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Tuesday 21 January 2020

'An icon of broadcasting' - Huge crowds gather for funeral of RTÉ broadcaster Marian Finucane

The remains of Marian Finucane are carried in to St Brigids Church by her son Jack (back right). Picture; Gerry Mooney
The remains of Marian Finucane are carried in to St Brigids Church by her son Jack (back right). Picture; Gerry Mooney
Marian Finucane in 2008 after receiving the PPI Annual Radio “Outstanding Achievement Award’

Melanie Finn and Kirsty Blake Knox

Huge crowds gathered in Kildare this morning for the funeral mass for RTE broadcaster Marian Finucane, coming on the same day as it was announced that fellow RTE legend Larry Gogan has also passed away.

Ms Finucane died suddenly last Thursday and was discovered by her husband John Clarke at their home near Punchestown shortly after arriving back into the country from a trip to India.

Ms Finucane, who was 69, is survived by her son Jack and was predeceased by her daughter Sinead (8).

The weekend radio presenter will be laid to rest this afternoon following a service at the small church of St Brigid’s on a dreary morning in Kill as tribute was paid to the native Dubliner in a traditional mass that was a medley of music and prayers.

Mourners started arriving from 10.30am to pay their final respects and attendees included Miriam O’Callaghan, former RTE DG Cathal Goan, Moya Doherty, Blathnaid Ní Chofaigh, former Minister Pat Rabbitte and Joe Duffy.

President Michael D Higgins is represented by aide-de-camp Commandant Dorothy Donnelly.

Marian Finucane in 2008 after receiving the PPI Annual Radio “Outstanding Achievement Award’
Marian Finucane in 2008 after receiving the PPI Annual Radio “Outstanding Achievement Award’

Chief celebrant of the Mass is Monsignor Ciarán O’Carroll, rector of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, and a first cousin of Marian.

In his Homily he spoke of Marian's death coming as a "dreadful shock" and described her as "an icon of broadcasting" who will always "be remembered for her outstanding journalistic ability, keen intellect, warmth, wit, thoughfulness, compassion and kindness".

He also spoke about her "real empathy and sense of fairness" and described the late broadcaster as "a generous and determined woman and a thoughful and kind friend whose keen sense of humour enriched the lives of many".

Marian, he said, had to "bear the cross of bereavement with the death of her beloved daughter Sinead, a bereavement she bore with tremendous dignity.

07/01/2020 An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD arriving at the funeral of RTE broadcaster Marian Finucane at the church of St Brigids in Kill Co Kildare today.
Pic Gareth Chaney / Collins Photos.
07/01/2020 An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD arriving at the funeral of RTE broadcaster Marian Finucane at the church of St Brigids in Kill Co Kildare today. Pic Gareth Chaney / Collins Photos.

"In the face of Sinead's death," he added, "Marian mobilised all of her formidable strengths and skills by dedicating a whole chapter of her life to supporting the hospice movement at home and establish a hospice charity in South Africa."

The concelebrants are Bishop Éamonn Walsh of the Archdiocese of Dublin and Kill parish priest Fr Willie O’Byrne.

Traditional Irish music which was favoured by Marian throughout her life featured during the funeral mass.

Former RTE producer Peter Browne started the mass with a rendition of ‘The Bright Lady’ on the uileann pipes while John McCrossan gave the first reading.

The second reading was given by close friend and RTE producer Claire Duignan.

Prayers of the faithful were read by her step-children and relatives Georgia, Rory and Jude Clarke alongside Joanne Hassett and Paul Colgan.

Ryan Tubridy arrives at St Brigids Church Kill. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Ryan Tubridy arrives at St Brigids Church Kill. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Leo Hassett and Hilary Colgan brought up the Offerty Gifts before a rendition of ‘Ag Críost an Síol.’

Her beloved son Jack gave the final eulogy. She was due to become a grandmother next month and was with him in India shortly before her sudden death.

He began by saying, "Those of us who knew her well knew that mam was never more than a deep or meaningul conversation, or emotional story, away from having a good old cry and as her only son you'll understand if I shed a few myself as I speak to you."

He spoke about how people "across the length and breadth of the country" have their "own personal experience or, and relationship with, Marian" and the "many versions of her", among them "the mother, the wife, the sister, the aunt, the step-mother, the mother-in-law, the friend, the colleague, the journalist, the radio host, the social commentator, the activist and the architect".

"The woman I knew behind all these selves was a shy lady who was as happy to read a book in silence as she was sitting around the dinner table in the small hours of the morning with friends laughing, joking, singing, when she could remember the words, debating the politics of the day and generally sorting out the world's problems one dinner party at a time."

The final musical piece is Mo Ghile Mear.

Originally from Glasnevin, Marian trained as an architect before starting with RTE in 1974 when she joined the station as a continuity announcer.

She began presenting Women Today in 1979, a radio programme which concentrated on highlighting female-focused issued. She then became the first presenter of the now-iconic Liveline programme.

When Gay Byrne retired in 1999, she took over his radio slot with the Marian Finucane Show while Joe Duffy took up the mantle on Liveline.

In 2005, she moved over onto weekend radio and her show went on to become one of the most popular shows on the airwaves, regularly pulling in over 360,000 listeners.

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