Thursday 22 February 2018

Tributes pour in as Colm loses his long battle

Minute's silence at races for veteran broadcaster

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

TRIBUTES have poured in for "the voice of Irish racing" Colm Murray, who has passed away following a three-year battle with motor neurone disease at the age of 61.

A minute's silence was held in memory of the late RTE broadcaster at Ballybrit racecourse following the news of his death.

For more than 30 years, Mr Murray was an icon of Irish sports broadcasting and was best-known for his passion for horse racing.

Raised in Moate, Co Westmeath, he was a teacher before he joined RTE in 1978 as a continuity announcer.

Five years later he moved into the newsroom, and soon specialised in sports broadcasting, covering seminal sporting events such as the Italia 90 World Cup and the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics in 2000 as well as covering the Cheltenham races every year since 1990.

Mr Murray, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in March 2010, was instrumental in raising awareness of the progressive neurological condition.

A video tribute is paid to Colm at the Galway Races
A video tribute is paid to Colm at the Galway Races
Colm Murray at RTE studios in 2002
Colm Murray and his wife Anne at Aras An Uachtarain in July 2011 where they met President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin
Colm Murray with RTE sports presenters Jacqui Hurley, Justin Treacy and Clare McNamara during a fund raising event for Irish Motor Neurone Disease at Croke Park in September 2011
Colm Murray appearing on the Late Late Show in December 2010
Colm Murray, second left, attending the tipsters' reception for the Irish Grand National at Carton House in April 2009
Colm Murray pictured in April 2009
RTÉ broadcaster Colm Murray pictured in 1979
Colm Murray pictured in 1980
Colm Murray broadcasting from the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh racecourse in May 2003

Last year, he made a documentary charting his struggle with it, which was watched by half a million viewers.

He passed away at his home in Clontarf in Dublin late on Monday, surrounded by his wife Ann and his daughters, Patricia and Kate.

Mr Murray's sister Cathy, who also worked at RTE for more than 30 years, died suddenly in May.

Leading the tributes, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "Colm was the voice of Irish racing for many years and he lit up the coverage of many a racing meet with his passion and enthusiasm for the sport."

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said: "I am really saddened to hear of Colm's death. He fought the illness with great cour-age.

"Colm is somebody that I had known for a very long time. He is somebody that I really liked ... I am really saddened by his death. He'll be sorely missed by his family and by his friends and colleagues."

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said it was poignant that Mr Murray passed away on the opening day of the Galway Races.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Mr Murray was "an icon of Irish sports broadcasting and a gentleman to his fingertips."

At the Galway Races, John Moloney, manager of Ballybrit racecourse, made a decision to pay tribute to Mr Murray a few hours before the first race at 5pm.

"We have lost a great reporter in Colm and my sympathies go out to his wife Ann and their two girls," said Mr Moloney.

Fellow RTE commentator Joe Stack told the Irish Independent that as well as losing a colleague, he had lost a friend.

"It's an extremely sad day that we've all known was coming for a long time, so in a way it's a relief that he's not suffering anymore. It's such a terrible illness because it destroys the body but leaves the mind intact, but he handled himself with such dignity," he said.

Stack continued: "Colm had such affection for these festivals, they meant so much to him. He once asked me to go for a drink at a nearby bar, but it took us 20 minutes to get there because he kept seeing people he knew or who knew him."

Aisling Farrell, chief executive of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, paid tribute to the work Mr Murray did to raise awareness of the condition.

"Colm was a great advocate for the MND community and created enormous awareness around this devastating condition. His courageous battle gave strength to others living with motor neuron disease," she said.

Proud

In 2009 when, for the first time in almost two decades, Mr Murray was not sent to Cheltenham due to RTE budget cutbacks, country music stars Foster and Allen offered to pay to send him over describing it as a "national emergency".

Tony Allen yesterday said Mr Murray was "a proud Moate man" and recalled growing up in the next village over in Mount Temple.

"I remember him as a young chap reading at Mass and even at the age of 12 or 14 he was as well-spoken as when he was in RTE," he said.

Mr Murray's funeral Mass takes place at St Gabriel's Church, Dollymount, at noon tomorrow with burial at St Fintan's Cemetery in Sutton.

His family has asked that mourners do not bring flowers but can make a donation to St Francis Hospice in Raheny.

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