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Pioneering RTÉ journalist Rodney Rice dies aged 76 following short illness

A native of Whiteabbey, Co Antrim, he worked as a reporter, producer and presenter with RTÉ for more than 40 years and was best known for presenting RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday View show for 25 years

Rodney Rice. Picture: RTÉ

Allison Bray

Taoiseach Michéal Martin and RTÉ director general Dee Forbes have led tributes following the death of pioneering journalist and charity executive Rodney Rice.

Mr Rice died following a short illness. He was 76.

A native of Whiteabbey, Co Antrim, he worked as a reporter, producer and presenter with RTÉ for more than 40 years and was best known for presenting RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday View show for 25 years.

He also produced and presented RTÉ’s Worlds Apart series for 23 years which focused on problems facing people living in the developing world and saw him travel extensively throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. He was banned from South Africa for a decade in 1981 for a programme he made about the apartheid regime, of which he was a vocal critic.

During his final broadcast in July, 2009, Mr Rice said he was privileged to have been able to voice the concerns of the world’s poorest people to an Irish audience through the series.

Following his retirement that year, he worked with international development charities such as Trócaire and Action Aid, of which he served as chairman.

After his first stint as a reporter with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Rice joined the national broadcaster in 1968 at the age of 24 and worked as a reporter for the television current affairs programme 7 Days. He then presented RTE Radio One’s Here and Now programme for nine years before anchoring Saturday View for the next 25 years.

Meanwhile, Micheál Martin offered his condolences.

"Saddened to hear of the passing of Rodney Rice,” the Taoiseach said in a tweet.

"A brilliant political reporter, presenter and producer, he made shows like Saturday View his own. He leaves a lasting legacy in international aid too in work with Trócaire and Action Aid. My thoughts go to all his family today."

Dee Forbes also paid tribute, describing him as a pioneering journalist.

"When Rodney Rice retired in 2009, he brought to a close a distinguished 40-year broadcasting career. From his days as a television reporter on 7 Days, through to Here and Now and Worlds Apart on radio, he was a journalistic pioneer, with a unique grasp of global issues alongside a forensic knowledge of current affairs closer to home," she said.

"With Saturday View on RTÉ Radio One he established a national debate forum, often for the country’s most senior politicians. Rodney sat in the Saturday View chair for more than 25 years, covering the stories of the day and often making them too.

"We remember him with much respect, and deep admiration. Our sympathies to Rodney’s wife Margo, and his children, Cian, Caitriona and Eoghan."

Peter Woods, RTE’s Head of Radio One, also paid tribute. He said.

"Rodney Rice was a central part of a generation who first defined broadcasting in this country. He began to present Here and Now in 1974, the predecessor of the Today with Claire Byrne programme, establishing the centrality of politics and current affairs in Irish life and on the radio," he said.

"He presented Saturday View, bringing some of that formula to the weekends. His programmes had many triumphs, not least during the 1990 presidential election campaign. But Rodney always remained a journalist first and never got in the way of the story.

"He had a commitment to Third World development issues that stemmed from his abhorrence of apartheid. Those of us who worked with him learned much from him - his commitment to public service broadcasting and to the pursuit of the story. He was a real presence in the Radio Centre and was missed when he retired.

"Rodney Rice set standards. He never underestimated the importance of broadcast journalism and never accepted second best. To have produced an election programme presented by Rodney Rice was a career benchmark for many."

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