Charlie Bird today congratulated school children for achieving an environmental award, telling them he believed their generation “would help save the planet.”
he former RTÉ journalist, who has been raising awareness about Motor Neurone Disease since revealing his terminal diagnosis, threw his hands in the air as pupils at Gaelscoil Uí Earcáin in Finglas, Dublin, sang as Gaeilge to him.
The pupils also raised funds for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).
One pupil, Jack Wood (9), told the veteran reporter how he now dreamed of becoming a journalist after learning of Mr Bird’s history of reporting.
Using artificial voice technology, Mr Bird told the children: “Unfortunately my voice does not allow me to use my voice speaking… (but) I’m so lucky that I can communicate with you.
“About eight months ago I was told that I had a very serious illness that was going to affect my speech and swallow.”
He told the pupils he was “really impressed” they had been honoured for their “efforts to help protect the environment.”
The school has been awarded a Green Flag in recognition of its pupils cycling and walking to school while their parents avoided getting in the car for school drop offs and pickups.
Mr Bird also spoke about his time working for RTÉ and becoming environmentally aware over the years.
He told how he had been “so lucky to travel to both the North Pole and the South Pole,” and he had particularly seen the effects of climate change when he had travelled “towards the North Pole”.
“Many of the glaciers in the Canadian Arctic are disappearing before our very eyes,” Mr Bird said.
“The North Pole is melting. And the same is happening down in the Antarctic.
“So it’s so important that all of us help to protect our environment. And that is why I’m so proud of your school, helping to protect the environment.
“I believe that you are the ones that will help to save the planet.”
Mr Bird, who was visiting alongside his wife Claire, admitted it was one of his regrets he did not learn the Irish language but he loved hearing his native language spoken in Innis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, where he plans to have his ashes scattered after his death.
The children gave gifts to the journalist, including a hat bearing the school’s insignia.
The pupils were delighted to meet not only Mr Bird but his dog Tiger. It was the pet’s birthday and the pupils sang Happy Birthday to the dog.
Many pupils had drawn and coloured pictures for Mr Bird and each donated €2 towards the MNDA.
Even when the pupils returned to class, they continued waving out of their classroom windows at Mr and Mrs Bird.
Mrs Bird told independent.ie the visit to the school had been “absolutely brilliant”.
“The kids were unbelievable. They’re lovely and they uplift us,” she said.
Mrs Bird said her husband was delighted to hear one of the children dreamed of being a journalist and the couple felt the name Jack Wood was a “perfect reporter’s name.”
She had attended St Joseph of Cluny Secondary School in Killiney, south Dublin, with the Finglas school’s principal, Leah Ní Mhaoláin. The pair were reunited for the first time since they were teenagers.
Ms Ní Mhaoláin said the school had received four green flags recently, including the most recent one for travel.
“The children had the idea to invite Charlie to the school,” Ms Ní Mhaoláin said. “This is our first VIP visitor since Covid, the first occasion.
“I was in school with Claire. I haven’t seen Claire since we left school, so I was delighted Charlie, Claire and Tiger came out to visit us.
“There was great excitement in the school preparing. And it’s fantastic that the children have learned about Motor Neurone Disease.
“They’ve watched Charlie on TV and have fundraised for the charity. He’s a great inspiration to the children.”