herald

Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Passionate' Tom had key role in the peace process

RTE stalwart and communications guru Tom Savage Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
RTE stalwart and communications guru Tom Savage Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Tributes have poured in for communications consultant Tom Savage, who played a key role in the peace process as the spokesperson and adviser to the late taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

Mr Savage, from Cooley, Co Louth - a former Louth senior county footballer - died at the age of 76 following a short illness.

He was the chairman of the RTE board from 2009 to 2014 and a communications consultant who advised ministers and politicians over a career spanning more than four decades.

He worked, along with wife Terry Prone, first at Carr Communications and then at their company, the Communications Clinic, which they set up in 2008.

Their son, Anton Savage, is managing director of the family business and has been a regular columnist with the Herald, Sunday Independent and Irish Independent newspapers.

Friend

Mr Savage was also the first editor of Morning Ireland and presented many programmes on RTE. His friend Fr Brian D'Arcy said he first knew Mr Savage in his days as a priest, when he worked with him in the Catholic Communications Institute, where Tom first met Terry (inset) in 1972.

Mr Savage received death threats when he applied to leave the priesthood.

Fr D'Arcy officiated at the marriage of Tom and Terry and also baptised Anton.

"It was difficult for him and Terry but they knew what they wanted," he said.

"They were entirely upfront with it in every way. I always admired them greatly - their honesty and their integrity, though it caused them great difficulty."

He described Mr Savage as being "full of wonderful ideas and very practical".

Mr Savage had made connections in the North through his good friend Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich, and this helped him in his work on the peace process.

"Albert had a sense of letting those who knew the North well get on with it," said Fr D'Arcy.

"Tom was good at drawing up a language that was precise but understandable - because everyone needs to know what you're talking about.

"Albert was a man of his word and, if he didn't like it, he told you to 'F-off' pretty much. Tom would find another word for 'F-off'."

RTE director general Dee Forbes said Mr Savage's life had intertwined with RTE over many years, as a reporter, producer, editor, presenter and ultimately as chairman.

"He loved and had a passion for broadcasting, radio in particular, and beyond news and politics he was also a huge sports fan," she said.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin expressed sadness at his death.

"During his time as an adviser to former taoiseach Albert Reynolds, he played a behind the scenes, yet crucial, role in the early years of the peace process," Mr Martin said.

Many dignitaries are expected to attend the funeral, which will take place tomorrow at Grange in Cooley, Co Louth.

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