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Charlie Bird's coffin carried into the Mansion House ahead of a memorial service. Leah Farrell

'Heartbroken': Wife and daughters remember Charlie Bird during memorial service

Bird’s coffin was carried into the Mansion House with members of his family, including his beloved dog Tiger, walking behind.


THE WIFE OF former RTÉ journalist and charity campaigner Charlie Bird has said she was “heartbroken” at his death, as she addressed a memorial service at Dublin’s Mansion House today. 

Bird died on Monday aged 74.

The service is being held in the Round Room of the Mansion House.

Charlie’s wife Claire told mourners that it was an “absolute privilege” to look after her husband during his illness.

She said they both loved to travel and to walk the hills in Wicklow with their dog Tiger.

“What made me fall in love with Bird was his zest for life. There was never a dull moment when you were with him,” she said. 

“He always loved being the centre of attention, loved all the craic. I love you Bird, I’m going to miss you so much.”

img_4550 Former president Mary Robinson at Dublin's Mansion House for Charlie Bird's memorial service Sadbh Cox / The Journal Sadbh Cox / The Journal / The Journal

Former president Mary Robinson were among those who gathered to celebrate Bird’s life. 

RTÉ director-general Kevin Bakhurst, RTÉ news presenter Bryan Dobson and current affairs presenter Miriam O’Callaghan were also among those who arrived at the Mansion House for the service.

Bird’s coffin was carried into the Mansion House ahead of the service, with members of his family, including his beloved dog Tiger, walking behind.

‘Keep smiling’

Charlie Bird’s daughter Orla told the memorial service about life growing up in Bray, Co Wicklow.

“In the middle of this very ordinary, if charmed, family life there was an extraordinary career,” she said.

“It’s almost impossible to know where family life ended and career started because it was such a big part of all of our lives. The news was a permanent fixture in our home. So, the two were closely intertwined,” she said. 

“Today, though, we think back on the family memories, the walks every Sunday that we were marched on from as long as I can remember and since we could walk, even before carried on a pouch on dad’s back. These Sunday walks were a non-negotiable family activity that continued, much to our horror, into our teenage years.”

Bird’s daughter recalled the letters he would send her when she spent time in the United States, with each one signed off “keep smiling”.

She spoke of his hectic working life that involved continually leaving the home at short notice to cover a major news event at home or abroad.

“The next time we would see him he would be on TV and then you would know where he was, that was just a norm,” she said.

She said the family home was Bird’s “safe place to fly from and a safe place to return”.

Charlie Bird funeral-50_90701157 The booklet for the memorial service today Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

Charlie Bird’s daughter Neasa said that her father’s motor neurone disease diagnosis was his “worst fear realised” and said he was “devastated and afraid”.

She said on the day before he died, Bird “painstakingly typed out a final message” about courage and a fear that his courage would falter.

“But Dad’s courage did not falter because his courage, his amazing bravery and, ultimately, his legacy is the way that he showed us all that it is OK to despair,” she said. 

“It is OK to be afraid. It is human to be angry when dealt with a hand like MND. It is OK because as he also showed us after all of that, or more accurately in the midst of all of that, there is still purpose, there is still joy, and there is still hope.”

Bird’s five grandchildren presented mementos reflective of his life at the start of the event.

‘An inspiration

Bird’s friend and former RTÉ colleague Joe O’Brien led the service today.

O’Brien told the memorial service the broadcaster had often been described as an “inspiration and a national treasure”.

“He was literally a household name; loved and respected throughout the country,” O’Brien said.

“And in his last three years he moved, as Charlie himself said, from being a well-known journalist to being hailed as a heroic and tireless fundraiser and campaigner,” he said. 

“Over recent days, there has been an outpouring of grief for Charlie but, of course, it is his family who are feeling his loss most.”

Stardust fire campaigner Antoinette Keegan spoke at the service, describing Bird as “a gentleman” and “a brilliant journalist”.

Keegan said he was supportive of all those affected by injustice and “the one that hit him the hardest was the Stardust”.

Charlie Bird was a long-time supporter of the families of those who died in the fire at the Stardust night club in Dublin in 1981, having covered the story as a reporter at the time.

Keegan survived the blaze but her two sisters died.

In paying tribute this week, President Michael D Higgins praised Bird for the “decades-long support he gave to the victims of the Stardust fire, and indeed the touching support which they have likewise given him”.

Bird threw himself into the campaign for same-sex marriage in 2015 and published a book called A Day In May following the Marriage Equality referendum.

The book is a collection of 50 interviews with members of the LGBTQ+ community, their family and friends, recorded at the time of the referendum.

-With additional reporting from Press Association

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