President Michael D Higgins with the late Liam Cahill in Aras an Uachtaran. Photo: Barry Cronin

President pays tribute following death of writer and historian, Liam Cahill

Sudden passing of former journalist and political advisor

President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to the former RTE political correspondent, historian and writer, Liam Cahill, of Drumree, who died suddenly at his residence yesterday, aged 72.

“People throughout Irish media, politics and beyond will have been saddened to hear of the death of Liam Cahill," President Higgins said.

"The contribution Liam made to Irish society was a wide and varied one. It included his work, his research, and his writing as a journalist, historian, and as an adviser across political and public affairs.

"To all of this he brought a well-informed, humorous and passionate spirit. To all of his many endeavours he brought, and has left, a particular personal legacy. His work in seeking to bring greater attention to the Limerick Soviet of 1919 reflected a particular interest in the cosmuintir, and the excluded or neglected. He presented a copy of his book on this to me in Áras an Uachtaráin.

"I had the privilege of engaging with Liam many times over the years. Indeed, he was due to visit the Áras again in the coming weeks to present me with a copy of his most recent book, ‘From Suir to Jarama’, which shed light on the story of his cousin Mossie Quinlan, a volunteer in Spain with the British battalion of the International Brigade. It is a great sadness that we will not get the opportunity to have that meeting.

"May I express my deepest sympathies to his daughter Susan, his son Eoin, to all of his wider family, and his many friends across the political spectrum.”

In recent years, Liam Cahill had concentrated on history publications, and the Waterford native was delighted in April to receive an award from the Waterford News and Star for his book on his cousin, Mossie Quinlan, who fought with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

He was presented with the award for best new book by a Waterford author for '‘From Suir to Jarama - Mossie Quinlan's Life and Legacy'.

Originally a trade union activist and reporter, Liam Cahill seamlessly crossed the political divides as an advisor to various ministers, while he was also able to crossover to public relations industry, while maintaining a deep interest in Gaelic games matters, with a website devoted to football and hurling.

Initially living at Riverstown, Kilmessan, the family then moved to Clavinstown, Drumree, on the Dunsany-Dunshaughlin road.

Born in Waterford in 1950, Liam Cahill grew up in Ballybricken, in the old historical Fair Green part of the city, and attended Mount Sion Christian Brothers School.

He joined the ESB accounts section, based in Cork and Waterford, before taking up a position with the Revenue Commissioners. He graduated from UCD with a law degree in 1977.

His main interests were by now in journalism and trade unions, and he was getting published by the Irish Press, Evening Press, and Hibernia magazine.

In 1979, he got a position as a full-time official with the Federated Workers Union of Ireland. When RTE advertised for two specialist reporters - in industrial relations and economics, he applied, and became part of a team focusing on industrial relations, finance and economics.

In 1989, when Sean Duignan was appointed presenter of the Six-One News, Liam Cahill succeeded him as political correspondent. When Charles Haughey took over the European Union Presidency for six months in 1990, Cahill was asked to be spokesperson in Brussels for six months. On his return, he became head of public affairs and communications at Allied Irish Bank.

After Albert Reynolds succeeded Haughey as Taoiseach in 1992, David Andrews was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, and he brought Cahill in to run his press office. With the formation of the FF-Labour coalition later that year, Andrews moved to Defence and brought Cahill with him as programme manager. After that Government fell, Liam Cahill signed on social welfare for a while to take stock, an opportunity arose to become media relations manager at Intel in Leixlip, then less than a decade in Ireland and building up its presence.

Following his Intel years, he moved into public relations firms, working with Keating and Associates before setting up his own Liam Cahill Consultancy.

A former director of communications with the Labour Party (2005-’06), he also worked with the late Shane McEntee of Fine Gael, Nessa Childers, Labour MEP, and Fianna Fail's Thomas Byrne when he ran in a European Election in 2014. His last political appointment was as media advisor to the former Labour Leader, Alan Kelly, when he was Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government from September 2014 to October 2015.

Cahill's interest in the humanities led him to art, and creative writing, and following his wife Patricia’s death in 2015, he undertook a Maynooth University Certificate in Creative Writing, graduating with first class honours in 2017.

Liam Cahill produced many paintings, which he gave as presents to family and friends as gifts.

Red headed Cahill was far ahead of his time as publisher and editor from 2000 to 2012 of an innovative and leading website for GAA fans 'An Fear Rua - The GAA Unplugged!’ in which he columnised and opined on the Gaelic games of the day. A fluent Irish speaker, he penned a column as Gaeilge for the Irish Times for a period.

Initially living at Riverstown, Kilmessan, the family then moved to Clavinstown, Drumree, on the Dunsany-Dunshaughlin road.

When his children were young and involved in sports, he helped out in Dunsany GFC and Dunshaughlin Youths FC, and was on the board of management of Scoil na Rithe, Dunshaughlin.

His death comes just a week after that of another contemporary journalist turned political advisor, his friend, Tom Reddy.