Women lead tributes to Marian Finucane: ‘It’s nearly like your mother has died’

Books of condolence open at RTÉ and in Naas after broadcaster’s sudden death aged 69

 

Women were to the fore in signing books of condolence for the late broadcaster Marian Finucane, who was remembered on Friday as a “brilliant journalist”, a “strong, powerful voice” and “a hard act to follow”.

The 69-year-old died suddenly on Thursday in her Co Kildare home shortly after returning from a trip to India to attend a friend’s wedding.

Tom McGuire, the head of RTÉ Radio 1, on which Finucane presented two programmes on weekends, said the station learned she had died in her sleep when the production team made a routine call to check on preparations for Saturday’s show.

Women appeared to outnumber men signing books of condolences by about three to one on Friday at both the RTÉ Radio Centre and at the offices of Kildare County Council in Naas, near Finucane’s home in Punchestown.

At Montrose, colleagues and listeners gathered including Sarah Dermody from Donnybrook, who said she had never been moved to sign a book of condolence before.

“For me, Saturday and Sunday mornings just was listening to Marian. She was just a true public service broadcaster, a true voice for women,” she said.

Muriel Haire, from North Brunswick Street in Dublin, was visibly upset.

“I am actually crying for the sadness of it. I just loved Marian Finucane. I followed her from years back. You just felt safe like you were with your sister. She was amazing. I was just very fond of her... I’ll miss her so much,” she said.

‘Walking with Marian’

Sarah Hughes and Jacinta O’Reilly had come in from Ballinteer to pay tribute to the broadcaster.

“We always loved ‘walking with Marian’ in Marlay Park, listening to her as we walked, in our ears. She was brilliant, so down to earth. She was so respectful, tolerant, had a beautiful radio voice. It’s nearly like your mother has died. You trusted her,” Ms O’Reilly said.

Journalist Justine McCarthy said Finucane was “just a brilliant journalist – not just a woman journalist, not just a broadcast journalist, a brilliant journalist.

“She was brave, full of compassion and great integrity and never let the spoofers off,” she said. “For women she made a huge difference in Irish life – she was a role model yet never the token woman.”

A 1999 file photograph of Marian Finucane in the studio during her first day presenting her weekend programme on RTÉ Radio One. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
A 1999 file photograph of Marian Finucane in the studio during her first day presenting her weekend programme on RTÉ Radio One. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Among the written comments was: “Not afraid of state or church. Our big sister will be sadly missed by all Irish people. Will miss you on Saturday and Sundays. Thank you for being my godsend in the 1980s.”

Another wrote: “Ireland has lost a wonderful professional broadcaster. We could do with more of the qualities – respect, ordinary person values...With love and gratitude to Marian, who personally helped me.”

“I am so grateful for your kindness during several interviews. You helped us all to think about life at a deeper level,” signed one, while another commented: “Marian, thank you for being such a strong, powerful voice for us. Rest in peace.”

‘Legend’

In Naas, Zena Walsh, originally from Dublin but living in Naas for more than 30 years, described Ms Finucane as a “legend”.

“She was a fantastic lady...We’re going to miss her more than Gay Byrne, I think.. I didn’t know her personally but I’d see her in the town a few times and she did say hello. She spoke a lot for women, spoke a lot on our behalf. She was very definite in what she said. She was great for us, for women.”

Margie Farraher from Newbridge said she looked up to Finucane as someone who could tackle complex issues in an approachable style.

“I loved her frankness and for being down to earth. [She was] very easy to keep up with and understand...No matter what she was talking about she was very easy to follow and know what was going on in the world.”

Gerardine and Noel Cummins, from Naas, had come into town specially to sign the book.

“I liked listening to her,” said Ms Cummins. “She had a lovely voice, very welcoming warm voice.”

“She was definitely important for women,” said Mr Cummins. “She will be a hard act to follow certainly. There’s not many who will fit that role.”

Saturday

A special episode of The Marian Finucane Show, presented by Rachael English, will air on RTÉ Radio One on Saturday. The two-hour programme will feature tributes from colleagues and friends and reflect on Finucane’s best moments in broadcasting. Regular stand-in presenter Brendan O’Connor will front the show on Sunday morning.

A decision on future arrangements for the 11am to 1pm weekend slots has not yet been made by RTÉ.