'Her importance cannot be overestimated': Tributes paid to 'trailblazer' Marian Finucane

'Her importance cannot be overestimated': Tributes paid to 'trailblazer' Marian Finucane

Tributes continue to pour in for RTE broadcaster Marian Finucane, who died suddenly yesterday at the age of 69.

Ms Finucane died at her home. It is believed she passed away in her sleep.

Books of condolence have opened at RTÉ and Kildare County Council offices in Naas for those wishing to pay tribute.

Miriam O’Callaghan described her as a "trailblazer".

"She was the most wonderful broadcaster, her importance cannot be overestimated, she was a trailblazer," she said.

A book of condolence for Marian Finucane at RTE radio centre today. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
A book of condolence for Marian Finucane at RTE radio centre today. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

"Her interview with Nuala O Faolain was the best I have ever heard. She was a brilliant journalist but was not interested in the celebrity side, she shied away from it."

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said his abiding memory of Marian Finucane was of her studio desk covered in newspapers. He wondered how order could come from something that looked so chaotic, but it always did.

"She had a deep fluency, a great work ethic and a professional attitude," he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

She reminded me of how much we have changed as a country.

Former president Mary Robinson told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that Marian Finucane had an empathy and commanding tone and the questions she asked were astute and very honest.

“She had an amazing capacity to draw people out. It’s a skill to be a great listener.”

Ms Robinson said that the Women Today programme had spoken out on issues for the first time which had been a very courageous thing to do, such as the story when Ms Finucane accompanied an Irish woman who went to the UK to have an abortion.

“That was something people didn’t want to listen to.”

Her interview with Nuala O Faolin had been very significant and must have helped a lot of people, she said. “Nobody else could have done that interview.”

“She was important because she was a trailblazer, she was honest. She always moved agendas, she just went on blazing that trail, she wasn’t afraid of Church or State.”

'Her importance cannot be overestimated': Tributes paid to 'trailblazer' Marian Finucane

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told Newstalk Breakfast that the Marian Finucane programme “was a programme you would go on because you felt you got a good opportunity to state your case.

“You always felt you would be allowed to develop your point, you could tease things out to the listening audience. You would be allowed to answer.

“In difficult times, the programme to go on was Marian’s. She had that calm voice. You could clearly see that she was following an issue all week, she had a deep knowledge of issues, she sounded all relaxed, but she was tremendously detailed."

Broadcaster Joe Duffy paid tribute to Marian Finucane highlighting “her empathy, her voice, her sympathy, the trust people had in her.”

He told Newstalk Breakfast that he did not know her party politics because she asked the questions so that listeners could form their own opinion.

“She was a very fair broadcaster who inspired incredible loyalty in her producers who moved programmes with her.

“People felt they would get a fair hearing from her. People had an instinctive trust in her voice. Her anger, her emotions were real, her disdain was real when it came.”

'Her importance cannot be overestimated': Tributes paid to 'trailblazer' Marian Finucane

The Chairwoman of RTÉ, Moya Doherty described the death of Marian Finucane as “shocking and truly sad.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland Ms Doherty paid tribute to the late broadcaster and said it was important to recognise her control and her ability to reinvent herself.

“She could properly keep emotions out of it to reveal profound insights. Marian’s talent was unique. Over her decades in broadcasting she held up a mirror to ourselves.

Today is the day to celebrate that talent.

RTÉ’s head of radio, Tom McGuire told the Today with Séan O’Rourke show that he learned of the death of Marian Finucane when he phoned her mobile phone and her husband answered and told him that she had died in her sleep.

The broadcaster had been totally unflappable “because of her belief in her team. She was brilliant with her programme teams, there was a great level of trust. She loved a really good brief.”

One of the first producers of the Women Today programme, Betty Purcell, who is a close friend of Marian Finucane, said that the late broadcaster had a “steely side” and she knew the importance of the women’s movement.

“She wasn’t an idealist, but she was committed and brave and strong. She was courageous as well as skilled. We always felt she had our back.

She could see into people’s hearts and get the best of them.”

Ms Purcell said that everything Ms Finucane “put her hand to, she did so with more than competency, she did brilliantly.”

“She was not at all intimidated.

“She was a good human being and a committed human being.”

Former colleague of Marian Finucane, Doireann Ní Bhriain said that the late broadcaster was “equipped to handle every story.

“She had an incredible brain, a huge curiosity. She could connect with people. She didn’t have a broadcasting ego, she was very private and wasn’t interested in celebrity culture.”

Ms Ní Bhriain spoke of the letters the ground breaking show Women Today had received many of which were highly critical. “I’m so glad that Twitter was not around then. People couldn’t cope with this honesty.”

Charity chief executive Niall Mellon has said that the charitable foundation set up by Marian Finucane and her husband has provided meals to over two million children over the past 18 years.

Their charity, based in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa was set up to care for orphans and children in need following the death of the couple’s daughter.

“Marian and John became my heroes in how they managed their pain to help other children,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.

She was a very private person, for Marian and John their journey in South Africa was very personal and private for them.

Mr Mellon said that when one walked into a studio to be interviewed by Ms Finucane “you knew she wouldn’t hold back, but that you would get a fair hearing.

“She had a lot left to give. Her time wasn’t finished.”

Ms Finucane had only recently returned from a holiday in India and had been due to return to her Saturday morning radio programme.

Latest figures for her show - which showed consistent audience increases throughout the year - were 343,000 for Saturday and 290,000 for Sunday.

No arrangements have been finalised about her funeral but they are expected to be delayed to allow for her son Jack to return from India.

Tonight's Late Late Show is expected to feature a tribute to Ms Finucane while The Marian Finucane Show will be presented by Rachael English on Saturday morning.

The two-hour programme will feature tributes from Ireland and around the world from colleagues and friends who will be reflecting upon some of her best moments in broadcasting. Brendan O'Connor will present the show on Sunday morning.

She is survived by her husband John and son Jack.

Additional reporting by Digital Desk

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