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RIP Eurovision winning songwriter and former broadcaster Shay Healy dies, aged 78

Eurovision winner Linda Martin said he was multitalented and described him on RTÉ Radio One as “the Shakespeare of our day."

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Shay Healy. RTÉ

Shay Healy. RTÉ

Shay Healy. RTÉ

The former RTE broadcaster and singer Shay Healy has died at the age of 78.

Healy, from Sandymount in Dublin, raised the spirits of the nation when his song What's Another Year, sung by Johnny Logan, won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980.

He went on to present the late night talk show 'Nighthawks', a current affairs and comedy sketch show that ran from 1988 to 1992.

It featured Healy talking to everyone from John Giles and Eamonn Dunphy, sometimes among swirls of smoke inside a pub, with a few cans of beer.

But it was his interview with former Justice Minister Sean Doherty that sent shockwaves through the country. The minister opened up about phone tapping and it eventually led to the resignation of the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

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Shay Healy at the opening night of Faith Healer at the Gate Theatre, Dublin. Photo: Collins

Shay Healy at the opening night of Faith Healer at the Gate Theatre, Dublin. Photo: Collins

Shay Healy at the opening night of Faith Healer at the Gate Theatre, Dublin. Photo: Collins

There were glowing tributes to the beloved songwriter this morning.

Eurovision winner Linda Martin said he was multitalented and described him on RTÉ Radio One as “the Shakespeare of our day”.

Former RTE presenter Aonghus McNally said: “So sorry to wake up to the news that the brilliantly wonderful genius of music and comedy Shay Healy has died. So many great memories together. We are in a sadder place today.”

Singer Frances Black said: “I am so sorry to hear of the passing of the great Shay Healy. I met Shay in the early ’90s when he presented the RTE show Nighthawks. He was a great songwriter and was passionate about music. My deepest condolences to his family and all who loved him. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

Arts Minister Catherine Martin said: “Shay Healy was a gifted songwriter and a national treasure. His beautiful song writing inspired a generation of Irish artists to take their place on the world stage.”

She added: “His time as a broadcaster brought Shay into our homes where the Irish public fell in love with the man and with his irreverent and vital spirit. His battle with Parkinson’s disease in his later years was so difficult but also a source of great inspiration for many dealing with the same struggles. I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Shay at this very difficult time.”

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Shay Healy and Johnny Logan arrive home to Dublin victorious after the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest

Shay Healy and Johnny Logan arrive home to Dublin victorious after the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest

Shay Healy and Johnny Logan arrive home to Dublin victorious after the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest

Speaking years later about the infamous Sean Doherty interview, Mr Healy later described in his book, On The Road, he did not realise the significance of Mr Doherty’s explosive revelation until afterwards.

He wrote: “When the show was over and we were standing at the bar having a drink, Doherty leaned into my ear and said ‘In case you didn’t notice, I said something tonight that I’ve never said before.”’

Realising the importance of the story, Mr Healy rang Bruce Arnold when he got back to Dublin and invited him to view the tape.

He wrote: “Doherty had pulled the trigger and Nighthawks had a scoop. He stopped being the scapegoat on Nighthawks that night.

“The story exploded all over the newspapers next day and our show had a huge audience.

“Mr Doherty was so aggrieved at being blamed for so long that he finally snapped and Nighthawks just happened to present itself as the ideal opportunity to exact his revenge.

“A day later Charles J Haughey announced his intention to resign as Taoiseach. Our puny little entertainment show had brought down the most controversial politician of modern times.”

Mr Healy left RTÉ in 1995, and would go on to found his own production company.

Shay was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease in 2004 but continued working and performing.

He and his wife Dympha had two sons. Dympha predeceased him in 2017.

In a moving reflection on Claire Byrne Live in 2018, he praised his late wife, whom he married in 1967, for being his soulmate as he reflected on his loss: “The shock of losing someone is immense…Being on your own for so long is oppressive.

“Dining for one is not my strong point, and dancing alone is as bad. So I’m still coming to grips with the fact that she’s not here anymore.’

He also spoke openly about his battle with Parkinson’s Disease which he had for the last 18 years of his life. He said: ‘I hope that the last thing to go will be my spirit.’

‘I am lonely now but the way I feel about it is ‘just shut up and get one with it’."

Insisting that there is no point in complaining, he urged everyone to make the most of life, adding: ‘I think that primarily, that is your responsibility to yourself.’

He said: "Never forget to enjoy the climb rather than the view. Sometimes the climb is more rewarding than the view."

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