Kate Shanahan: 'Each step forward was a rebuke to forces that held back earlier generations of women'
Marian Finucane was the first presenter I produced live as a young trainee in RTÉ Radio 1.
Then presenting 'Liveline', she had made the programme her own, its mixture of the personal and the political made for a then rare combination.
Marian was the slightly sceptical friend you were telling your best story to. If she believed a caller, then so did everyone else.
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If she didn't, her probing questions highlighted the fault-lines in a particular take or set of opinions.
As a young student I'd attended a live broadcast of her iconic 'Women Today' programme. It was full of the kind of women Éamon de Valera had described as making for the "most unmanageable revolutionaries".
To be sitting in the hot seat telling the doyenne of Irish broadcasting what calls to go to next felt surreal.
The series producer had warned me about the 'ten-tos', the zinger questions Marian would ask of her producer 10 minutes before air, the most obvious being "why are we doing this item", or the even scarier "do we know this to be a fact". In her talk to trainee producers she had issued one warning, "don't lie to me, I have to be able to trust you", a mantra I often used years later when leading research teams myself.
The old adage of being careful when you meet your heroes did not apply in Marian's case. Her warmth towards, and support of, younger women was shown by the fact so many of them loved working with her.
Her endless curiosity about people extended to the people around her. She was great company, witty, convivial and loyal. The sharp intellect was softened by a humanity that came from personal experience. The loss of her daughter at a young age made her particularly sensitive to grief in others.
Current affairs presenters have to ask tough questions, but she never lost sight of the fact the person in front of her was, if flawed, still human.
As her path into broadcasting was a circuitous one - she had initially studied to be an architect - she had an appetite for intellectual stimulation that went beyond the daily grind of programme-making. Being challenged was something she relished. The strictures of public service broadcasting meant she had to be careful of expressing bias, but she did have strong opinions.
As a woman on air, and a mould-breaker, she was subject to a much more critical gaze. If it fazed her, you would never have guessed so. Hers was a generation of women who had grown to adulthood in a State which had denied women many basic rights. In many ways she had been so weathered in earlier activism that each step forward was a rebuke to the forces that had held back earlier generations of women.
Her authority came from lived experience. It is still really difficult for women to progress in broadcasting, to survive and thrive, especially in current affairs. Marian Finucane believed she should have a place at the top table.
Kate Shanahan is head of Journalism and Communications at TU Dublin School of Media