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Here are some of Marian Finucane's most memorable moments in broadcasting

From iodine, to Women Today, to the banking crisis, Finucane was a “trailblazer” in Irish broadcasting.

TRIBUTES HAVE CONTINUED to pour in today for Marian Finucane, who has died at the age of 69.

The veteran broadcaster was a regular fixture on our airwaves over the last five decades, most recently hosting the prime weekend slot on RTÉ Radio One.

Former president Mary Robinson today called Finucane a “trailblazer” who leaves a “great legacy” behind her.

One of her first landmark shows was Women Today, which started in May 1979, and gave a voice to women and helped to popularise the call-in format that central to shows like Liveline today. 

Here are just a few of her most memorable moments across her broadcasting career.

Late Late Show, 1980

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A report submitted to the RTÉ Authority had said that Marian Finucane would never get to host the Late Late Show. 

In an appearance on the show – which was dedicated to women in the media – in 1980, Gay Byrne offered Finucane his seat.

Sat next to writer and activist Nell McCafferty, the latter quipped: ““At last, free at last, thank God we’re free at last.”

Nuala O’Faolain interview

One of the most striking interviews Finucane ever did was with her longtime friend Nuala O’Faolain.

The author had just received a terminal cancer diagnosis. She died less than a month after this interview took place in May 2008

“The certainty we all have in this life is that we will die,” Finucane began the segment before explaining O’Faolain’s diagnosis.

O’Faolain then described how she had refused chemotherapy which could have prolonged her life.

“I was just reading about some best-selling man who says ‘Live your dream to the end’ and I don’t despise anyone who does, but I don’t see it that way,” she said. “Even if I gained time through chemotherapy, it isn’t time I want. Because as soon as I knew I was going to die soon, the goodness went out of life.”

Late Late Show, 1991

On a panel of women discussing women’s rights and progress made in that regard on International Women’s Day in 1991, Finucane reflected on what had been achieved

And, while progress had indeed been made, some areas had been found wanting according to the broadcaster. 

“In the matter of the Church, what can I say, Nell puts these things so eloquently,” she said. 

“[There was] a kid in a class. And the priest came in. The teacher swears this was an original from the child. The priest came in and was asking her how many sacraments there were. She said ‘six for girls and seven for boys’. 

Essentially, there’s a crowd of blokes sitting around in lovely surroundings and smashing gear and saying ‘no, we better keep it to ourselves and they’re not up to it’. Nothing has changed there.
Coming to the negatives, the thunderingly awful thing that I looked up today is the average industrial wage for a man is in the region of £258 and the average industrial wage for a woman is £140-odd. Progress?

Sean Fitzpatrick interview

In October 2008, Finucane had former Anglo chairman Sean Fitzpatrick appear on the show.

This came right after the Irish government issued the bank guarantee.

“Where were you on Monday night?” she began. When they discussed that Anglo’s shares had nosedived earlier that day, she asked “any indigestion?”. She also asked if he’d seen “Armageddon coming”. 

What followed was an almost half-hour long probing interview where Fitzpatrick denied Anglo had been reckless in its lending practices. 

“The cause of our problems are global,” he said. “So I can’t say sorry with any degree of sincerity and decency. But I can say thank you.”

Iodine tablets

In a jaw-dropping interview with Junior Minister Joe Jacob about what Ireland’s nuclear disaster procedures looked like, Finucane was baffled as to where the Irish public would get their iodine tablets that the government had promised from.

After the September 2001 terror attacks, the World Health Organisation had advised countries to prepare their own emergency responses. 

A researcher for Finucane’s show rang around government departments to see who was in charge of that before the Department of Enterprise put Jacob forward.

What followed was an astonishing piece of radio

At one segment, Jacob referred to Ireland as a “small nuclear country”. 

Finucane interjected: “A small neutral country?”

Jacob responded: “Yes, Marian. I have nuclear on the brain after our long conversation.”

The interview even got its own episode of Scannal!

Occupying Stephen’s Green

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Before Finucane became a household name, one of her notable appearances on TV – which got its own slot on Reeling in the Years – is when she took part in a student occupation of 45 Stephen’s Green in 1970.

“Why are you spending Christmas week cleaning door posts in Stephen’s Green?” the interview asked.

“Because I feel it’s part of my responsibility to make sure this building isn’t demolished,” she said. 

The architecture student added she felt she had a responsibility to the people of the capital as a Dubliner herself.

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