Fergal Keane

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Fergal Keane
Born (1961-01-06) 6 January 1961 (age 60)
London, England
EducationPresentation Brothers College, Cork. St Mary's College, Dublin
Terenure College
TitleOn Air Editor at BBC News (?–2020)
RelativesJohn B. Keane

Fergal Patrick Keane OBE (born 6 January 1961) is an Irish foreign correspondent with BBC News, and an author.[1] For some time, Keane was the BBC's correspondent in South Africa. He is a nephew of the Irish playwright, novelist and essayist John B. Keane.

Early life[edit]

Born in London, Keane grew up in Dublin and later in Cork. His father was the Listowel-born actor, Éamonn Keane.[2] He attended three primary schools in Dublin: Scoil Bhride, a gaelscoil (Irish-language school), St. Mary's College and Terenure College, and, later, one primary school in Cork, St. Joseph's.[3]

In a 1999 interview with the Independent, Keane said that his gaelscoil education proved useful in later life: "The grounding in the Irish language I had at Scoil Bhride has never left me. In a foreign country when I'm on the phone and don't wish people to understand what I'm saying, I speak Irish and no Serb listening in is going to crack the code."[3]

His secondary education was at Presentation Brothers College in Cork, where Keane says he was encouraged to join the school debating society, and where he won the Provincial Gold Medal for Public Speaking (on the subject of police brutality in Ireland).[3] Today, Keane continues to draw on this experience acting as a public speaker, event chair and after dinner speaker.[4]


On finishing school in 1979, Keane started his career as a journalist with the Limerick Leader.[1] Subsequently, he worked for The Irish Press. Later, he moved into broadcast journalism with Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ).

Keane joined the BBC in 1989 as Northern Ireland Correspondent, but in August 1990 he was appointed their Southern African Correspondent, having covered the region during the early 1980s. From 1990 to 1994 Keane's reports covered the township unrest in South Africa, the first multi-racial elections following the end of apartheid, and the genocide in Rwanda. In 1995 he was appointed Asia Correspondent based in Hong Kong and two years later, after the handover, he returned to be based in the BBC's World Affairs Unit in London.

Keane was named as overall winner of the Amnesty International Press Awards in 1993 and won an Amnesty television prize in 1994 for his investigation of the Rwandan genocide, Journey into Darkness. He is the only journalist to have won both the Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year award and the Sony Radio Reporter of the Year in the same year – 1994.[5] He won The Voice of The Viewer award and a Listener Award for his 1996 BBC Radio 4 From Our Own Correspondent despatch Letter to Daniel,[6] addressed to his newborn son, and a One World Television Award in 1999. He won a BAFTA award for his documentary on Rwanda, Valentina's Story. He has won the James Cameron Prize for war reporting, the Edward R. Murrow Award for foreign reporting, the Index on Censorship prize for journalistic integrity, and the 1995 Orwell Prize for his book Season of Blood.[7][8] In May 2009 he won a Sony Gold Award for his Radio 4 series Taking A Stand. He also won a Peabody Award and an Emmy for his reporting as part of the BBC team covering the 2015 refugee crisis. In the three-part documentary Forgotten Britain, serialised on the BBC in May 2000, Keane travelled across the country meeting people living on the edge in affluent societies. He visits and interviews residents living on a drug-infested housing estate in Leeds, interviews a Govan shipyard worker faced with the constant threat of redundancy and travels through the idyllic landscapes of Cornwall and Wales interviewing independent dairy farmers who claim they are being ruined by competing supermarket chains.[9] Keane was a patron of the UK-based development agency Msaada, which assisted survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

In 2010, he published his first history work Road of Bones: the Siege of Kohima 1944, an account of the epic battle which halted the Japanese invasion of India in 1944.

One of his projects is the five-part series The Story of Ireland, a 2011 documentary co-produced by BBC Northern Ireland and Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

Keane has been awarded honorary degrees in literature from the University of Strathclyde, Bournemouth University and Staffordshire University. On 15 December 2011, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Liverpool. Keane was appointed an OBE for services to journalism in the 1997 New Year's Honours list.

In April 2018 he was awarded the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for Wounds.[10]

In November 2018, Keane provided the commentary for the Westminster Abbey service marking the centenary of the Armistice.[11]

The BBC revealed in January 2020 that Keane had suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for several years, and consequently was moving out of his role as Africa editor in order to aid his recovery.[12]

Published works[edit]

  • Keane, Fergal and Shane Kenny (1987). Irish Politics Now: "This Week" Guide to the 25th Dáil. Brandon. ISBN 0-86322-095-9.
  • Keane, Fergal (1995). The Bondage of Fear: A Journey Through the Last White Empire. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-023488-8.
  • Keane, Fergal (1996). Season of Blood: Rwandan Journey. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-024760-2.
  • Keane, Fergal (1996). Letter to Daniel: Despatches from the Heart. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-026289-X.
  • Keane, Fergal (1999). Letters Home. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-028979-8.
  • Keane, Fergal (1999). Dispatches from the Heart. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-027155-4.
  • Keane, Fergal (2001). A Stranger's Eye (BBC Radio Collection). BBC Audiobooks. ISBN 0-563-47814-4.
  • Keane, Fergal (2006). All of These People: A Memoir. HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-00-717693-7.
  • Keane, Fergal (2010). Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944. HarperPress. ISBN 978-0-00-713240-9.
  • Keane, Fergal (2017). Wounds: A Memoir of Love and War. HarperPress. ISBN 978-0-00-818925-9.


  1. ^ a b Keane, Fergal (6 October 2014). "Fergal Keane: Early days at the Leader made me the journalist I am". Limerick Leader. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  2. ^ The Irish Times, "A journalist with his own story to tell", 4 January 1997
  3. ^ a b c "Passed/Failed: Fergal Keane – Profiles – People". The Independent. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Fergal Keane – Personally Speaking Bureau". Personallyspeakingbureau.com. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Lecture: BBC Foreign Correspondent Fergal Keane Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  6. ^ Fergal Keane (27 January 1998). "Letter to Daniel". From Our Own Correspondent. BBC. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  7. ^ "PBS Online NewsHour: Fergal Keane". Pbs.org. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Interview with Fergal Keane, Special Correspondent for BBC News" (PDF). International Review of the Red Cross. 87 (860). December 2005. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Fergal Keane's Forgotten Britain". dfgdocs.com. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  10. ^ "The 2015 – 2017 Prize – Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize". Ewartbiggsprize.org.uk. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  11. ^ "BBC One – World War One Remembered: Westminster Abbey". BBC. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  12. ^ Alexandra Topping. "Veteran war reporter will leave role as broadcaster's Africa correspondent to aid recovery". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2020.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Africa Editor: BBC News
Succeeded by
Will Ross