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President leads tributes to journalist Charlie Bird

President Michael D Higgins has lead the tributes following the death of former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird, who died at the age of 74 following a long battle with motor neurone disease.

Mr Bird was “one of the outstanding journalists of his generation” dedicated to the pursuit of truth, President Higgins said.

“It is with the deepest sadness that all of the Irish people, and particularly all of those who were his allies in campaigning for so many significant causes, will have learnt of the death of Charlie Bird.

“An exceptionally talented broadcaster, Charlie was a truly remarkable man driven by a deep sense of social justice in the most positive sense.”

From leading political figures to former colleagues, Mr Bird was remembered for his generous spirit and dogged determination.

As a journalist and broadcaster, he covered some of the biggest stories, nationally and internationally, across a 40-year career, including the Stardust Fire and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In recent years, Mr Bird became known for his tireless work with the motor neurone disease community following his own diagnosis in October 2021.

He raised millions of euros with his charity mountain climb – ‘Climb with Charlie,’ which brought together thousands of people across the country.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Mr Bird’s passing. He said the former journalist ” inspired so many with the courage, generosity of spirit and dignity he faced his battle with motor neurone disease.”

“As a journalist and broadcaster for RTE, Charlie had few peers.”

“Personable and engaging, Charlie had the public interest at heart, representing public service broadcasting at its very best.”

“His message of generosity, friendship, and simply looking out for each other will long be remembered.”

He offered his condolences to Mr Bird’s wife Claire, his children, family, and friends.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said he was “so sorry to hear of the death of Charlie. He was the most intrepid of reporters and was so brave in facing his illness. May he rest in peace.”

Stardust survivor and campaigner Antoinette Keegan

Charlie Bird never forgot Stardust survivors

The Stardust survivor and campaigner Antoinette Keegan described Mr Bird as a “very special friend” who never forgot any of the Stardust survivors and their families.

“He was one of the first people to contact me after my mother died in 2020”, she said.

Ms Keegan said she started crying when she learned what his diagnosis meant.

“I had to Google it, and then I started roaring crying. I rang, and I spoke to him on the phone and said ‘Is there anything at all that we can do to help you because you have always been there to help us?’. And he says ‘Look, I don’t think there’s anything’, and he got very upset.”

Ms Keegan said Charlie had always empathised with the Stardust families and how they were treated.

“He was very close to my family and myself”, she said.

RTÉ’s Environment Correspondent George Lee said his former colleague was relentless but that he had a “disarming ordinariness.”

“He used to say, ‘I’m just a working journalist'”, he said, “but he was a lot more than that.”

“Charlie would wear out his shoes about every two months. Mine would last for years, but Charlie never sat still.”

George Lee said that one of Charlie’s strengths was that people saw he was a very genuine, authentic person.

“Charlie’s death came as a shock,” he said, “because although I knew he was unwell, I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”

The CEO of The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) said Charlie Bird’s impact on the MND community is “immeasurable.”

Lillian McGovern,said he had an unwavering commitment to fight MND, ” to support people living with MND and their families; and to make a meaningful difference.”

She said the IMNDA was “deeply saddened” to learn of his death describing him as a “wonderful and truly inspirational” figure. Ms McGovern said they will be “forever be grateful” for Mr Bird’s work, not merely in terms of funding but for creating awareness about a “truly devastating disease”

“In many ways, Charlie started the important conversation, and it is up to all of us to continue it in his honour. Charlie has truly left an enduring legacy, whose impact will be written in history and will be felt by all of us for many, many years to come.

“The world has lost a real hero, but his fight for a brighter future for the MND community will continue. Rest in peace, Charlie Bird.”

She extended condolences to Charlie’s family and beloved dog Tiger.

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