Cathal O'Shannon (TV presenter)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Cathal O'Shannon
Born(1928-08-23)23 August 1928
Died22 October 2011(2011-10-22) (aged 83)
Dublin, Ireland
OccupationJournalist and TV presenter
Known forInterviewing Muhammad Ali

Cathal O'Shannon (23 August 1928 – 22 October 2011)[1] was an Irish journalist and television presenter. He was a former journalist with The Irish Times newspaper and a former TV reporter and presenter for RTÉ.[2] He was probably best known for presenting documentaries on Irish history, produced mainly for Irish television viewers and broadcast by RTÉ.

On 12 January 2007, after producing his most recent documentary, he stated that he had fully retired.[1] In a 2008 television documentary he "outed himself as a serial womaniser who cheated repeatedly on his wife".[3] He was awarded lifetime membership of the Irish Film & Television Academy in 2010 when he said it was "particularly gratifying that it occurs before I pop my clogs".[4] He died the following year.

Early life and private life[edit]

O'Shannon grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and was the son of Cathal O'Shannon (Sr.), an Irish socialist and republican.

As a 16-year-old he joined the RAF in Belfast near the end of the Second World War.[5][6] After training he was sent to Burma[2] as a rear gunner in a Avro Lancaster bomber.

His wife, Patsy, whom he met while working for The Irish Times in London, died in 2006. They had been married for more than 50 years.

Media career[edit]

O'Shannon first became a journalist with The Irish Times in 1947. Later he joined RTÉ. In 1972 O' Shannon recorded one of his best remembered journalistic coups - interviewing Muhammad Ali, the famous boxer, for Irish television.[7][8][9] He received a Jacob's Award for his 1976 TV documentary, Even the Olives are Bleeding, which dealt with the involvement of Irish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.[10] Two years later he was honoured with a second Jacob's Award for his TV interview with former Irish revolutionary Emmet Dalton.[11]

In January 2007, his documentary, Hidden History: Ireland's Nazis, was broadcast by RTÉ as a two-part series. It explored how a number of former Nazis and Nazi collaborators from Occupied Europe went to live in Ireland after the Second World War[5]— the best known of whom was Otto Skorzeny, who lived for a period in County Kildare. Others included such Breton nationalists as Alan Heusaff, Yann Fouéré and Yann Goulet, as well as two Belgians, Albert Folens and Albert Luykx.[12]

Public relations career[edit]

In 1978, he left RTÉ to join Canadian company Alcan which was setting up an aluminium plant at Aughinish, County Limerick Ireland in 1978. He was head-hunted to become the director of public affairs, an important post at a time when there were environmental concerns about the effects of aluminium production.

He admitted frankly that he was attracted by the salary, “five times what RTÉ were paying me”. But he also indicated that he had become unhappy with RTÉ and said in an interview that: “The real reason I got out of RTÉ was that they wouldn’t let me do what I wanted.” He had submitted plans for a series on the Civil War and also on the wartime Emergency period.

While he enjoyed the social life with lavish expenses which his public relations duties involved, his friends believed that he missed the varied life and travel of journalism. He retired early from Aughinish in 1992 but returned to making some memorable television documentaries with RTÉ.[13]


O'Shannon died on 22 October 2011, aged 83.[14][15][16][17][18]

Director-General of RTÉ Noel Curran said O'Shannon had brought into being "some of the great moments in the RTÉ documentary and factual schedule over the past five decades."[19] His funeral took place at Glasnevin Crematorium Chapel on 26 October 2011.[20]

In tribute, RTÉ One showed the documentary Cathal O'Shannon: Telling Tales on 10 November 2011. It had originally aired in 2008 to mark his 80th birthday.[21]


  1. ^ a b The Late Late Show (RTÉ 1), Friday, 12 January 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Paper Prophet – Cathal O'Shannon". Sunday Independent. 18 July 2004. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
  3. ^ "Cathal O'Shannon outs himself as serial womaniser". 28 December 2008.
  4. ^ "IFTA honours RTÉ's O'Shannon". RTÉ Ten. 22 September 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Hidden History: Ireland's Nazis". RTÉ Website. Archived from the original on 5 May 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
  6. ^ Kehoe, Emmanuel (21 January 2007). "Hidden History: Much ado about Nazis". The Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 26 May 2008.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Muhammad Ali, 1972: Muhammad Ali V Cathal O'Shannon". Reference to Ali interview at RTÉ Libraries and Archives.
  8. ^ "Video: The late Cathal O'Shannon v Muhammad Ali". 22 October 2011.
  9. ^ "A look back: Cathal O'Shannon v Muhammad Ali". 22 October 2011.
  10. ^ The Irish Times, "Critics honour 'Olives' and 'Riordans'", 16 May 1977
  11. ^ The Irish Times, "Jacobs present awards", 31 March 1979
  12. ^ "We are past masters at Nazi denial". Programme review by Eoghan Harris, Sunday Independent, 21 January 2007.
  13. ^ "Journalist who made outstanding contribution to television". The Irish Times. 29 October 2011.
  14. ^ "RTÉ journalist Cathal O'Shannon dies aged 83" Archived 24 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. RTÉ News. 22 October 2011.
  15. ^ "Death of broadcaster O'Shannon". The Irish Times. 22 October 2011.
  16. ^ "TV great Cathal O'Shannon dies at 83". RTÉ Ten. 22 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Journalist and filmmaker O'Shannon dies aged 83". Irish Examiner. 22 October 2011.
  18. ^ "TV Veteran Cathal O'Shannon Dies at 83". IFTN. 24 October 2011.
  19. ^ "RTE boss pays tribute as broadcaster Cathal O'Shannon dies, aged 83". Sunday Independent. 23 October 2011.
  20. ^ "Final farewell for O'Shannon". 24 October 2011.
  21. ^ "O'Shannon tribute on RTÉ One tonight". RTÉ Ten. 10 November 2011.

External links[edit]