Bird to leave RTÉ nest after 38 years

 

RTÉ’s legendary newsman Charlie Bird is to leave the broadcaster after 38 years.

Bird (62) informed RTÉ management today that he intends to depart within three weeks. His stint as fill-in presenter on the Marian Finucane Show this weekend may be his last broadcast.

Mr Bird said he will be 63 in a few weeks time. “I’ve been in RTÉ a long time. I have finally made up my mind. It took me a while. I feel it is time for me to move on.”

He stressed that he is only retiring from RTÉ but would not be retiring from work “under any circumstances,” adding: “I’m only 63. I haven’t even thought what I’m going to do next.”

He explained that, being so close to retirement anyway, he could have gone at any time and one advantage of going now was that his package would based on his salary before cuts were implemented. “I’m not getting a huge amount of money because I’m going early,” the journalist said.

When asked if he would work for rival private broadcasters, he responded: “At the moment I have no idea. That’s for the future. I want new challenges, and I think I have plenty in me.”

Bird is the best known and arguably the most popular of RTÉ’s reporters. His first big scoop was interviewing the jailed Irish priest Fr Niall O’Brien in the Philippines in 1983.

The journalist also acted as a conduit between the IRA and RTÉ during the ceasefire negotiations leading up to the Belfast Agreement in 1998. In that year he was also involved with George Lee in breaking the National Irish Bank story involving former Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Cooper-Flynn selling offshore life assurance products that facilitated tax avoidance by customers of the bank.

He was the chief news reporter when he became RTÉ’s Washington correspondent in 2008. The move proved to be a mistake, however, as Bird admitted to homesickness and came home after a year.

He claimed to have enjoyed “every minute” of his 38 years in RTÉ - even his time in Washington. “I have had ups and downs. You don’t stay in a place for 38 years without enjoying it,” he said. “I came back from Washington for personal reasons. I missed my two daughters. I love America.”

When asked what his favourite moment was in RTÉ, he responded: “Today’s not the day for that. I know what I have done.”