Lonely reporter cuts short US stint
Published 01/02/2010 | 05:00
RTE reporter Charlie Bird is to return to Ireland less than two years into an expected four-year stint as Washington correspondent in the US.
Formal discussions have already taken place between Mr Bird (60) and his RTE bosses about the switch, while the Washington correspondent will lift the lid on his miserable time in the US during the second part of a documentary to be aired tonight.
"It would be fair to say that he's coming home. When it will happen has not been formally decided, and what his role or title will be when he returns has not been confirmed either," an RTE source said yesterday.
"But he spoke with management over Christmas and it was decided that he will be coming back this year."
An official announcement on the move is expected this week.
Mr Bird was the station's chief news correspondent before he applied for the plum post of Washington correspondent in October 2008. The chief news correspondent position has not been filled since.
During tonight's show, the reporter admits that he will return to Montrose because he is lonely and missing his children.
The most famous voice on RTE news has failed to make a single friend during 13 months in Washington.
"Whatever that says about me, I've decided really that I'm a home bird rather than a Washington person, so really I think sometime during the coming period I am going to go back home to Ireland," he says.
"I won't be here this time next Christmas," he later tells his Washington colleagues.
Suggestions that he was unhappy in the US emerged shortly after he first moved there, but were consistently and repeatedly denied by RTE.
Mr Bird himself told a TV magazine last July that he was "happy as a mud lark, despite what people might say", adding that he was "not crying at all".
When he first got the job, ahead of a slew of younger colleagues, he was appointed for two years. But he told the Irish Independent that he expected to stay longer.
"Nobody ever gets more than four years," he said at the time. "You are generally there for the term of a presidency and that's a good way to do it."
However, that will now not happen. "I miss my kids," he says in tonight's 'Charlie Bird's American Year'. "They are 33 and 30, but I do. It's meant to be a four-year posting but there is absolutely no way I'm going to stick here for four years. I just couldn't do it."
Indeed there are suggestions he may return within six months. "In many ways the year felt long for me," he adds. "I found life in Washington very lonely. I can honestly say in the 12 months I have been here I have met nobody.
"When I came here I wasn't certain whether I would stay the four years and at the end of one year here, I miss Ireland. I miss my family. This year I turned 60 and I want to be at home with them," he said.
Mr Bird did not return calls yesterday.