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TV Veteran Cathal O'Shannon Dies at 83
24 Oct 2011 :
Cathal O'Shannon pictured at the IFTA Life in Television event in 2010
Irish television veteran and legendary broadcaster Cathal O’Shannon has passed away at the age of 83. Regarded as one Ireland’s most important journalists, Cathal is known for his work as a print and broadcast reporter, a presenter and filmmaker with institutions including RTÉ, the BBC and The Irish Times.

O’Shannon’s illustrious career includes his reporting slot on RTÉ’s ‘Newsbeat’, the scripting and presenting of highly acclaimed documentaries ‘Even The Olives are Bleeding’ and ‘Emmett Dalton Remembers’, his time with BBC on ‘Tonight’ and his iconic television interview with Muhammad Ali.

Cathal was honoured last year by the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA), who hosted a special “Life in Television” IFTA Tribute event dedicated to the broadcaster’s ground-breaking career in journalism, broadcast presenting and documentary filmmaking.  At the IFTA event Cathal was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy and he was joined by friends, colleagues and industry guests who gathered to honour his career.  Gay Byrne hosted the evening, sharing tales and reminiscing with Cathal during a public interview.

Industry professionals have lauded Cathal for his work, with Kevin Dawson, Head of Corporate Communications at RTÉ saying ”On camera he was an unrivalled raconteur, a mischievous companion, a finder and teller of tales, a historian of gravity, an interviewer nonpareil. It is impossible to hear Cathal’s voice coming from screen without turning to watch.”
His great friend Paul Cusack described Cathal’s work ethic saying “What I learnt from Cathal was that if you work hard you are entitled to play hard and that you can deliver highly professional work and still have a great deal of fun,” with TV3’s Vincent Browne describing his work as “mischievous” and “insightful” adding “he has in abundance that essential attribute of a journalist: curiosity.”

Off the camera, Cathal’s personality was also admired by former colleagues and friends, with Larry Masterson acknowledging his ”natural affability” and Mary Kennedy calling him ”a man of great knowledge, great charisma and great personality.” Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan said Cathal was an “outstanding man of conscience who enlightened us all and humbly reminded us that with some courage and care we could be a better nation. His country owes him a great debt.”

CEO of IFTA, Áine Moriarty said the IFTA honour was ”an indication of the high regard the Irish industry and community has for his work and the personality of the man himself.”

Following his death, tributes are now pouring in to the late broadcaster with Director General of RTÉ Noel Curran saying ”He was without question one of the foremost talents of these first 50 years, with a combination of remarkable gifts. He could handle local Irish stories with charm, grasp major historical themes in longer documentary form, and in all forms and on all occasions he spoke to the viewer through the camera with remarkable ease and facility. He was, both on camera and in person, one of the most persuasive and gifted presenters ever to work with and on RTÉ. All of his present and former colleagues join in tribute to his major and singular contribution to our broadcasting. May he and his beloved Patsy rest in peace."

Cathal O’Shannon was predeceased by his wife, Patsy Dyke.

Images from the IFTA Life in Television Tribute can be found in the IFTN Gallery here and a video interview between Cathal O’Shannon and Gay Byrne at the Life in Television is available to watch below.





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