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Broadcaster Keelin Shanley honoured during rare diseases event at Dublin's Mansion House

Keelin’s husband Conor was in attendance while Health Minister Simon Harris also paid tribute.

A WARM TRIBUTE was paid to broadcaster and journalist Keelin Shanley at an event to raise awareness for rare diseases at the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday. 

Patients and patient advocates gathered to raise awareness for the supports needed for the thousands of people in Ireland who live with a rare disease such as cystic fibrosis and haemophilia. 

Shanley, who was an ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland for eight years before her passing earlier this month, was recognised for her work in raising awareness of rare diseases throughout her career. 

CEO of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland and chair of the rare disease task force, Philip Watt acknowledged her contribution to the lives of patients in his opening speech before inviting Shanley’s husband Conor on stage to accept a gift in her honour. 

Along with dedicating the Easyguide to Rare Diseases to the RTÉ broadcaster, Watt presented her husband with a glass plaque on behalf of all the rare diseases advocates who contribute to raising awareness. 

“It’s [...] poignant that we remember Keelin Shanley, a very fine journalist and somebody who supported the cause of rare diseases over many, many years. We’re delighted that Conor Ferguson is here, her husband, and so we want to give him a token,” Watt said.

“In honouring Keelin, we’d also like to honour and acknowledge all our colleagues in the media and I think we rarely do that,” he added. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie after the event, Watt said it was an instant decision to pay tribute to Shanley upon hearing she had passed away. 

“She was so lovely to work with. She was a person without any ego and she was so giving of her time – one of the nicest people I have ever worked with through my 10 years with Cystic Fibrosis Ireland,” he said. 

ConorFerguso2 Conor Ferguson (middle) with Simon Harris (R) and Philip Watt (L)

“We were really delighted to give Conor this token and for him to accept it today and I think the fact it was so soon after Keelin’s death meant it was really appreciated. 

“We were devastated when she passed and were very upset in our office on the day we heard she had died.”

Health Minister Simon Harris was also in attendance at the event and paid tribute to Shanley, recalling an encounter with the 51-year-old while he appeared on the Six One news programme to discuss the CervicalCheck controversy.

“I’m really delighted Conor is here and I didn’t realise you were but I want to extend my very sincere sympathies on the passing of Keelin,” he said. 

“I’ve never told this story but I remember during the CervicalCheck debacle there was a real sense of fear running right across this country and rightly so and a real sense of failure on many parts, mine included, to really get out the facts and the information and to offer reassurance. 

“Dr Gabriel Scally noted in his report, he talked about the media and political frenzy that existed at the time and he talked about how difficult it was to have the rational and informed conversation about screening. 

“There was one evening, I was due on the Six One news and sitting in an office in RTÉ ready to go on the Six One. And Keelin came in to see me right before the interview and she said to me ‘Minister this is really important, we’ve got to get this right. We’ve got to use this interview to actually get the facts out here’. 

“I will never forget that. I met, not just an incredible person, someone we all heard about and someone our country loved, but I met somebody who really cared about the truth, and really wanted to get the facts out there, and for women at home to know what exactly was going on. 

“To cut through the bluster and the bull and really get the facts out there. I always loved being interviewed by Keelin Shanley, not because she was in any way an easy interviewer but because she was well-informed, an incredible journalist. She was somebody who actually gave a damn about the facts.”

Shanley died following treatment for cancer, with her death announced two weeks ago on 8 February. 

Tributes poured in from across the public and political world in the hours and days after her passing was announced. 

On top of her career with RTÉ, she worked with CNN World Report and Radio France International and she is survived by her husband Conor and their son and daughter, Ben and Lucy.

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