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'An enormous loss to broadcasting': Tributes paid to RTÉ broadcaster Marian Finucane

Marian Finucane has died at the age of 69.

The death of Marian Finucane was announced today.
The death of Marian Finucane was announced today.
Image: Rollingnew.ie

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid to veteran broadcaster Marian Finucane who has died at the age of 69.

RTÉ announced her death this evening. Journalists, broadcasters, politicians, listeners and people Finucane interviewed over the years have tonight paid their respects. 

Moya Doherty, Chair of RTÉ, has said: 

“It is with the deepest shock and sadness that I heard the news of Marian Finnucane. Marian was a pioneer in women’s broadcasting and was rightly renowned for her fearless yet human interview technique. Many who work in broadcasting today, male and female, owe her a great debt. RTÉ has lost another great champion and another great talent, but we are the richer for having known and heard her work.”

“The work and legacy of Marian Finucane is without parallel in Irish broadcasting. With the committed team on Women Today she tackled issues that were largely uncovered and unspoken. On Liveline she templated a phone discussion format uniquely suited to Irish audiences. An award-winning documentary maker, she was an interviewer of profound sensitivity and insight.

Journalist Olivia O’Leary told RTÉ’s Drivetime that Finucane was an interviewer who never needed to show how clever she was or what she knew. 

“She had the ability to say ‘what, what? Say that again,’” she said, adding that she made her listeners feel at home by asking the questions that they wanted to hear asked. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in a statement: 

“I am stunned and deeply saddened to hear of the death of Marian Finucane. She was a true broadcasting legend who reshaped current affairs radio in Ireland.

“Ireland will miss her voice. Weekend mornings will never be quite the same again.

“I spent many hours in the studio with Marian. She was thorough, courteous and professional. I’m very sad to think that we won’t hear her voice again on the radio. The deepest sympathies of the Irish Government to her family, friends and colleagues.”

“As presenter of RTÉ Radio One’s flagship weekend morning programme, she had the pulse of the nation. It is with great sadness that we mourn this loss to Irish journalism, and to all her colleagues in RTÉ. But our immediate thoughts are with her family today, at this time of great shock and mourning,” said Jim Jennings, Director of Content at RTÉ. 

In a statement, President Michael D Higgins said: 

“It is with the greatest sadness that I have learned of the passing of broadcaster Marian Finucane. With her death, Ireland has lost a deeply respected, trusted and much loved broadcaster.

“Having started her career with RTÉ in 1974, Marian Finucane had become a central part of Irish broadcasting life, covering its events, its personalities, its changes and its tribulations.

“A superb professional, many will remember the wisdom and sensitivity with which Marian Finucane dealt with discussions and confrontations between different voices on what were controversial issues of the day. She was one of the very early exemplars to those who sought a proper representation of women in broadcasting.

“There will be many, in every part of Irish life, who will miss Marian’s voice, but of course her loss is felt most acutely by her family and friends. To her husband John, her son Jack and to all the members of her extended family and wide circle of friends and colleagues Sabina and I express our deepest sympathies.”

“A defining voice for RTE Radio 1, and for the nation,” is how Tom McGuire, Head of RTÉ Radio One described Finucane, stating that her work on Liveline was without parallel. 

Also speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening, Liveline’s Joe Duffy said he was in shock after hearing the news today. 

“She invented Liveline,” he said, stating that everyone knew they would get a fair hearing off Marian. 

Duffy described her death as “enormous loss to broadcasting”, adding that she had “so many years ahead of her”. 

Others have taken to Twitter to share their memories of the household name, like TD Malcolm Byrne who remembers how he was interviewed after he was “outed” as a gay man.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan has described Finucane as a “legend in the field of broadcasting”. 

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said her contribution to Irish journalism and broadcasting has been immense, stating that “she has occupied a special place in the hearts of many radio listeners over the years”.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said Finucane has left an enormous mark on current affairs broadcasting during her career.

“Her ability to spark a debate and journalistic skills were second to none. She was a great feminist with an interest in arts and culture and politics. This was clear from her widely successful career in RTÉ, including on Women Today, the first presenter of the hugely successful Liveline and her weekday show on Radio 1.

“Later in her distinguished career she could hold politicians from all parties and none to account on her hugely popular weekend shows, which was to the fore on social and current affairs issues.

“Marian was a rare talent and her voice will be missed in homes up and down the country.”

A broadcaster with “grace, style and empathy” is how the NUJ’s Séamus Dooley described the broadcaster. 

Born in 1950, Marian Finucane first worked with RTÉ in the 1970s. A qualified architect, she became a programme presenter working on programmes concerned with contemporary social issues, especially those concerning women, notably on Women Today.

She became a household name with her Liveline programme on RTÉ Radio One. A winner of the Prix Italia, her television work included Consumer Choice and Crime Line.

On Gay Byrne’s retirement in 1999, she took over his early morning radio slot to present The Marian Finucane Show, ultimately taking over the morning slots on Saturday and Sunday.

Marian is survived by her husband John and son Jack

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