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Statement by President Higgins on the death of Charlie Bird

Date: Tue 12th Mar, 2024 | 11:20

“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.

Charlie was indelibly associated with some of the biggest stories both at home and abroad during his four decades with RTÉ, I recall for example being with him in Iraq.

As an intuitive journalist, Charlie identified with causes from below. His dedicated pursuit of the truth, and immense ability to build warm relationships that would last through life with all those with whom he came in contact, made him one of the outstanding journalists of his generation.

The authenticity of these relationships is evidenced in the lifelong connections which he made with so many of those to whom he gave a voice. I think in particular of the decades-long support which he gave to the victims of the Stardust fire, and indeed the touching support which they have likewise given him.

Perhaps above all else, Charlie will be remembered for the deeply moving contribution which he has made since his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease in 2021, having first noticed that something was not right three years ago this week on St Patrick’s Day of that year.

It is hard to understate the impact which Charlie’s work to ‘Extend the Hand of Friendship’ has had on our country. His many initiatives, such as Climb with Charlie, raised incredible levels of funding for so many important causes and organisations. A contribution for all generations that will endure.

Even more than that, the dignity, strength, hope and inspiration with which Charlie carried the burden of his illness was remarkable. In a way that was truly extraordinary, Charlie redefined our collective perspective on the illness of Motor Neurone Disease and terminal illness more generally.

The authenticity, at considerable personal cost, which he brought to all of this could never have been achieved by any other means of communication. I believe that his experience touched every home in this country and will leave a lasting legacy that will not be forgotten.

It was a great honour to welcome Charlie, his wife Claire, and their dog Tiger to Áras an Uachtaráin in June 2022 and to personally thank him for all that he has done.

As President of Ireland, may I express my deepest condolences to Claire, to Charlie’s daughters Orla and Nessa, and to all his family, colleagues and many many friends.

Síocháin síoraí dá anam lách uasal.”