Tuesday 25 June 2019

O'Faolain dies surrounded by her family and friends

Tributes praise ‘iron will’ of late author

Author Nuala O'Faolain spent her last weeks and months travelling after being diagnosed with cancer in February
Author Nuala O'Faolain spent her last weeks and months travelling after being diagnosed with cancer in February
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THOUSANDS of mourners are expected to bring the streets to a standstill for the funeral of author and journalist Nuala O'Faolain.

The writer died surrounded by family and friends less than a month since she had taken part in a heartwrenching radio interview, revealing her terminal cancer.

Massive crowds are expected to turn out for the removal of the author to the Church of the Visitation, Fairview, in Dublin, today at 5.30pm.

The funeral Mass will take place at 12pm tomorrow before removal to Glasnevin crematorium.

Ms O'Faolain (68) died on Friday almost three months to the day since she was first diagnosed with terminal cancer at a New York hospital on February 8.

Friend and broadcaster Marian Finucane, who had interviewed Ms O'Faolain about her impending death, said she had never before encountered such a response to an interview in her broadcasting career.

A flood of emails remarking on the fear Ms O'Faolain had expressed continued to pour into the radio show, up until the writer's death late on Friday night at the Blackrock Hospice.

Ms O'Faolain is survived by five sisters, one brother, her partner John Low-Beer, and a wide circle of friends.

In the radio interview on April 12, Ms O'Faolain spoke of how her "life turned black" as she learned of her diagnosis with cancer six weeks earlier.

She said: "Even if I gained time through the chemotherapy it isn't time I want. Because as soon as I knew I was going to die soon, the goodness went out of life."

Journalist Nell McCafferty, who shared Ms O'Faolain's life for 15 years, said yesterday she was "proud" of the woman she had known, who had spoken out about her fear of dying in the radio interview.


"I took pleasure and pride that the woman I knew, though she was afraid and very ill nevertheless, used what remained of her life with panache, style and exquisite good taste in her travels," her former partner said.

"The culture of dying has changed, Nuala has changed that and the culture of loving has changed," she added.

Ms O'Faolain had decided to stop her radiation treatment. Instead, during the months between her diagnosis and death, she had travelled to Paris, made a trip to see art works in Madrid and visited the Berlin Opera.

Only the Sunday before her death, she had returned from her travels to Sicily with her sisters and close friends.

"She was quite determined to do it even though at that stage she was slipping. She was in a wheelchair, her right side wasn't working at all and she had other complications. But she has a will of iron, that woman," Finucane said.

She said the overwhelming response to the radio broadcast had given Ms O'Faolain "a great bounce".

Ms Finucane said she would remember her as a terrific friend, great fun and a person who had the ability to make life brighter.

Chair of the Arts Council, Olive Braiden, said Ms O'Faolain may have been best known for her journalism but she was also a wonderful teacher and lecturer.

Arts Minister Martin Cullen spoke of her "searing honesty, particularly in recent weeks in relation to her illness had a profound impact on many people."

Nuala O'Faolain was educated at University College Dublin, the University of Hull and Oxford University.

In 2006, she was awarded France's prestigious Prix Femina for 'The Story of Chicago May'.

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