RODNEY RICE, who died on August 29 at the age of 76 years, was a leading broadcaster and active member of the Association of European Journalists in Ireland. He was born in Northern Ireland on October 12 1944 at Whiteabbey, just outside Belfast.
Although he came from a Presbyterian background and his family were strong supporters of the union with Great Britain, Rodney was eager to know more about life in the part of the island that had left the United Kingdom.
After attending grammar school at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, popularly known as”Inst”, he was offered a university place at Oxford but chose instead to attend Trinity College Dublin where he studied political science.
As a student he wrote for the college newspaper Trinity News and this was followed by a full-time job with the Belfast Telegraph in 1967. A year later, he returned to Dublin to take up a position with the public broadcast service, Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ).
Initially part of the team on the flagship news programme ‘7 Days’, he transferred to radio in 1972 and for nine years from 1974 to ’83 presented the mid-morning current affairs show ‘Here and Now’. In 1984 he became the presenter of ‘Saturday View’, an important focus of political debate on RTÉ Radio One. He continued in this post for 25 years until his retirement in 2009.
A panel discussion moderated by Rodney on ‘Saturday View’ in 1990 is thought to have influenced the result of that year’s presidential election in Ireland. Labour Party candidate Mary Robinson was described by then-Minister for the Environment, Pádraig Flynn of Fianna Fáil, as having developed “a new-found interest” in family matters. Mr Flynn was immediately rebuffed by Michael McDowell of the Progressive Democrats who described his comment as a “disgrace”. The Minister later apologised but his initial intervention was considered to have severely damaged the candidacy of Fianna Fáil’s Brian Lenihan Sr and unintentionally contributed to the victory of Mrs Robinson.
Rodney Rice also worked on the radio series ‘Worlds Apart’, which focused on the developing world in Africa and Latin America. In 1981, he was banned from South Africa for 10 years after making a critical radio documentary on the apartheid regime.
In 1974 he married Margo Collins, who was originally from Mayo and became a teacher in Newry, County Down, as well as an executive member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA). They set up home and raised a family in the Dublin suburb of Churchtown.
Rodney was well-known for his interest in the developing world and, after his retirement from RTÉ, he worked with agencies such as Trócaire and ActionAid Ireland. He served as member of the ActionAid Ireland board from 2011 to 2018, first as a Director and then as Chairperson. In a statement on his passing, the current board said: “Throughout his media career and long afterwards, Rodney was a consistent and unrelenting advocate for justice. He helped to shape the Irish consciousness about the rights of the oppressed.”
President Michael D. Higgin said that, “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”.
The funeral service at the Victorian Chapel at Mount Jerome in Dublin was hosted by humanist celebrant Siobhán Walls, with traditional music and singing by Paddy Glackin and Maighréad and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill.
Rodney Rice is survived by his wife Margo, children Cian, Caitríona and Eoghan, daughters-in-law Barbara and Sorcha, son-in-law Joe, grandchildren Tessa, Zoey, Maxine, Connla, Liadh, Thomas and Fiach, as well as other relatives. Rodney was predeceased by his sister Eileen.
Deaglán de Bréadún