Irish legend of broadcasting Marian Finuncane died suddenly on Thursday. Here, we take a look back at some of the moments that cemented her legacy
Broadcasters and radio lovers alike were shocked and saddened at the news of journalist and presenter Marian Finucane’s death on Thursday. She died suddenly aged just 69.
Described by colleagues as “a unique voice” and a “pioneer” of Irish broadcasting, Finucane began her radio career in 1974, when she joined RTÉ as a continuity announcer. From there, she became the presenter of Women Today, a unique and groundbreaking show in Irish radio history, which then morphed into the now-iconic Liveline, of which she was the first presenter until 1999.
For nearly 20 years, Finucane presented her own titular show on weekend radio and was presented with the PPI Radio Award for outstanding achievement in broadcasting in 2008.
With the news that RTÉ will dedicate a Late Late special to Finucane this week as a tribute to her life and career, we enjoyed taking a look back at some of the broadcaster’s finest moments of interviewing in her career spanning over four decades.
Regarded by many as Finucane’s standout career moment, her interview with close friend and writer Nuala O’Faolain in 2008 is now seen as one of the most extraordinary moments in Irish broadcasting.
Conducted shortly before O’Faolain’s death in 2008, the pair discussed O’Faolain’s diagnosis (which she had received only six weeks prior) and her rawest emotions. The interview was a true masterclass in empathetic, emotional interviewing, and was made all the more poignant when O’Faolain sadly passed away only a month later.
In 2001, one of the top stories was Ireland’s ability (or inability) to deal with a possible nuclear fallout or other national emergencies.
That year, junior minister Joe Jacob endured an intense grilling from Finucane on her weekend show, when she raised the issue of how exactly Ireland would fare if there was a nuclear emergency. Jacob scrambled the excuse that everyone in the country would be issued with iodine tablets, but Finucane ground his speech further down with her questions.
“The phones upstairs are going bananas. Minister, here we are now, we’re 15 minutes into my warning and how do I get my iodine tablet? Tell me.”
While Ireland made its way through the grips of the beginning of the recession in 2008, attentions turned to the culprits of the crisis. On her show in October of that year, Finucane had Sean FitzPatrick, former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, on as a guest, where he famously refused to admit the bank’s recklessness in its handling of property development loans, and to apologise to Irish taxpayers.
He said: “The cause of our problems are global, so I can’t say sorry with any degree of sincerity and decency. But I can say thank you”. The reaction from listeners was, understandably, palpable.
Finucane was often described as a feminist trailblazer in Ireland, so when she came face to face with one of the world’s most controversial anti-feminist voices, Jordan Peterson, attentions were piqued.
While it may not have been the most passionate of exchanges, Finucane’s patient but persistent questioning of Peterson’s reasonings was a great lesson in the power of simple interrogation — following Peterson’s long-winded explanations of his views with a simple “how do you mean?” or “why do you think that?” forced her guest to show his true colours.
John Le Carré
Just last year, in one of Finucane’s final interviews, she sat down with one of the world’s best-loved authors for a lengthy interview on his connections to Ireland. Crime novel writer John Le Carré (real name David Cornwell) is now in his late eighties, and discussed with Finucane his recent visit to West Cork, where his grandmother was originally from.
In a poignant and joyful interview, Cornwell said he was “completely enchanted” by his visit to Inchinattin, and how moving it was to discover his connections to the town.
Featured image: Marian Finucane with friend Nuala O’Faolain at the 1985 United Nations Decade for Women Conference in Kenya
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