A Light That Never Goes Out by Keelin Shanley: a down-to-earth account of a life well lived

Late RTÉ journalist’s memoir avoids mawkishness through its matter-of-fact approach and self-deprecating humour

 Keelin Shanley with reporter Aisling Riordan and editor Anthony Murnane in the RTÉ Television Centre in Donnybrook. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Keelin Shanley with reporter Aisling Riordan and editor Anthony Murnane in the RTÉ Television Centre in Donnybrook. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

“It’s a funny thing to suggest that you can somehow get used to the idea of dying, but you can. You’d be surprised.” Written as force of nature Keelin Shanley was preparing for her death, A Light That Never Goes Out is at once an account of a life that was, by any measure, extraordinary and a love letter to life itself.

In 2013, some two years after her first bout with cancer, Shanley was interviewed by Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show. Watching the interview back, she thought perhaps she had been overly cheerful about her illness. “But my intention wasn’t to make light of things - it was simply to show that people can and do face the ‘C’ word and overcome it. I am struck by what I say at the end: that we have to remember, people die of this disease. At the time, I wasn’t talking about me - I was talking about the unlucky ten per cent of women for whom the disease will return in five years. I never for one moment thought it would be me.”

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