Shay Healy, Eurovision-winning songwriter and broadcaster, dies at 78

The Dubliner was also a well-known TV presenter
Shay Healy, Eurovision-winning songwriter and broadcaster, dies at 78

Eurovision-winning songwriter and broadcaster Shay Healy has died at the age of 78.

The Dubliner composed “What's Another Year” for Johnny Logan, which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980.

He was also a well-known television presenter, hosting the RTÉ show Nighthawks in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

His interview with the former minister for justice Sean Doherty in 1992, about the phone-tapping scandal of 1982, hastened the end of term for the then-taoiseach Charles Haughey.

Mr Doherty claimed that people within Mr Haughey’s Cabinet knew that he had tapped the telephones of journalists Geraldine Kennedy and Bruce Arnold, telling Mr Healy: “I do feel let down by the fact that people knew what I was doing”.

Mr Healy later wrote in his book, On The Road, that he did not realise the significance of Mr Doherty’s revelation until after the show.

He wrote: “When the show was over and we were standing at the bar having a drink, Doherty leaned into my ear and said ‘In case you didn’t notice, I said something tonight that I’ve never said before.”’

He added: “Doherty had pulled the trigger and Nighthawks had a scoop. He stopped being the scapegoat on Nighthawks that night... A day later Charles J Haughey announced his intention to resign as Taoiseach.”


In 2004, Mr Healy was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease but continued working. His wife Dymphna pre-deceased him in 2017, and he is survived by his two sons Oisín and Fionain.

President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to Mr Healy on Saturday, saying the news of his death “will have been heard with sadness by so many across the community of music and music-making in Ireland.”

“Shay’s talents extended across so many areas and continued, even when challenged by illness, into the modern decades,” Mr Higgins continued.

“The range of his song-writing was such that it included not just songs that could compete with real prospect at Eurovision, but also songs that responded to contemporary events and that could take their place in the folk community.”

The President praised Mr Healy’s programme Nighthawks as “quite brilliant in its composition and execution” and noted that his work was recognised by the Irish Film and Television Academy.

On a personal note, Mr Higgins added: “I treasure the correspondence I received from him over the years at different points of both of our lives. To have known him as a friend was a great privilege. He was loyal in his friendship and generous in its expression.

“While he will be missed by so many who have been inspired and entertained by his work, his loss will be felt most acutely by his sons Oisín and Fionain and other members of their family to all of whom Sabina and I send our deepest sympathy.”

The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, also paid tribute to Mr Healy.

“So sorry to hear of the death of songwriter and broadcaster Shay Healy after a brave and dignified battle with illness,” he tweeted.

“He brought so much joy with his Eurovision success, and informed millions with his skilful interviews. My deepest sympathies to his family on their loss.”

The Minister for Culture and Arts, Catherine Martin, expressed her condolences to Mr Healy's family and friends.

His time as a broadcaster brought Shay into our homes where the Irish public fell in love with the man

“Shay Healy was a gifted songwriter and a national treasure. His beautiful song writing inspired a generation of Irish artists to take their place on the world stage,” she said.

“His time as a broadcaster brought Shay into our homes where the Irish public fell in love with the man and with his irreverent and vital spirit.

“His battle with Parkinson’s disease in his later years was so difficult but also a source of great inspiration for many dealing with the same struggles.

“I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Shay at this very difficult time.”

Others to pay tribute include Dublin band Aslan, who said Mr Healy contributed “so much” to the world of music.

Actor Pat Shortt described Mr Healy as “an immense talent and a gentleman”, while actor and TV presenter Simon Delaney said he was “heartbroken” by the news.

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