Inspirational | 

Charlie Bird cheered and applauded as he reaches top of Croagh Patrick

‘We never know what is around the corner’

Charlie Bird at the base of Croagh Patrick behind ahead of the Climb With Charlie fundraising event. Picture; Gerry Mooney.

Colin Brennan

Charlie Bird has said “we never know what is around the corner” after he reached the summit of Croagh Patrick this afternoon where he was welcomed by applause and cheers from his fellow climbers.

He raised his climbing stick in delight and in acknowledgement of the crowds as he and his wife Claire arrived at the top of The Reek.

“I love every single one of you, I mean it,” he said. “Always extend the hand of friendship."

He said “something amazing” had happened since he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) last year.

The former RTÉ broadcaster (72) came up with the idea of climbing Croagh Patrick while on The Late Late Show last year. Climb with Charlie has now raised over €1m for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House with thousands of people taking part in climbs and walks around the country.

“I had a mad idea when I told Ryan Tubridy that I wanted to climb it.

“My great colleague Jim Fahy was going to climb this mountain with me but passed away,” he said in reference to the late RTÉ western correspondent who died in January.

“Everyone has their own personal mountains to climb. We never know what is around the corner,” he added.

Charlie admitted that he did not know how long he had to live, but said he will continue to extend the hand of friendship.

“People have been so generous to the Climb With Charlie. I’ve been touched by incredible kindness. There has been amazing volunteers who have helped out."

His wife Claire expressed her delight at reaching the summit and thanked everyone.

Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy took part in the climb with his former RTÉ colleague and said: “Well done Charlie. We’re all happy to be here, we’ve a lot of love for Charlie Bird. This whole thing came from Charlie.

“Today is about Ireland at its best, a country in the shadows for two years. We stood up to be counted.

“Everyone has different reasons to be here. We’ll never forget what we did here."

Singer Daniel O’Donnell was visibly moved by Charlie’s achievement and wiped away tears. He sang a Bruce Springsteen song that was played at Charlie and Claire’s wedding.

“It’s a privilege to be here,” he said.

“I was on The Late Late when Charlie spoke about his dream to climb Croagh Patrick.

“Charlie’s journey has been amazing. He brought stories from all the world. There has been no story that Charlie has ever told that will top today.”

He said Charlie had united Ireland and that Russian president Vladamir Putin could learn from him.

“One man has united Ireland and there is another man who is dividing the world.

“Charlie is amazing, if only we could make it different for you. We stand in awe of you,” he added.

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan had hoped to take part in the climb alongside Charlie. She had said that while she could not be there in person, she would be there in spirit.

Family members, including her father and mother, her sister, two brothers, nieces and nephews and friends, undertook the climb on her behalf.

However she spoke by phone at the summit saying: “Fair play Charlie, you made it to the top.

“To do what he’s doing and rally everyone around. I’ve never seen anything like it, what he is doing considering his condition is amazing."

Five candles were lit – for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine, for Vicky Phelan, for those who have a terminal illness, those with their own mountains to climb or adversity to face and for everyone who helped in the battle against the pandemic.

A local pipe band played Dawning of the Day after Charlie reached the summit.

Speaking earlier today as he set off on the climb, architect Dermot Bannon said it was a day that made you proud to be Irish.

“It was very emotional and powerful to see how Charlie has gone about this.

“I’m very privileged to be here, it’s a big national event.

“I think today is all about a united country standing behind people who are suffering in silence.”

Fine Gael TD Michael Ring hailed "the difficult climb” Charlie was doing as “inspirational”.

He told the Irish Independent: “Charlie has touched the hearts of many people throughout the country.

“He has given a lift to the charitable organisations and any family that are going through adversity at the moment."

Many well-knows faces took part in the climb, including RTÉ’s George Lee, TV presenter Baz Ashmawy and Met Éireann forecaster Joanna Donnelly.

George said “a bird doesn’t fly with one wing” and said the “support of the Irish people is the second wing that will help Charlie up the mountain”.

“It’s so important that the day goes well for Charlie, his energy and positivity is incredible. It is so impressive.”

Also taking part in the climb was Stephen Sheridan from Cavan town who arrived at The Reek with nine friends.

He said he was climbing the mountain for his sister Collette who is battling breast cancer.

“I was touched by what he said on The Late Late. I wanted to climb to show support for my sister.

“I lost my mother Anna May and my sister Rosaleen sadly from brain tumours.

“Every family in the country is touched by illness and we’re doing it for them.”

Meanwhile local man Martin Gill from Murrisk had already climbed the mountain as many were setting off and his family arrived to welcome him at the bottom.

“I wanted to do it for solidarity,” he said. “I started at 6am but it got a lot of busier as I came down.

“My three children were waiting for me at the bottom with my wife which was lovely.”

Fundraisers are taking place around Ireland today and tomorrow, but also as far afield as the US, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

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