Saturday 22 October 2016

Bill O'Herlihy death: 'It's a terrible shock' - stars' tributes to 'icon and gentleman'

Bill O'Herlihy
Bill O'Herlihy
Members of the O' Herlihy family Sally O' Herlihy, Isla Conlon (1), Hilary O' Herlihy, Bill O' Herlihy, Jack Conlon (3) & Jill O' Herlihy during the launch of Bill OÕHerlihyÕs autobiography ÒWeÕll leave it there soÓ in The Merrion Hotel, Dublin
Bill and Hilliary O'Herlihy at the Irish Film and Television Awards 2007, at the RDS, Dublin

HE was revered by all, and his sudden death has left many former colleagues in complete shock.

Bill O'Herlihy died at his Dublin home yesterday only hours after attending the IFTAs ceremony at the Mansion House in Dublin.

Tributes poured in for the 76-year-old grandfather after the news of his sudden death broke.

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Proud Corkman Bill retired from RTE last year following the World Cup final after a television career spanning five decades.

Eamon Dunphy told of his sadness at the death of his long-time friend, with whom he had worked for 37 years.

"I think he was a very brilliant broadcast journalist with a very keen mind, always well prepared, and he would know his stuff," he said.

Bill and his family

"He'd know things that you said in the past, and if you were saying something different now he'd refer to them and question you.

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"Also, he was great fun, very passionate about broadcasting, about doing the job for the viewers. I would say never in bad form, always a pleasure to work with."

Dunphy said that when it came to many of the joyous moments in sport around the country, in soccer and the Olympic Games, Bill was the voice of that.

"There was a warmth about him, and he never took himself too seriously. He could have a laugh and he always signed off with 'God bless'," he said.

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"It's a terrible shock. Noel Curran [Director General of RTE] used the right words. He said people are devastated in RTE and they are.

"He brought all the skills of the more conventional forms of journalism to sport and employed them without getting technical.

Bill with wife Hillary in 2007

"He made it very accessible, and he engaged the viewers with his personality.

"He understood the television studio, the camera, the nuances of it and for John, Liam and I, who spent most of the time working with him, he was a huge, huge asset.

John Giles extended his condolences to the O'Herlihy family.

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"From what I can gather he was out playing golf recently. He was very keen on golf and he was very, very active, he said. "It is a great shock and I just feel very, very sad for the family."

Warm tributes came from across the world of sports, broadcasting, politics and public relations.

World boxing champion Katie Taylor told of her sadness at the news on Twitter.

"So saddened to hear of the passing of Bill O'Herlihy. A gentleman and national icon. My thoughts are with his family."

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Former Ireland rugby fly-half Ronan O'Gara extended his deepest sympathies to the extended O'Herlihy family on his Twitter account.

"Was a great help to me throughout my playing days and beyond. #specialman," he wrote.

Veteran RTE rugby broadcaster Tom McGurk said Bill was very warm and genial and had lovely communication skills, and the ability to make people relax in studio.

"He really did probably the best soccer show in the world and it worked because of its warmth, its humour, its intelligence," he said.

"He was a hard-working businessman who was very successful. He had a great love for sport, and he had wonderful times. My goodness me, the Charlton years. He had fantastic times. He always wanted to ask the man on the street's question."

President Michael D Higgins said Bill was the face of Irish sports broadcasting for several decades, and his rapport with sports fans all around the country was "legendary", especially as part of the panel he chaired for major soccer competitions.


Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that in recent years Bill had devoted much of his time to public service in his role as chair of the Irish Film Board, in which he was a strong advocate of Irish film-making.

"He was the quintessential decent, kind and generous Irish man," he said.

Bill had served as a media adviser to Fine Gael and was one of Garret FitzGerald's advisers during his terms as Taoiseach in the 1980s.

While he became less involved with Fine Gael operations over recent years, he was still regularly consulted by the party over major PR and communications issues.

Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery said he worked with Bill throughout the Garret FitzGerald era.

"He was a very good political strategist, he was a great communicator and public relations man, and he continued an interest in Fine Gael without being heavily involved for the rest of his life," he said.

"He was an enormous personal friend of mine."

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