Corkonians move mountains to show support for inspirational Charlie as he reaches top of Croagh Patrick

Corkonians move mountains to show support for inspirational Charlie as he reaches top of Croagh Patrick

Climb with Charlie Croagh Patrick Co Mayo 2nd of April 2022 Making it to the Summit Ryan Tubridy and Charlie Bird and Daniel O’Donnell after reaching the summit of Croagh Patrick. Photo Conor McKeown

RETIRED broadcaster Charlie Bird was followed closely by his Cork supporters as he reached the summit of Croagh Patrick in what proved an emotional endeavour for so many.

The former RTÉ chief news correspondent, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease last year, was cheered on by fellow climbers from far and wide-including a number of Cork organisations such as Bantry Tidy Towns and Cork Penny Dinners.

Charlie had set himself the goal of hiking to the top of the Mayo mountain with hundreds from across the country deciding to follow suit.

Some of the more familiar faces included singer Daniel O’Donnell and former champion boxer Barry McGuigan. The head of soup kitchen charity, Cork Penny Dinners, Caitríona Twomey was also spotted at the event.

Others completed their own ‘Climb with Charlie’ events with climbs being organised as far as the US, Australia, South Africa and Spain.

The campaign has now raised more than €1m for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and mental health charity Pieta House. Charlie, who was accompanied on the climb by his wife Claire and daughters Orla and Neasa, said he was truly humbled by the response.

“I am truly humbled and inspired that so many thousands of people took part in Climb with Charlie events across the world,” he said.

“I want to thank people all across the country for their incredible support throughout this journey. All of the generous donations will go to the two charities which are so close to my heart. It is an amazing gesture of support for me and my family.

“Throughout this campaign, we have had the support of so many wonderful people and organisations, and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. I would also like to particularly thank the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, Mayo Mountain Rescue, the Order of Malta and all our local volunteers for making our climb today possible.” 

One Cork climber- Declan Sheehan from Macroom and District Lions Club- who set out to climb Mushera Moutain in support of Charlie at 6am- said he was extremely proud of Charlie Bird's connection with his hometown of Macroom.

“We started the day at 6am and thought we were going to be the first. However, we came across people on their way down when we got there who had been hoping to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy but they were still so happy to be there. We decided to take part in the event after a member brought along a picture of himself and Charlie in a bookshop in Macroom. It reminded us of the local connection we have with Charlie. We can even remember how he was the grand marshall of the St Patrick's Day parade. His grandad was from here and we hear it’s a place that’s very close to Charlie's heart. The IMNDA said he was really delighted with all the support from Macroom."

He said that almost everyone they met climbing the mountain had a story to tell.

"A lot of people had lost someone to motor neurone disease. One woman was carrying her husband's memorial card to the top of the mountain. We saw people of all ages. Initially, we thought the youngest was four until we saw a mother climbing to the top with her nine-week-old baby. One man in his seventies was climbing the mountain at 7am so that he could make his grandchild's confirmation which was taking place later that day."

Charlie Bird planned to light five candles in the small chapel at the top of the mountain – one for his friend- and high-profile campaigner for women battling cervical cancer- Vicky Phelan; one for everyone diagnosed with a terminal illness; one for those experiencing mental health difficulties; and another for everyone involved in the fight against Covid-19. His final candle was for the brave people of Ukraine.

Irish president Michael D Higgins was among those paying tribute to Bird’s fortitude and determination.

Hailing him an inspiration, he said: 

“Charlie’s strength and dignity over recent months has been a source of true inspiration to people across Ireland and beyond.” 

In a tweet to Bird, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin added:

 “Wonderful to see the money raised by your Croagh Patrick climb – I know the whole country is right behind you every step of the way!” Meanwhile, members of Inniscarra Community Centre organised a four-mile walk in solidarity with Charlie that raised €3,500 for the cause.

John Connolly from Inniscarra Community Centre spoke of the community spirit generated by Charlie.

“Everyone came together to offer their support and there was a fantastic atmosphere,” he said. “I think Charlie's appearance on the Late Late Show inspired a lot of people and had a big bearing on how many people turned out. It was only when we started running the event that we realised how many people in the locality had been affected by the disease. A lot of people were telling us their stories. It's not nice to see a person suffering knowing that nothing can be done.” Debbie Delaney from Bantry Tidy Towns, who took part in the climb, said there were celebrations everywhere following the memorable event.

"The atmosphere is fantastic. There are sessions everywhere. So many people turned out to support Charlie."

The Climb with Charlie fundraising page will be open for donations for the next three months. To find out more visit www.climbwithcharlie.ie

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