Tributes paid to Marian Finucane: A formidable, wise, sensitive broadcaster

President, colleagues and politicians recall her skill and trailblazing feminist legacy

President Michael D Higgins said the country had lost a “deeply respected, trusted and much loved broadcaster” who had become central to her profession.  Photograph:  Dara Mac Dónaill

President Michael D Higgins said the country had lost a “deeply respected, trusted and much loved broadcaster” who had become central to her profession. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Marian Finucane was remembered as a formidable radio presence who had throughout a decades-long career held the pulse of a nation.

Within moments of her death being confirmed by RTÉ on Thursday evening, tributes started to pour in, remembering the broadcaster whose voice in recent years anchored the airwaves on weekend mornings.

President Michael D Higgins said the country had lost a “deeply respected, trusted and much loved broadcaster” who had become central to her profession.

“Many will remember the wisdom and sensitivity with which Marian Finucane dealt with discussions and confrontations between different voices on what were controversial issues of the day,” he said.

“She was one of the very early exemplars to those who sought a proper representation of women in broadcasting.”

Dee Forbes, RTÉ director general described her as a person “of immense capability; a household name, she was first and foremost a tenacious journalist with a zeal for breaking new ground”.

Throughout her career, she noted, Ms Finucane had “tackled the big social issues of the day with command and insight”.

“Multi-skilled, she forged a distinguished career on television, as well as undertaking significant charity work in Africa. Ireland has lost a unique voice. RTÉ has lost a beloved colleague.”

Vincent Browne, with whom Marian Finucane worked on the short-lived Status magazine in the early 1980s, described her as “one of the leading feminist campaigners at the time”. He put the magazine’s lack of success down to a reticence among advertisers due to its feminist content.

Mr Browne recalled in particular Ms Finucane’s radio interviews with the late Nuala O’Faolain and, more recently, the chair of RTÉ Moya Doherty regarding the broadcaster’s ailing finances which he said he found “revealing of the mindset within RTÉ”.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Finucane’s interviewing technique became the focus of tributes. Journalist Olivia O’Leary praised her ability to ask the kind of questions her audience would want answered.

“The wonderful thing about her was that as an interviewer and as a presenter she never needed to show how clever she was or how much she knew,” she told RTÉ Radio shortly after the death was announced.

“She was never afraid of asking what might sound like a stupid question – she asked the simple question and she kept on asking it until she got an answer.

“You felt very at home with her and you really did feel she was asking the questions that you wanted to hear asked.”

Joe Duffy, who took over the Liveline radio programme after Ms Finucane, also paid tribute to her “trailblazing” legacy.

“She invented Liveline. It was her way, her voice; she was the voice of reason,” he said.

“Everyone knew they would get a fair hearing off Marian be it a priest, a prime minister, a politician, a local organiser or just an ordinary citizen phoning in with their story.”

Eamon Dunphy, a colleague, “admirer” and regular guest on Ms Finucane’s show said the longevity of her broadcasting success was a reflection of her “sensibility to understand national concerns, the concerns of the wider public; she wasn’t living in a media bubble”.

He said she was probably the first woman to rise to such heights in an organisation where female success would not have been common.

“She was a very interesting and formidable woman and her roots were originally in the feminist movement,” he said.

“She had a scepticism which is essential to be a really good journalist.”

Jim Jennings, RTÉ director of content, described her as having had “the pulse of the nation” and who, with her work on the Women Today programme, had “tackled issues that were largely uncovered and unspoken” at the time.

The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Ms Finucane could “hold politicians from all parties and none to account on her hugely popular weekend shows, which was to the fore on social and current affairs issues.”

Marian Finucane, 1950-2020

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