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Broadcaster and journalist Charlie Bird to be awarded freedom of Wicklow

The former RTÉ legend is battling Motor Neurone Disease and lives in Ashford, County Wicklow with wife Claire and dog Tiger.

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Charlie Bird and his dog Tiger at his home in Ashford, Co Wicklow. Picture by Gerry Mooney

Charlie Bird and his dog Tiger at his home in Ashford, Co Wicklow. Picture by Gerry Mooney

Charlie Bird and his dog Tiger at his home in Ashford, Co Wicklow. Picture by Gerry Mooney

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Legendary broadcaster and journalist Charlie Bird, who has raised more than €3million for charity this year despite suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, is to be given the freedom of Wicklow, following a vote at Monday’s Wicklow County Council meeting.

Cllr Paul O’Brien, the Cathaoirleach of the Wicklow Municipal District, spoke at length of the impact the Ashford resident’s work has had throughout his life when proposing the resolution that he be given the freedom of Wicklow, describing him as ‘an absolute inspiration’ and recalling what it was like for him when his own grandfather passed from Motor Neurone Disease.

"Unfortunately I know of this cruel disease all too well as my own grandad John O’Neill passed away from it on the 21st of January 2000, one of his last statements was “did I reach the millennium”,” said Cllr O’Brien. “I honestly don’t know how any of you would react to hearing of this dreadful diagnosis, I don’t know how I would either, but Charlie has become an absolute inspiration to us all since he received this dreadful news.

“Growing up we were all too familiar with Charlie on TV as a reporter with RTÉ, covering some of the most traumatic events in recent Irish history. Never one from backing down, he encountered violence in his own profession and was viciously assaulted himself while trying to bring us the news. For many years in the 1990s, Charlie was the only point of contact between RTÉ and the Provisional IRA. He witnessed at first hand the ceasefires and the subsequent twists and turns of the peace process, while also breaking other important news stories.”

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"On the international front, Charlie reported on both Gulf Wars and was in Syria for the release of Brian Keenan. Charlie also reported on many tragedies that shook the world along with some historic ones such as the death of Senator Ted Kennedy.”

Cllr O’Brien fondly remembered the Charlie Bird Explores series, a collection of documentaries visiting the Amazon, Ganges and Arctic between 2006 and 2008, and explained exactly why he deserves the freedom of Wicklow.

"He has brought about an awareness to Motor Neurone never seen before and has raised over €3million for charity in the process,” he told fellow councillors. “I know Charlie is a very humble man and doesn’t see himself as inspirational, but colleagues he is.

"I know we don’t always see eye to eye at times in this chamber, but today we have the opportunity to speak and act as one and award Charlie Bird the freedom of Wicklow, an honour Charlie richly deserves and one we can bestow on him. So on behalf of Cllr (Anne) Ferris and myself, I humbly ask you all to support this resolution.”

The resolution passed via unanimous vote, and upon hearing the news, true to form, Mr Bird was humbled.

"I have just heard that tonight Wicklow County Council voted unanimously to award me the freedom of Wicklow,” tweeted Mr Bird. “I will do my best to live up to that honour. And thanks for extending the hand of friendship to me.”

Mr Bird lives in Ashford, County Wicklow with wife Claire and dog Tiger.


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