Politicians, academics, journalists, and the public have been paying tribute to current affairs mastermind Brian Farrell who died yesterday morning.
The veteran RTÉ broadcaster, author and lecturer, who was 85, had been ill for some time. His funeral takes place on Friday morning after Mass at the Church of the Holy Cross near his home in Dundrum, Dublin.
President Michael D Higgins led the tributes, hailing Mr Farrell as an “outstanding broadcaster and political commentator” who “in so many ways he set the standard for others to follow.”
Mr Farrell was with RTÉ from the start of broadcasting in 1962, and worked on current affairs programmes over four decades, including Broadsheet, Newsbeat, 7 Days, Today Tonight and Prime Time.
He chaired the first ever pre-election leaders debate, between Charles Haughey and Garrett Fitzgerald; anchored count coverage for local, general, and European elections; and provided live commentary on state funerals and other occasions of national importance.
RTÉ director general Noel Curran led tributes from the station, saying: “Brian Farrell was one of the most respected and talented current affairs presenters ever to appear on RTÉ.
“His incisive analysis was paired with a unique presentation style and a depth of knowledge about Irish politics that was extraordinary. He was also a fantastic colleague.
“Wise, witty, supportive but also not afraid to challenge, he was a hugely positive presence on the current affairs team.”
Prime Time presenter Miriam O’Callaghan said: “Brian Farrell was the finest and kindest broadcaster I ever worked with. We all learned so much from the master interrogator. A true gentleman.”
He also lectured in politics for many years at University College Dublin. The chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Maurice Manning, described him as “an outstanding broadcaster, a fine academic, and an inspiring lecturer but most of all a man of great courtesy and decency”.
Politicians respected and feared him, knowing his depth of knowledge would quickly expose any lacking in their’s. Tánaiste Joan Burton described him as a “formidable interviewer”.
“Brian was able to translate the complex affairs of politics into something that the ordinary man on the street could understand. As an anchor and an interviewer, he brought politics to life and made it interesting and relevant for viewers.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said: “I have fond memories of being interviewed by Brian. As a young second-level student I was captivated by his presentation of current affairs which acted as a catalyst for attracting the interest of many young people to politics.”
The National Union of Journalists said Mr Farrell “believed in public service”, serving on the Commission on the Newspaper Industry, the Arts Council, and the National Archives Advisory Council with “common sense, academic rigour, and a unique understanding of Irish society”. He was also the first director general of the Institute for European Affairs.
Mr Farrell was born in Manchester in 1929 but grew up in Ireland and was educated in UCD and Harvard. He is survived by his wife Marie-Therese; sons Bernard, David, Theo, and Brian; and daughters Naomi, Miriam, and Rachel.
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