively the intense rivalry between Fianna Fáil’s Charlie Haughey and Fine Gael’s Garrett FitzGerald in the 1980s, including moderating the first-ever TV debate between the two.

Vincent Browne Brian Farrell with fellow broadcaster Vincent Browne Source: Photocall Ireland

In a statement, RTÉ’s director general Noel Curran said: “Brian Farrell was one of the most respected and talented Current Affairs presenters ever to appear on RTÉ. Having started out on Radio Éireann, he was there from the very beginning of Telefís Éireann in 1962.

“On Broadsheet, Newsbeat, 7 Days, Today Tonight, and Prime Time, his incisive analysis was paired with a unique presentation style and a depth of knowledge about Irish politics that was extraordinary.

“He was also a fantastic colleague. Wise, witty, supportive but also not afraid to challenge, he was a hugely positive presence on the Current Affairs team. I consider it a privilege to have worked with him. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Speaking on Today with Séan O’Rourke this morning, former Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy hailed Farrell’s depth of knowledge about Irish politics.

“You’d be afraid of your life he’d catch you out on a small fact. He knew everything about every constituency,” she said.

On the same programme, former Fianna Fáil finance minister and EU Commissioner, Ray MacSharry, said: “There was no question you had to have your brief ready when you went on to be interviewed by him.”

Farrell was also the author of a number of books including one on former taoiseach Seán Lemass.

Column: Three things modern politicians should learn from the Lemass era

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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