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Image / Editorial

‘Passionate and brilliant’: Tributes paid following the death of RTÉ broadcaster Keelin Shanley


by Jennifer McShane
08th Feb 2020
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Tributes have flooded in following the news that Keelin Shanley passed away peacefully this afternoon aged 51. She had been dealing with cancer for some time. With over 20 years experience as a journalist and broadcaster, Keelin was the much-loved and respected presenter of RTÉ’s Six One News.


Keelin grew up in Monkstown, Co. Dublin. Having graduated from Trinity College with a degree in biochemistry, Keelin worked as a researcher in the Department of Pharmacology in the University of Bologna. Keelin then returned to Ireland and started working with RTÉ, presenting a number of science and technology programmes in the late 1990s.

She has had a varied and rich career; Keelin joined Prime Time, RTÉ’s flagship current affairs television programme in 1999 where she worked as a reporter and presenter. In her time there, she made a number of acclaimed documentaries, many of which focused on social issues and gave voice to people on the margins of Irish society.

In 2002, she pioneered the Prime Time Investigates strand with Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, an hour-long Prime Time special on binge-drinking culture. Keelin went on to make further Prime Time Investigates on health inequality, cocaine abuse, homelessness, people trafficking, deportations and teenage criminality among other subjects. Her work on Prime Time and Prime Time Investigates resulted in Keelin winning three IFTA awards, a National Media Award, a Radharc award and a Justice Media Award.

Keelin also reported from a number of developing countries for the Far Away, Up Close strand, including documentaries on the plight of child soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and the rebuilding of Liberia.

In more recent times, Keelin presented Morning Edition, The Consumer Show, Crimecall and The Irish Book Awards on RTÉ One. She also worked as a radio presenter across several programmes on RTÉ Radio 1: Morning Ireland; News at One; Today with Sean O’Rourke and Late Debate.

She corresponded for Radio France International and for CNN World Report.

In January 2018, Keelin took up her role as a new presenter of the flagship RTÉ Six One News.

“A passionate, brilliant broadcaster”

President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to the journalist, praising her commitment and dedication to her craft. “People all over Ireland will have been greatly saddened by the news of the death of Keelin Shanley, broadcaster and award-winning journalist,” he said in a statement.

“Driven by a strong commitment to social justice, she brought great professionalism and dedication to her work as a journalist. Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to her husband Conor, their children Lucy and Ben, her wider family and her wide circle of friends.”

Jon Williams, Managing Director of RTÉ News & Current Affairs was also among those who paid tribute to Keelin: “Keelin was the best of us — and we are heartbroken. From Prime Time Investigates to Morning Edition, Morning Ireland to the Six One News, there wasn’t a corner of RTÉ News & Current Affairs untouched by Keelin’s fearless, generous, and passionate journalism.

‘For Keelin, the story was never about her – always about others.’

“Her legacy of over 20 years of journalism with RTÉ saw her help tell the stories of so many often marginalised. She strove to inform, probe and encourage. Always inquisitive, interested, thoughtful and kind.

“The fact that she presented our flagship Six One News while dealing with cancer is inspirational in itself and so typical of Keelin’s determination to live life to the full. Our hearts go out to Conor, Lucy and Ben and her wider family. We are all poorer for her loss.”

And all over social media, friends, colleagues and those who knew her best expressed their sadness and shock over her death.

Keelin is survived by her husband Conor and their children Lucy and Ben.

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