Nuala O'Faolain

Why writer Nuala O'Faolain decided to give famous interview about her fatal cancer


Nuala O'Faolain

How an amazing interview with the late Irish journalist and bestselling author Nuala O'Faolain, who died from cancer in 2008, was carried out has finally been revealed.

She agreed to a radio interview with her friend and colleague Marian Finucane to talk about her experience as she approached death.

The interview has become an iconic one and is considered among the best in Irish broadcasting.

In a piece in the Irish Times yesterday, Finucane writes of her frienship with O'Faolain and how the interview came about.



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“I’m dying. I have cancer in my lungs, tumours in my brain, probably elsewhere too. It has metastasised. I will take radiation but not chemotherapy," O'Faolain told her friend at a lunch in 2008.

Finucane was shocked at the news.

At the lunch, the pair discussed the idea of doing an interview.

"It became obvious to me that, for Nuala, being interviewed live provided her with an important means of understanding herself. It was as if answering questions under pressure marshaled all of her considerable gifts, allowing her to speak with her wonderful blend of candour, wit and passion," says Finucane.

The interview was recorded in Galway, where O'Faolain was having radiotherapy. After Finucane and her producer Anne Farrell, discussed whether the interview should be aired on mainstream radio on a Saturday morning due to the heavy content, they agreed to go ahead with the completely unedited interview, but with an explicit warning at the beginning of the program.

They also arranged for psychologist Tony Bates to participate in the program to deal with issues that arose, and the Irish Cancer Society set up a helpline to deal with distressed callers.

"There is always a tendency to speak of one’s friends in glowing terms, especially when they have died," Finucane writes. "But Nuala really was a one-off: fiercely intelligent, opinionated, articulate to an astonishing degree, erudite, but also loyal, vulnerable and, despite being prone to melancholy, great, great fun. She was no saint either, and could drive you nuts betimes. She could boss for Ireland, and in an argument you had to hold your own fairly fiercely. But those arguments and disputations were great, great fun as well."


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