STARS, film professionals and presenters paid tribute to veteran documentary maker and journalist Cathal O’Shannon during a ceremony marking his life in television.
The 83-year-old broadcasting legend was honoured by the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA), surrounded by a host of friends and fellow presenters.
Remembered for his wide repertoire of work across the globe, the north Dublin man was greeted with warm messages from his peers during celebrations at the Conrad hotel in the city centre.
Director John McColgan, of Riverdance fame, praised Mr O’Shannon’s lengthy career as well as the journalist’s renowned story-telling ability.
He said: “Cathal O’Shannon is a distinctive voice in Irish broadcasting for over 40 years. His combination of curiosity, integrity, good humour and good writing has enlivened his wide-ranging television output.
“He is great company and an endearing rascal who can tell some of the most scandalous and outrageous stories you are ever likely to hear.”
The journalist’s career included working on RTÉ’s magazine programme Broadsheet before he joined BBC’s Tonight in 1964. Later, he conducted one of the biggest interviews in the history of Irish television when he interviewed Muhammad Ali for 52 minutes in front of a studio audience.
He also made the award-winning documentaries, Even The Olives are Bleeding, Emmet Dalton Remembers, and series such as Thou Shalt Not Kill, which revisited 13 of Ireland’s most chilling murders.
During an interview with broadcaster Gay Byrne at the award ceremony yesterday, Mr O’Shannon recalled his interview with legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali.
“His warmth, and the size of his shagging boots. His hands, Gay, were no bigger than mine but he had the biggest feet you’ve ever seen.
“He must have been wearing size 17s, they were gigantic. He’d done hundreds of interviews so really it wasn’t that my interview with him was so good, he was good at my interview. I felt a certain warmth towards him and I thought I saw a warmth in his eyes.”
Other tributes and messages to the veteran television professional were paid by investigative journalist Donal MacIntyre, Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy, as well author Maeve Binchy.
Accepting his Life in Television Tribute to a standing ovation, Mr O’Shannon himself said: “Might I just say how flattered I am by this fantastic greeting. I don’t deserve it, but I do really. Thank you very much.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved