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'She was exceptional' - Miriam's tribute to 'warm, fun, kind' Keelin

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Keelin Shanley. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Keelin Shanley. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Keelin Shanley. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Miriam O'Callaghan has told of her grief following the passing of her dear friend and colleague Keelin Shanley.

Mother-of-two Ms Shanley died peacefully on Saturday nine years after first being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ms O'Callaghan was among the many of Ms Shanley's friends and workmates on the front line for RTÉ's election coverage yesterday.

She spoke of the difficulty in carrying on with her work so soon after Ms Shanley's death, aged 51.

"I loved Keelin - she was the most beautiful person, inside and out," Ms O'Callaghan told the Irish Independent.

"Kind, fun, warm, loyal - just the most wonderful colleague and friend you could ever hope to have.

"As a journalist, she was truly exceptional - the broadness of her range, her ability to communicate with anyone from every walk of life, her care, concern and interest for the most marginalised in our society, - three of her 'Prime Time' investigations won many awards - and above all else, her extraordinary empathy.

"I wasn't able to talk about her on Saturday as I was too upset, and even yesterday when people in our election studio were paying tribute to her, I had to just say I loved her as I was starting to cry.

"Life is just too cruel sometimes.

"I am brokenhearted for her precious [husband] Conor, [and children] Ben and Lucy."

A photo of Ms Shanley was placed on her desk in RTÉ along with candles as colleagues remembered her.

On what could well be the busiest day of the year for the media, it was apt that Ms Shanley's work ethic as a journalist was echoed time and again as tributes continued to pour in yesterday.

It was her love for life and care-free personality that colleagues were reminded of.

"If Keelin was here, she would be loving every minute of it," Rachael English said.

"Not only was she a compassionate journalist, she was an intelligent, honest journalist and as importantly as that she was a wonderful, warm, funny colleague.

"She was just a joy to work with, she always was.

"I spent a little time working with Keelin on 'Morning Ireland' and you were always happy to see her there because not only was she great at her job, she could be a real divil as well. She was just the best fun."

A book of condolences was opened yesterday in RTÉ, where colleagues, among others, came to pay their own tributes to the journalist.

Ms Shanley won multiple awards, three Iftas, as she reported on 'Prime Time' for more than 10 years.

She reported from a number of developing countries for the 'Far Away Up Close' strand.

These included documentaries on the plight of child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and the rebuilding of Liberia.

Sean O'Rourke remembered a time before that, when as a pair of younger journalists they worked together on radio.

Mr O'Rourke described the oddity of working on such a busy day with "a cloud over the whole day".

"She was as sweet as she was sharp," he said.

"I had the good fortune to work with her initially 25 or more years ago.

"She was always wonderful to work with, a great presence in the studio, a great voice.

"We miss her and we will miss her and continue to miss her, my absolute sympathy and condolences to all of her family and friends.

"The show goes on on election day, but there is a cloud over the whole day.

"Keelin Shanley, a wonderful colleague, may she rest in peace."

Ms Shanley grew up in Monkstown, Co Dublin, and studied biochemistry at Trinity College.

She worked for a period as a researcher before her career in broadcasting, which began with stints as a news reporter for Radio France International and CNN World Report.

The longest period in her working life, however, was spent at RTÉ.

Her last position there was as anchor of the 'Six One News' on RTÉ One. She was appointed in the position in 2018, alongside co-anchor Caitriona Perry.

Ms Perry paid tribute to her colleague on social media, saying: "It was my tremendous privilege to have been Keelin's co-anchor but more importantly to have been her friend.

"She was a superstar - an exceptional journalist, a generous colleague, and just so much fun. My heart is broken but my thoughts are with her beloved family."

Ms Shanley is survived by her husband Conor and two children, Ben and Lucy.

Also paying his respects, Jon Williams, managing director of RTÉ News and Current Affairs, reflected on her positivity despite her cancer diagnosis.

He said: "The fact that [Keelin] presented our flagship 'Six One News' while dealing with cancer is inspirational in itself and so typical of her determination to live life to the full."

He described how Ms Shanley had "worked through chemo and treatment" when first diagnosed in 2011 on polling day.

"When it returned, she did so again - defying pain to present 'Six One', determined to live life to the full, until no longer possible to do so," Mr Williams said.

He added that the presenter had a smile which "could light up a room" and said she had battled the disease "with the same equanimity and good humour [she] brought to everything else".

RTÉ director-general Dee Forbes said: "Everybody at RTÉ is deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague and friend."

Irish Independent