tributes to bill

"Bill O'Herlihy led our greatest days. They mightn't have been our most important days - but our greatest days"

Eamon Dunphy paid an emotional tribute on radio this afternoon. Des Cahill, and other friends and colleagues have also been sharing their memories.

WARM TRIBUTES WERE being paid to broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy this afternoon – in the wake of his death, at the age of 76.

Eamon Dunphy, speaking on the News at One, described his former colleague as ”a fantastic broadcaster and a very very nice man”.

Before switching to sport, Bill had been a great current affairs broadcaster, with a real interest and a grasp of his subject, the veteran journalist and football pundit said.

He was, Dunphy observed, “a catalyst for all that was good” about the RTÉ football panel.

That is the essence of good journalism, that you make people want to engage with the subject. You don’t make it obtuse, you don’t make it something technical … you render it human but to do that requires great skill.

Ending his tribute, with the emotion apparent in his voice, Dunphy described his friend as “a fabulous man, husband, father and broadcaster”.

billo3_1024 The day of Bill's final broadcast - after the World Cup Final, last summer. Photocall Ireland Photocall Ireland

Other friends of the late journalist, broadcaster and PR man described their deep shock at the news of his death.

Also speaking to RTÉ radio, Frank Flannery, the former Fine Gael strategist, said he had known O’Herlihy for more than three decades.

He was one of the true loves of my life. I really loved that man, and he is an enormous loss.

“Bill had a vastly youthful and enquiring mind,” Flannery added.

“I never saw him defeated. We shared disappointments along the way and plenty of them – but Bill would always be the first person to be charting the next way forward, even up until the moment of his death. He was embarking on a whole new phase of his life.

The fact that he was 76 was not a factor of any significance in his psyche at all. He was still the same youthful, enthusiastic, dynamic ambitious, optimistic, forward-looking person.

President Michael D Higgins described him as the “face of Irish sports broadcasting for several decades”, adding that his rapport with fans was “legendary”.

“Beginning his career in journalism at the age of sixteen, over sixty years he made a remarkable contribution to journalism, politics, public relations, broadcasting and our enjoyment of major sports events,” a statement from the Áras said. “Extremely professional in every detail of his work and knowledgeable in his endeavours; however, it was his unique capacity for humour which he used to connect with diverse audiences, which made him so special.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also added his tribute this afternoon, saying he was “deeply saddened at the news” of the death of a man who had become a “national treasure”.

“He loved his work and his family, and never forgot his Cork roots, or lost his Cork accent,” he said.

On a personal level, Bill and I have been good friends for many years and I will miss his friendship and support. He was the quintessential decent, kind and generous Irish man.

O’Herlihy had a long association with Fine Gael, and was a former media handler for Garret FitzGerald.

Other figures from the party have also been paying tribute.

“I got to know Bill well on a personal level and he was one of the warmest, most generous individuals that I’ve ever met; always offering advice and insight in a thoughtful way,” Cork TD and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said.

Many people from his home city of Cork were hugely proud of his career achievements but the country as a whole will mourn his loss.

File Photo Bill O Herhily has died today. Bill, Giles and Dunphy. Photocall Ireland Photocall Ireland

A statement on behalf of Insight Consultants said their colleague had been “one of the leading voices in the Irish public relations industry” and that his death had been sudden, and unexpected.

He oversaw the development of the PR  industry from its early days and gave many of its leading practitioners their first job. An award-winning public relations professional and broadcaster, he was always there to support and mentor his staff.

“He led the company until this year when O’Herlihy Communications merged with Insight Consultants. Bill was our friend and made a huge impact on all of our lives. We will miss him greatly.

All of our thoughts and condolences go out to his wife Hilary, his daughters Jill and Sally, his grandchildren and his extended family.

An RTÉ statement described him as a giant of the broadcasting and sporting worlds in Ireland.

“His contribution to broadcasting was utterly unique. For decades he was at the centre of some of Ireland’s greatest sporting moments,” Director General Noel Curran said.

He never hid his emotions on those big occasions, from disappointment to utter joy, and for this he was greatly loved. But he was also a fantastic broadcaster and interviewer, getting the very best out of his interview panels and provoking debate and insight, and for this he was also hugely admired.

Nutmeg365 / YouTube

Also speaking this afternoon, RTÉ’s head of sport Ryle Nugent said Bill’s death had been an “enormous personal and professional loss”.

“He was the daddy in the group,” in the sports department, Nugent observed – saying the late presenter had always taken time to provide help and guidance to younger staff members, including himself.

Presenter and commentator Des Cahill also paid a poignant tribute to his former colleague, saying he had “a unique thing” that would always be remembered.

Bill O’Herlihy led our greatest days. They mightn’t have been our most important days – but our greatest days…

“The days of Olympic medals and World Cups, the memories… They all seemed to be sunny days when the whole country would stop and join together.

“They would hope together. They’d be scared together. They’d share excitement together. And we’d share disappointment.

“And sometimes we had that golden unforgettable joy of victory that we all shared together.

And Bill O’Herlihy led the whole country in that. We all sat and gathered and Bill led us on those days. We’ll always remember. Always.

bill2 RTÉ screengrab. RTÉ screengrab.

Originally published 1pm

Read: “Good night and God bless”- Bill O’Herlihy’s emotional farewell to TV >

Read: 13 reasons we loved Bill O’Herlihy > 

Read: Broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy has died >

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