Thursday 23 January 2020

'Ireland will miss her voice' - tributes pour in for much-loved Marian Finucane

Shock and sadness as much-loved broadcaster dies at 69

‘Zeal for breaking new ground’: Marian Finucane was a household name with thousands of listeners tuning in to her RTÉ shows. Photo: Tony Gavin
‘Zeal for breaking new ground’: Marian Finucane was a household name with thousands of listeners tuning in to her RTÉ shows. Photo: Tony Gavin
Marian Finucane
Broadcaster Marian Finucane with husband John Clarke and son Jack after she was conferred with an honorary doctorate by DIT in 2002. Photo: Tom Burke

Ian Begley and Melanie Finn

Veteran broadcaster Marian Finucane, who has died at the age of 69, has been remembered as a tenacious and immensely capable journalist.

She was found at her home in Naas, Co Kildare, yesterday afternoon.

Tributes for the radio host have poured in from across the country.

President Michael D Higgins extended his sympathies, saying Ireland had lost a deeply respected, trusted and much-loved broadcaster.

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In a statement, RTÉ director general Dee Forbes said staff at the national broadcaster were shocked and saddened.

"Marian was a broadcaster of immense capability; a household name, she was first and foremost a tenacious journalist with a zeal for breaking new ground," she said.

"From 'Women Today' to 'Liveline' to her weekday radio show on Radio 1 and, latterly, her enormously popular Saturday and Sunday radio programme, she tackled the big social issues of the day with command and insight."

Mr Higgins, who remembered Ms Finucane as a "superb professional", credited the legendary radio host for seeking a proper representation of women in broadcasting. 

A career in radio: Marian Finucane in her early days with RTÉ
A career in radio: Marian Finucane in her early days with RTÉ
Ground-breaking: Marian Finucane in her element, the radio studio from where she helped to change attitudes
Broadcaster Marian Finucane with husband John Clarke and son Jack after she was conferred with an honorary doctorate by DIT in 2002. Photo: Tom Burke
Pictured: RTÉ broadcaster Marian Finucane and Nuala O'Faolain in Nairobi, Kenya where they were covering the 1985 United Nations Decade for Women Conference for RTÉ.
Marian Finucane
Marian Finucane
‘Zeal for breaking new ground’: Marian Finucane was a household name with thousands of listeners tuning in to her RTÉ shows. Photo: Tony Gavin
Marian Finucane on the Late Late in 1991
Marian Finucane with husband John Clarke after they were married in 2015. Photo: Frank McGrath
Marian Finucane with Maeve Binchy at an Irish Hospice Foundation event. Photo: Jim O'Kelly
Marian visting an orphanage in South Africa
Voice of reason: Marian Finucane smiles after receiving the PPI Outstanding Achievement Award in 2008. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography
15/11/11 Marian Finucane at the launch of her book The Saturday Interviews 2005-2011 . Pictures:Arthur Carron/Collins
Finucane M 8.4.10 0011 Marian Finucane
Taoiseach Enda Kenny,TD and broadcaster Marian Finucane at the launch the Irish Hospice Foundation's 2016 Commemorative and 30th anniversary programme held in the Stephens Green Club yesterday. Pic Tom Burke 3/12/2015
Former Irish International footballer Niall Quinn and boadcaster Marian Finucane who were conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) at their annual conferring of Honorary degrees at a ceremony held in the Royal hospital,Kilmainham yesterday...Pic Tom Burke 26/11/02
Marian Finucane
MARIAN FINUCANE
Marian Finucane
JOE DUFFY AND MARIAN FINUCANE AT THE LAUNCH OF JOE DUFFYS AUTOBIOGRAPHY "JUST JOE" AT HARRYS BAR IN THE O2 DUBLIN PIX BRIAN MCEVOY

"It is with the greatest sadness that I have learned of the passing of broadcaster Marian Finucane," he said.

"With her death, Ireland has lost a deeply respected, trusted and much-loved broadcaster.

"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."

He and his wife Sabina offered their deep sympathies to her husband John, her son Jack "and to all the members of her extended family and wide circle of friends and colleagues".

Ms Finucane was found at her home in Naas yesterday afternoon.

She had recently returned from India after she and her husband John Clarke visited their son, Jack.

It's understood the RTÉ Radio host died in her sleep.

Ms Finucane's Saturday show on RTÉ Radio 1 was one of the most listened to radio programmes in the country with a listenership of 363,000 in 2019. Her show featured interviews, human interest stories, consumer and lifestyle news as well as panel discussions on issues of the week.

Each of her programmes began with Ms Finucane's signature tune, followed by her iconic phrase: "Hello there, and a very good morning to you."

Ms Finucane is survived by her husband and son.

Her daughter Sinéad tragically passed away in 1990 at the age of eight after developing leukaemia.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his sympathies on Twitter, saying weekend mornings will "never be quite the same again".

"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. Ireland will miss her voice," he said.

"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."

Miriam O'Calllaghan told the Irish Independent she was "just devastated" at the news of her sudden death and she was a huge influence on her career.

"She was the gold standard I hoped to reach one day.

"Marian was a feminist when there were few feminists here in Ireland. Her influence on the position of women in Ireland was immense," she said.

"Much was written about the role of the wonderful Gay but in my opinion, as much importance was the role played by Marian."

She pointed out Ms Finucane was much younger than Gay.

"She was the first woman to have the courage and great talent to liberate us women. A hero forever. Eternal gratitude.

"Most of all, I will never, ever forget her remarkably poignant interview with her dear friend Nuala O Faolain when Nuala was dying," she added.

"It was majestic, noble radio, the greatest interview I have ever heard. She was quite simply the most brilliant female broadcaster I have ever known. I am broken hearted.

"I keep thinking of her beautiful husband and son. At least she is now in heaven with her precious daughter."

Former RTÉ star Pat Kenny said he was in "total shock".

He knew Marian from early in her broadcasting career and described her as a pioneer for women in the media.

"She worked as a reporter on my programme at the beginning of her career and her work was characterised by an empathy, a warmth and an intelligent curiosity," he said.

"She was a pioneer in women's broadcasting, although she was never one for playing the gender card. In recent years, Marian became a staple of weekend listening. I just found it very hard to comprehend that Marian was no longer with us. She and I worked hand in glove over many years."

Mr Kenny said that Ms Finucane had a way of making her guests feel at home on her radio show.

"If people think of one thing about Marian, it was her warmth with the guests - whether they were the mighty or the unknown," he added.

Irish Independent

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