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‘This is Ireland at it’s best’

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED  Charlie Bird's hands are lifted in truimph by Ryan Tubridy and Daniel O'Donnell as he reached the top of Croagh Patrick early on Saturday afternoon. Pic: Conor McKeown

Charlie Bird ascends Croagh Patrick to complete ‘Climb with Charlie’ campaign


Oisín McGovern

IT began as ‘a mad idea’, but nobody could have conceived how Charlie Bird’s dream would take flight and touch so many lives so profoundly.
The outpouring of emotion and gratitude for the former RTÉ reporter seeped from every rock and crevasse on Croagh Patrick when Charlie’s dream finally came true last Saturday, and the ‘Climb with Charlie’ campaign was complete.
Surrounded by friends, family and a small army of followers, the RTÉ icon beamed as he thanked all those who helped him along his journey.
“The support I have received has lifted me in a way which I cannot express in words,” he said in his old voice, which was recreated through voice-capture technology.
“But today is not just about me, it is about everyone who has a terminal illness. After the last couple of years that we have all gone through with the pandemic we know that many people have their own personal mountains to climb every day.”
Charlie was met with rapturous applause when he used what was left of his own voice to reiterate his plea to people to extend the hand of friendship to those in need. He revealed on the Late Late Show in December that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

‘Friends for life’
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is Ireland at its best,” said Ryan Tubridy with a smile from ear-to-ear.
“Everyone has different reasons to be here. Everyone has been thinking about people they love, people they miss, this is a very personal place to be, and we’ve all become friends here, friends for life.”
Singer Daniel O’Donnell said that Charlie Bird had united Ireland at a time when Vladmir Putin was trying to divide the world.
“Charlie’s journey has been amazing,” O’Donnell said.
“Those of us who remember Charlie at his best, travelling around the world and bringing the stories from places we could only dream of… and we were all in awe. But there has been no story that Charlie has ever told in all his travels that will top his own story of today.”

Candles
Charlie and his wife, Claire, lit five candles in a private ceremony in the chapel on the Reek – one for everyone who has a terminal illness; one for people who are in a dark place and climbing their own mountain every day; one for the people of Ukraine; one for Covid frontline workers and one for Vicky Phelan, who has cervical cancer.
The crowd were then treated to songs from O’Donnell, while local musicians Matt Molloy and Clew Bay Pipe Band roused the pilgrims with the sound of pipes and drums.
Charlie’s message is one that has inspired, and will continue to inspire, those who meet hard times.
One such group are the Delaney family, who are beginning their climb just after Charlie began his descent.
They travelled from Whitehall in Dublin wearing t-shirts with pictures of their mother Mary, who passed away from motor neurone disease just over seven weeks after receiving her diagnosis.
“We were silenced by it six years ago,” Jenny Delaney tells The Mayo News.
“We knew nobody who had it or who had ever experienced it. We were terrified. It was such a final decision that gave us, there was no hope.
“Getting out here and doing this today is filling my heart and chest with lots and lots of love. She was a legend.”
At exactly 4 o’clock, hundreds who climbed with Charlie lined the road at the bottom of the mountain to give him a hero’s reception as ‘A World In Union’ blasted through the speaker of the Mid-West Radio satellite cruiser.
It was true for Daniel O’Donnell, it seemed as though Charlie Bird really has united Ireland. And in the process has raised over €2 million for the Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association and Pieta.

 

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