President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin have led tributes to retired RTÉ journalist Rodney Rice who has died following a short illness. He was 76.
Mr Higgins said Rice’s reporting introduced Irish viewers to “a world of freedom struggles, inequality, famine and forced migrations.
“That aspect of his four decades of work for RTÉ, was pioneering work. His was one of the earliest, bravest and most consistent voices in opposing apartheid in South Africa,” he said.
Rice “sought to promote debate and understanding of Irish public affairs,” the President added. “In doing so, he helped to shape RTÉ’s current affairs broadcasting, and the public’s evolving expectations of the national broadcaster’s role in this area.
But above all else, generations of Irish people and educators will be aware of how much they appreciated his work in bringing the voices of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people into Irish homes, through his reporting in the ‘Worlds Apart’ series, and through his support for the work of many of Ireland’s development organisations, which continued even in retirement.”
Describing him as a “brilliant political reporter, presenter and producer” Mr Martin said Rice had also left a lasting legacy in international aid through his work with Trócaire and Action Aid.
Best known as presenter of RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday View programme, which he hosted from 1984 for over 25 years, Rice also presented the Worlds Apart programme which covered developing world issues and Africa in particular.
Following his retirement in 2009 Rice continued supporting the work of agencies such as Trócaire and Action Aid.
Born in 1944 at Whiteabbey, Co Antrim, he studied political science at Trinity College Dublin before joining The Belfast Telegraph.
In 1968, aged 24, he joined RTÉ as a reporter in television current affairs.
RTÉ’s Head of Radio 1 Peter Woods 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.
RTÉ’s Director General Dee Forbes described Rice as a pioneering journalist. “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,” she said.
Ms Forbes said Rice had a unique grasp of global issues coupled with a forensic knowledge of domestic current affairs.
Irish Secretary for the National Union of Journalists Séamus Dooley described him as an outstanding journalist with a passion for social justice. “Rodney opened a window onto the wider world, and was the embodiment of public service broadcasting at its best.”
Former RTÉ colleagues also paid tribute with Charlie Bird noting his death marked the passing of “another great journalist and broadcaster…He did some powerful work on RTÉ highlighting issues in the ‘third world’.”
Cathal MacCoille said: “Decent, clever, fair, Rodney Rice had huge amounts of the qualities a great broadcaster needs” while Ingrid Miley said Rice “was a fantastic journalist”.
Mr Rice is survived by his wife Margo, their children, Cian, Caitriona and Eoghan and seven grandchildren.