'Very easy to love': Tributes paid to Eurovision winning songwriter Shay Healy

A talented songwriter, Shay Healy penned Johnny Logan's first Eurovision Song Contest winner What's Another Year in 1980.
'Very easy to love': Tributes paid to Eurovision winning songwriter Shay Healy

Johnny Logan pictured with Shay Healy at Dublin's Sugar Club where friends and family gathered to raise a glass to the broadcaster Shay Healy, his songs and his TV shows. Picture Andres Poveda

Tributes have been paid to Shay Healy, the former RTÉ broadcaster and Eurovision winning songwriter, who has died at the age of 78.

Originally from Sandymount in Dublin, he joined RTÉ in 1963 as a trainee cameraman and enjoyed a long career presenting programmes such as Twenty Minutes With..., Ballad Sheet and Hoot'nany.

Between 1988 and 1992 Healy hosted RTÉ's Nighthawks, a late-night satirical chat show, which he later described as "the best four years of my working life".

In 1992, the show became embroiled in controversy following Healy's interview with the former minister for justice Sean Doherty about phone tapping which eventually led to the resignation of Charles Haughey as taoiseach.

Healy enjoyed a long career presenting programmes such as Twenty Minutes With..., Ballad Sheet and Hoot'nany. Picture: Collins, Dublin
Healy enjoyed a long career presenting programmes such as Twenty Minutes With..., Ballad Sheet and Hoot'nany. Picture: Collins, Dublin

A talented songwriter, Shay Healy penned Johnny Logan's first Eurovision Song Contest winner What's Another Year in 1980.

Speaking to RTÉ radio this morning, Logan said his death was "very hard to take".

"Shay was very easy to like and very easy to love. My thoughts and prayers are with his sons. I am sure they are heartbroken."

He recalled how Healy approached him during the 1979 Castlebar Song Contest.

"He told me that he had a song, and wanted me to perform it [if chosen to represent Ireland] at the Eurovision. That is how the story of What's Another Year began."

He also wrote a number of songs for Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, including The Orient Express-a tale of intrigue and cross-dressing, The Shitkickers Waltz, and The Country & Western Supersong.

President Michael D Higgins said Healy was a "household name" whose talents extended "across so many areas".

In a statement, President Higgin said: "The range of his song-writing was such that it included not just songs that could compete with real prospect at Eurovision, but also songs that responded to contemporary events and that could take their place in the folk community.

"The programme Nighthawks in which he worked for RTÉ was quite brilliant in its composition and execution and was significant for being one of those programmes which were able to move around the country."

Shay Healy and Brendan Gleeson at a screening of O'Donaghue's Opera at the Irish Film Archive in Temple Bar, Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins
Shay Healy and Brendan Gleeson at a screening of O'Donaghue's Opera at the Irish Film Archive in Temple Bar, Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins

President Higgins says to have known Healy as a friend was "a great privilege."

Taoiseach Micheál Martin tweeted a tribute to Shay Healy saying "he brought so much joy with his Eurovision success, and informed millions with his skilful interviews."

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin described Healy as "a gifted songwriter and a national treasure".

In a statement, Ms Martin said: “His beautiful songwriting inspired a generation of Irish artists to take their place on the world stage.

“His time as a broadcaster brought Shay into our homes where the Irish public fell in love with the man and with his irreverent and vital spirit.

“His battle with Parkinson’s Disease in his later years was so difficult but also a source of great inspiration for many dealing with the same struggles."

In 2004, Healy was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease but continued to perform and work.

He is survived by his two sons, Oisin and Fionain, and predeceased by his wife Dymphna.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence