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Marty Whelan, Dierdre Purcell and Gay Byrne among other radio personalities at RTE’s Radio Centre in 2009. Photo: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Acclaimed novelist and journalist Deirdre Purcell dies aged 77

Dierdre was a best-selling author, and an actress who starred in plays at the Abbey Theatre.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Feb 2023

ACCLAIMED JOURNALIST, WRITER and broadcaster Deirdre Purcell has died aged 77. 

Purcell is well known for both her work as a journalist and as an author. She wrote several best-selling novels, including Falling for a Dancer, which was made into a TV movie starring Colin Farrell. 

Her other novels include Ladies Night at Finbar’s Hotel, A Place of Stones, Pearl and That Childhood Country

She wrote for newspapers including the Sunday Tribune, where she earned a ‘Journalist of the Year’ award for her work. 

Purcell was the first woman to anchor Nine O’Clock News on RTÉ. Later, she presented ‘It Says in the Papers’ for Morning Ireland, on RTÉ Radio 1. 

She also starred as an actress at the Abbey Theatre early in her career. 

Picture: RTÉ News.

Purcell is survived by her husband, Kevin Healy and her two sons Adrian and Simon Weckler. 

In a statement her family said: “To the day before her death Deirdre was as full of plans, schemes and dreams as she always was. Deirdre made friends wherever she went and will be remembered by so many as a vibrant, clever and caring companion.”

“The talent, vivacity and sharp mind that made her an award-winning journalist, a globally successful fiction writer and – in her youth- a talented Abbey Theatre actress, never left her. She was a force of nature and we will miss her desperately,” they added. 

Meanwhile, president Michael D Higgins said Purcell will be “remembered by colleagues and friends for her warm and creative presence”.

Higgins added that through her distinguished career, Purcell “left a singular contribution in all of the different aspects of literature and broadcasting to which she turned her many talents”. 

“I particularly recall one afternoon where Deirdre interviewed Brendan Kennelly and myself for the Sunday Tribune,” said Higgins.

“The attention to detail which she gave to such interviews was indicative of the skill with which she went about her work and has been often remarked upon by her many admirers.”

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