Charlie Bird: After 38 years, this Bird has flown
RTE legend in line for €200,000 retirement lump sum
WE have followed his adventures in the Amazon and the North Pole -- and cringed as he whinged about his unhappiness as RTE's Washington correspondent.
Now Charlie Bird -- arguably the country's best-known journalist for the past three decades -- is to leave the state broadcaster after almost 40 years.
The 62-year-old has decided to take RTE's early retirement scheme and will finish in Montrose next month.
Based on his salary of seven years ago -- the last time it was published -- Mr Bird may be entitled to a lump sum of more than €200,000 and an annual pension of more than €80,000.
Mr Bird insisted last night he would be taking on "new challenges".
His stint as fill-in presenter on the 'Marian Finucane Show' this weekend may be his last broadcast.
Mr Bird, who turns 63 in two weeks' time, became a household name after working his way up through the station to report on politics in the Dail.
Among his biggest stories was revealing in the late '90s -- along with George Lee -- that National Irish Bank had been involved in the overcharging of customers and in bogus non-resident accounts for tax avoidance purposes.
He rose to the position of chief news correspondent with RTE.
He served as the broadcaster's US correspondent for a short period and came back to Dublin early, complaining of being homesick.
Mr Bird claimed last night to have enjoyed "every minute" of his time in RTE.
"I have had ups and downs. You don't stay in a place for 38 years without enjoying it," he said. "I came back from Washington for personal reasons. I missed my two daughters. I love America."
He has now followed other high-profile names who have taken the early retirement option, including newsreader Anne Doyle, western editor Jim Fahy and 'Nationwide' frontman Michael Ryan. The deal is extremely attractive to staff nearing retirement age.
The scheme offers an ex-gratia lump sum of up to €60,000, depending on age. The sum decreases the nearer a person gets to retirement age.
Under the deal, Mr Bird will avoid drastic cuts to his pension.
One of the caveats to accepting the exit package is understood to be an agreement not to work for a rival broadcaster for a period of one year.
RTE director general Noel Curran has warned staff this was the last chance to avail of the generous packages.
RTE is currently trying to reduce costs by €25m a year.