President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin have led tributes to the former RTE London Editor and Head of RTE Radio News Mike Burns who passed away, at his Dublin home, peacefully in his sleep. He turned 84 just last month.
The Leicester-born Irish journalist who grew up in Roscommon was one of the original pioneers of RTE News in the early years of the national television station in the 1960s and was one of the most significant, influential and effective journalists in Ireland throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Before RTE – he worked in newspapers in England and Ireland, the Sandbach Chronicle in Cheshire (chat show host Michael Parkinson shared the beat before entering broadcasting) and The Sunday Independent in Dublin and as a founding member and saxophonist of the show band The Premier Aces.
Towards the end of his storied RTE career he transformed the station’s journalistic presence in Britain when he became London Editor in the mid-1980s. He was predeceased, all too soon at too young an age, by his beloved wife Lynette Fegen, of Lough Ree, County Westmeath, in 2001.
President Higgins said the news of Mr Burns’ death “will have been received with sadness not only by his colleagues but by his many friends in Ireland and abroad.
“The tributes by so many of his colleagues to his geniality and the ease with which he engaged both with people and with complex issues is an appropriate one, and one that is shared by all those who knew him.
“In so many ways, as a journalist Mike Burns was in touch with all aspects of the Irish diaspora. This was demonstrated by his coverage of the Kennedy funerals and later in his work in London where he showed a deep respect for people of different views.
“Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and to his friends and all his former colleagues.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “very saddened to hear of the passing of Mike Burns, a giant of broadcasting. Kind and courteous, his pioneering RTÉ shows like This Week and the News at One left a lasting legacy.”
He added: “His analysis of the Troubles and work on UK-Irish relations made a real difference that will endure.”