• Louise Toal

Marian Finucane: The Woman behind the Mic

Last January Ireland lost one of the most iconic broadcasters and advocate for women's rights. Every Saturday and Sunday morning Marian Finucane would read through the morning newspapers with a strong cup of tea at hand before sitting into studio usually two minutes before broadcast to present The Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio1, which often brought the heart rates up.

She never sweated though because she was up before the birds researching and patiently waiting for the morning newspapers whilst keeping a close eye of two televisions with BBC News and Sky News on for any breaking stories. Tabloids to the left and broadsheets to the right we're laid out in studio, mic and headphones checked before the fader was pushed up and the little red box lit up in studio. On the show she discussed and debated the latest political and current affairs with guests and listeners near and far and wasn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers with political leaders.

In a documentary about Marian, her husband of forty years John Clarke says, "she thought she had a bond with her listeners. She loved that togetherness. Alot of people thought they knew her and trusted her. The only voice they had was Marian's".

Credit: RTÉ

He mentions a turning moment for her was in secondary school where her teacher who was a nun at Scoil Caitríona in Dublin asked her to question her. He says, "she was really taken back by this". She found a love of debating in school and went on to win a debating competition with The Irish Times.

She began her broadcasting career as a Continuity Announcer with RTÉ back in 1974, this led her to the role as presenter for a television show called 'Women Today' where she spoke out about the issues women faced in Ireland from health to employment rights. On the programme she too mentioned that ageism was a problem with continuity announcers as one of her colleagues was let go after 11 years of work.

Credit: RTE

She took home the Jacobs Award for her outstanding contributions to women's rights both on TV and on radio. In 1980 when abortion was a criminal offence, Marian traveled to England with one woman and documented her story which went on to win the Prix Italia award. "She always asked why or why not. There was always questions asked some with no answers. There was always a sense of wonderment of humanity with her". says John.

Marian Finucane originally presented and produced Liveline on RTÉ Radio1 from 1985 to 1999. Speaking recently on Liveline Marian's son Jack Clarke says, "for her to pass just five weeks before Sinéad was born was devastating for us. She was very much looking forward to being a grandmother". The name Sinéad chosen to pay tribute to the passing of his sister from Leukaemia at the age of eight back in 1990.

On Gay Byrne's retirement she then took over the weekend time slot. Weekend shifts were considered a not so beloved air time, she changed that and had radio ratings skyrocketing and making the show desirable for advertisers and winning a PPI Radio Award for outstanding brodcasting.

"She loved live broadcasting, she loved the danger of it. She said if you ask the right questions you'll get somewhere near the truth", says John.

RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes says, "Ireland lost a unique voice. From Women Today to Liveline to her weekday radio show on Radio 1 and, latterly, her enormously popular Saturday and Sunday radio programme, she tackled the big social issues of the day with command and insight."

Credit: Arthur Carron/Collins

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