On Thursday 2 January 2020, RTÉ announced that veteran broadcaster and presenter Marian Finucane died suddenly at her home. In this segment Ciara Kelly speaks to former IRA prisoner now author and historian, Anthony McIntyre, and gets his thoughts on Marian Finucane.
Where’s the Audio? This programme is not available for download. To listen as you read along please click here. (begins time stamp ~24:47)
Ciara: We are remembering Marian Finucane today on the programme and Anthony is on the line. Anthony, you yourself were interviewed, for almost an hour which is no mean feat, by Marian because you are a former member of the IRA, an historian and, of course, you were involved in the Boston College Tapes project. Tell me what your recollection is of Marian – you’re very welcome.
Good Afternoon, Ciara. I mean I was hugely impressed by her as an interviewer. I knew that it would be a fairly robust interview, or at least anticipated that it would, and she, my interview with her came two days after the arrest of Gerry Adams – Adams was arrested on a Thursday evening and she interviewed me on a Saturday morning – and I was amased how she could maintain the interview for a whole hour, maintain the interest and her command of the details. Now she had a very good research team but she was the consummate professional in how she managed it and focused on key questions – difficult questions. She was a serious public intellectual who made a major contribution to pubic understanding and I had been very, very impressed by her prior to that interview as a result of her interview back in 2008, 2007 with Nuala O’Faolain, when, shortly prior to Nuala dying, because on the back of that interview with Nuala I had wrote an obituary about her but I was truly impressed and I think she’ll be a serious loss to broadcasting in this country.
Ciara: I agree with you and I remember listening at the time live to the interview with Nuala and we have to bear in mind that they were actually friends and she was interviewing her friend who was upset about dying and she did it with empathy and kindness and compassion but she also got Nuala to talk – she had those two incredible skills in tandem, Anthony. She had empathy but she had that kind of towering intellect. She had both.
Anthony: Well that’s true but I also think she managed to convey an empathy with the necessary detachment that’s required for that job.
And I mean, I don’t know but I felt that her, she was able to overcome formalities in a way that other broadcasters maybe aren’t? Because she was very much at the coalface in terms of her own personal grief having lost her daughter at a very young age so when she was focusing on issues relating to people who had died or people who were dying she could be very, very fine tuned – tuned into exactly what those people might have been going through and in that sense I found that she was amasing. And sometimes, you know, she brought – I look at some of the public broadcasters North and South and they seem at times to want to inflame rather than inform. And Marian seemed to me to be the exact opposite. She relentlessly and incessantly informed people – and this is what I said earlier in this interview – that she undoubtedly enhanced public understanding.
Ciara: Did she get more out of you than you expected?
Anthony: Well I’m not sure that she got more out of me because I have to be an inveterate protector of secrets but she allowed me to explain the case and the reason behind the Boston College Tapes in a way that was often difficult to get out because at that time I was under serious pressure – a lot of serious criticism, a lot of public criticism – I mean the Boston College Tapes were being excoriated in parts of the media and government circles because they seen it in terms of the peace process rather than any sort of academic value but she allowed us to make the case – I’m not saying she was convinced, she asked the difficult questions – but she certainly allowed people to get an argument out that other people just mightn’t have wanted to have heard but it was a sensible public record nonetheless.
Ciara: Yeah. She was brave, I would suggest, in that way. She was courageous. She did allow people to speak and irrespective of whether what they had to say was popular or not. She was fair to them I think.
Anthony: Well, I think that’s what made her such a important broadcaster and accentuates the loss and the vacuum that is going to be created by her passing.
Ciara: Yeah, no. Absolutely, Absolutely,
Anthony: She was not somebody who wanted to play to the audience. She was was very, very concerned with getting knowledge out into the public domain. And when we look back, everybody that does something worthwhile tends to stand on the shoulders of giants and she was one of the giants, I think, of the broadcasting industry in Ireland and journalism in Ireland as well.
Ciara: No, you’re not wrong and I’m aware of it as somebody who’s probably standing on her shoulders – I’m absolutely aware of it. Anthony, thank you for that as well. (ends time stamp ~30:24)