Tributes paid to de Buitléar

Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 00:00

Several generations of Irish people are indebted to Éamon de Buitléar for their knowledge and understanding of Ireland’s national heritage, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Leading the tributes to Mr de Buitléar, who died at his home yesterday aged 83, Mr Higgins said he was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a “great communicator” who will be remembered as an “outstanding” broadcaster in both Irish and English.

“A great communicator, his warm and engaging personality as well as his enthusiasm and knowledge touched people of all ages. He will also be remembered as an accomplished musician,” Mr Higgins said.

Offering sympathies to Mr de Buitléar’s wife and family, Mr Higgins said “Éamon will be hugely missed by all those who had the good fortune to know him.”

Dr Jim Browne, president of NUI Galway, described the broadcaster as “an outstanding figure of modern Ireland”.

“An exceptional film-maker, a committed environmentalist, a public intellectual, author, musician and member of Seanad Éireann”, Mr de Buitléar was a man “of many parts” whose contribution “has enriched the lives of many generations”.

“Most of us can recall Éamon’s passion for the Irish environment, brought to life through his books and television programmes. His enduring legacy will be a sense of respect for the landscape and heritage of Ireland, along with a joyful enthusiasm for the culture and traditions of our nation,” Dr Browne said.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said Mr de Buitléar’s work has been “inspirational and educational” and “gave a new appreciation of our land and wildlife” to generations of Irish people.

Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, described Mr de Buitléar as a pioneer who introduced wildlife conservation and environmentalism to a wider public.

“He introduced us all to ideas which, thanks to his vision, have now become mainstream. He was a leader, and through his films and programmes he became a household name as he explained the importance and value of the environment and biodiversity to generations of Irish people.

“His love for Irish traditional music and the music of Seán Ó Riada, and his long involvement with music group Ceoltóirí Chualann, were also an important part of his life.

“Any person who met Éamon could only be impressed by the depth of his knowledge on the subject of biodiversity and conservation.”

Chairman of the County Wicklow Anglers Association (CWAA) Billy Hannon said the late naturalist, a fellow-member, was "an incredible man in terms of knowledge of wildlife, fish and the environment".

Mr Hannon said he was an "active fisherman" who frequently angled on the Roundwood Reservoir. "He came up every year at this time of the year to give a hand with the boats to get them ready to put them back on the water in March," he said.

"Roundwood Reservoir is protected by bylaws. It's one of the very few natural wild trout fisheries left in the country. Éamon, when he was on the fisheries board, was one of the guys responsible for having it designated as a protected fishery.

"He'll be sorely missed for his wisdom, his knowledge, his advice, his helping hand and his wonderful demeanour," Mr Hannon said.

Mr de Buitléar was was due to take up a position as president of the CWAA next Monday. The post will be left unfilled for a year as a mark of respect, Mr Hannon said.

Speaking this morning, fellow broadcaster Éanna Ní Lamhna said Mr de Buitléar was a “seminal figure”.

“With the beginning of Teilifís Éireann, as it was in the early 1960s, Éamon came with his television programme at that time and he burst upon an unsuspecting Irish public who had no idea about wildlife."

Musician Paddy Glackin said Mr de Buitléar was an “extraordinary man” and “probably the first broadcaster that really brought bilingualism to the fore.”

“He was a very special man, a very inspirational man. A man who gave very much of himself and always encouraged. To people like me and the other younger members of the [Ceoltóirí Chualainn] band, Éamon was a source of great strength and a source of encouragement. He never said to you not to do anything. He would guide you but he would always let you make your own decision and would encourage you in it.”

Fine Gael TD for Wicklow Simon Harris also conveyed his condolences.

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