Saturday 21 January 2017

Tributes pour in for RTE host of 'the greatest' TV interview

Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 24/10/2011 | 05:00

Cathal O'Shannon
interviewing boxing
legend Muhammad Ali
in 1972.
Cathal O'Shannon interviewing boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 1972.
Cathal O'Shannon

FRIENDS, colleagues and relatives of the late Cathal O'Shannon will pay their respects tomorrow evening to the deceased broadcaster and journalist before his funeral service on Wednesday.

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Mr O'Shannon (pictured right) died at the age of 83 on Saturday at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin.

A funeral service will take place at noon on Wednesday at Glasnevin Crematorium Chapel.

Tributes poured in last night for the veteran broadcaster, who was one of RTE's great talents.

Director general of RTE, Noel Curran, said his contribution to television over the last five decades included some of the great moments in the station's documentary schedule.

He famously challenged the national consensus in his documentaries.

They included 'Even the Olives are Bleeding' in 1976, which examined the Irish experience in the Spanish Civil War and 'Hidden History: Ireland's Nazis', in 2007.

One of his great journalistic coups was an interview with boxer Muhammad Ali in 1972.

Managing director of television, Glen Killane, said the colourful journalist and broadcaster would be "fondly remembered".

"His RTE studio interview with Muhammad Ali in 1972 was both one of the best such encounters RTE ever carried and one of the most relaxed and entertaining that Ali -- then perhaps the world's greatest celebrity -- ever did," he said.

"And yet Cathal was equally at home travelling the highways and byways of Ireland reporting for 'Broadsheet' and 'Newsbeat' in the fledgling TV service days of the 1960s."

At an event in Dublin last year where he was made a lifetime member of the Irish Film and Television Academy, he described former Taoiseach Charles Haughey as having "the coldest eyes you've ever seen". He said the highlight of his career was interviewing Ali, who was a "vital and immensely warm" individual.

Born in 1928, Mr O'Shannon was the son of Cathal O'Shannon Senior, a well-known socialist and republican, and grew up in Dublin.

When he was a teenager in the 1940s, he ran away to Britain and used forged papers to enlist in the RAF. He trained as a rear gunner and was posted to Burma after World War Two.

Mr O'Shannon settled in London and married Patsy Dyke, who also became a leading light on the journalism scene in Ireland.

The couple moved to Dublin after the BBC axed the 'Tonight' programme he was working on, and he got a job at 'The Irish Times'.

However, he is best remembered as a TV journalist.

During his career, he also worked as a public affairs director for American firm Aughinish in Limerick, which he admitted was about money.

The motive he said was "looking at my 12-year-old-car and realising it was going to be my f**kin' 20-year-old car if I didn't do something".

He was distraught when his wife Patsy died in 2006. The couple loved socialising at their home in Anglesea Road in Donnybrook and Mr O'Shannon chaired the wine committee in the St Stephen's Green Club.

Friends remembered he was very upset when surgery for stomach cancer meant he could no longer drink wine, but said he never lost his spirit or wit up to the end.

Irish Independent

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