BEST wishes for all the strength he needs and the prayers of St Gobnait have been sent from Macroom and the wider Múscraí community to one of Ireland’s most renowned reporters, Charlie Bird, after he spoke of his recently confirmed diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease on Joe Duffy’s Liveline prorgramme on Wednesday.
Now retired for several years, Charlie Bird, whose parents both hailed from Macroom, the former RTÉ reporter had revealed on his Twitter account how months of concern over a speech difficulty he had developed had led to tests which led to the devastating news that he had contracted to incurable illness.
Reaction to the revelation was swift with expressions of support coming from his former colleagues on RTÉ and many other friends in the media and wider society.
His link to Macroom through his parents was referred to by Cllr Michael Creed, the chairman of Macroom and Millstreet Municipal District Council, as he extended best wishes to the retired reporter on behalf of the town.
“I’d like to wish Charlie all the best, his parents came from the town,” said Cllr Creed.
“We’re all aware of how tough and challenging an illness Motor Neurone disease is.”
Charlie, who earned a reputation for breaking exclusive news stories such as the scandal of tax evasion at the National Irish Bank. a story on which he worked with RTÉ colleague George Lee, as well as the IRA ceasefires, the two wars in Iraq and the Love Ulster riot in Dublin in 2006. He was also RTÉ’s Washington correspondent.
Speaking on Liveline, he said that he had been on a walk on St Patrick’s Day when he was overcome with a coughing fit which was unlike he had had previously. As weeks went by he began to develop difficulties with his speech, difficulties which meant he felt he couldn’t take part in broadcast interviews about stories he’d done.
That set off a series of tests over several months whch led to the confirmation of a diagnosis earlier this week.
“I’m hanging in, I’m just dealing with it,” he told the Liveline listeners.
“It’s simple, Joe, people get knocks every day and I’ve got a knock in the last few days and, yeah, it’s hard to cope with but I’m dealing with it.
“On Budget Day, I was listening to the Claire Byrne Show and there was a young kid on and he was crying because he had scoliosis and he wasn’t getting an operation - Joe, that broke my heart, I knew then that I had Motor Neurone Disease though it hadn’t been officially diagnosed but I knew in my heart but when I was listening to that kid (Adam Terry), I was crying.”
He said that his troubles were in the halfpenny place in comparison.
An advocate for elderly people in recent months, Charlie had spoken out about the harsh treatment people over 70 cocooning had been receiving.
In 2011, Charlie Bird was honoured as one of the ‘storytelling heroes’ of the inaugural Féile na Laoch held in Cúil Aodha.
Among the wishes for the strength needed as he faces his Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis was a promise to offer prayers for his well being at St Gobnait’s shrine in Baile Mhúirne.