Charlie Bird diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease

Charlie Bird Diagnosed With Motor Neurone Disease Charlie Bird Diagnosed With Motor Neurone Disease
Former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird has vowed to continue to shine a light in dark places as he has spoken openly about his diagnosis of motor neurone disease.
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Vivienne Clarke

Former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird has vowed to continue to shine a light in dark places as he has spoken openly about his diagnosis of motor neurone disease.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Liveline show, Mr Bird acknowledged that he had gotten a knock with the diagnosis, but said there were people facing problems every day.

The first sign of ill health came on St Patrick’s Day when he was walking in the Wicklow mountains with his wife Claire and suffered a coughing fit that “floored” him. He told Joe Duffy that he knew “something strange” was going on and despite numerous scans and tests he had been told a number of times by medical professionals that they did not believe he had motor neurone disease.

“In my heart of hearts I knew there was something serious there. I had been preparing myself for the news for months.”


Mr Bird said that "to be blunt sometimes it was not easy to deal with," but that he had to get on with his life. "People every day are getting knocks.” There were people with Covid, people on waiting lists, people waiting for operations, he added. “It’s hard.”

Although he has difficulty eating, he can still drive and continues to take 10 mile walks every day, weather permitting, he said. One of his treats was to go to his local pub where he enjoyed a pint of Guinness and did the Irish Times crossword.

“I am trying to be active. I have remarkable friends. The RTÉ family has been remarkable. They know the journey behind the scenes, they have kept me going.”

Voice problems

Some weeks ago on the anniversary of the Don Tidey kidnapping, having been approached for interviews as he had covered the story, Mr Bird had tweeted that he was having problems with his voice which was why he could not participate. “I feel I’m struggling with my voice.”

Mr Bird also acknowledged that he was in “a lot of discomfort” and was not sleeping well. Many people were living with motor neurone disease, and he felt he had to confront it even though he knew what the “final outcome will be".

“It’s hard, it’s difficult, but I have the support of mates, colleagues and neighbours.”

People in his local pub had been “brilliant” and “as human beings they have been bloody marvellous”. He was fortunate to have a village to look after him, he said.

His wife of six years, Claire, had pleaded with him some years ago to get a dog, he finally relented when her father was dying and the “creature” Tigger had been a wonderful source of comfort over the last four months, he added. “He knows when I’m distressed. It’s incredible the love of that creature.”

While the news he had received was “awful” he said, he was fortunate to have the support of his wife, his daughters, his sons-in-law and grandchildren. “It gets me through. In a way I pinch myself. I know I have to get on with it.”

Mr Bird said he would continue to go to the pub for his pint of Guinness and to do The Irish Times crossword “maybe not all the clues” and that he wanted to continue “to shine a light in dark places.”

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