Charlie Bird dies aged 74 after motor neurone diagnosis

Charlie Bird Dies Aged 74 After Motor Neurone Diagnosis
He was diagnosed with the disease in 2021, and focused on charity work and raising awareness of his condition.
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Former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird has died at the age of 74 following his battle with motor neurone disease.

He was diagnosed with the disease in 2021, and focused on charity work and raising awareness of his condition.


His campaign raised €3.4 million for a number of charities including the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta.

In his most recent post on X (formerly Twitter) on February 29th, Mr Bird said he was “still hanging in” adding that he was due to lead a walk in Wicklow in April for Samaritan volunteers.

Last month, he wrote that his health had “changed completely” before thanking his neighbours and carers for their support.

Mr Bird joined RTÉ in 1972, working as a researcher before moving to the newsroom.


One of his earliest assignments was the Stardust fire in Artane in Dublin in 1981 when 48 young people died in the nightclub blaze.

In the 1990s Mr Bird was at the forefront of the reporting of the Northern Ireland peace process when, from 1993 onwards, the Provisional IRA chose him as their primary media contact in the Republic.

He is survived by his wife Claire, daughters Orla and Nessa, grandchildren Abigail, Charlie, Edward, Harriet and Hugo, and his three brothers.

Seamus Dooley, the Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said Mr Bird’s life “should not be defined by his illness”.


He said: “Supported by his wife Claire, Charlie lived his battle with Motor Neurone Disease in the public gaze, with characteristic determination and searing honesty.

“The qualities he has manifested during his illness – grit, fierce determination and generosity of spirit, were the same qualities which marked Charlie Bird as a journalist.”

Sarah O’Toole, Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland, said: “Charlie Bird showed incredible strength and courage throughout his illness. He will be remembered forever as a leading light for charitable organisations across Ireland, including Samaritans, for which his passion was formidable.

“Following the success of Climb with Charlie, Charlie decided to raise awareness for several other organisations including Samaritans. He often said he chose Samaritans as he found himself in a dark place following his diagnoses with MND (Motor Neuron Disease) and he wanted people to know that support is available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone who is struggling to cope.


“Over the last 18 months Charlie, along with his wife Claire and faithful companion Tiger, was an amazing supporter of Samaritans’ work and, more importantly, our volunteers.

Singer Daniel O’Donnell, who joined Charlie Bird on his charity walk up Croagh Patrick mountain in Co Mayo in 2022, has paid tribute.

Prior to his death, Bird revealed he always carried a set of rosary beads that O’Donnell had once given him and that he wanted to have the beads in his hand when he died.

“I felt so grateful that I did what I did,” O’Donnell said of giving Bird the rosary beads.

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“You know, I wasn’t trying to push religion on him or anything. It was just something that was important to me that I could give to him, hoping that he would get strength from it. I just never imagined that it would mean so much to him. I know it did because that he told me every time we talked and, in latter times, texted because that’s all the way we could communicate.”

RTÉ journalist Tommy Gorman paid tribute to Chrlie Bird: “He turned his fear into good. He was relentless.

“Charlie had a sense of what motor neuron disease does. And then when he got confirmation of it, then another side of Charlie emerged. Charlie was always a fighter. He always loved the story. And that’s what he did for the last phase of his life.

"It was just magnificent because he turned his fear and he turned his pain, and he turned the story into good. And he was utterly relentless in attempting to achieve as much as he could in that final phase of his life.

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