Northern Ireland

‘If Tommie Gorman said it, then it happened’ - tributes paid to ‘titan’ of Irish journalism

The former RTÉ northern editor has been remembered for his outstanding career following his death

Tommie Gorman, RTÉ's former northern editor, who died on Monday. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Tommie Gorman, RTÉ's former northern editor, who died on Monday. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

A titan, a journalist of enormous standing, one of the outstanding public service broadcasters of his generation - just some of the glowing tributes used to describe former RTÉ northern editor Tommie Gorman, who has died aged 68.

The Sligo-born journalist, who retired in 2021 after four decades working with the Republic’s national broadcaster, died on Tuesday.

One of the most familiar faces on RTÉ News over the years, Tommie began his media career chasing local stories with Co Mayo’s weekly Western People newspaper.

He got his start with RTÉ in 1980, before climbing the ranks to become Europe editor, and eventually, one of the most important roles with the broadcaster, its northern editor.

He took up the post in the early 2000s, a difficult time for the faltering post-Good Friday Agreement peace process, and provided his expert insight for 20 years on events including IRA decommissioning, four major collapses of power-sharing as well as the flag protests.

RTÉ northern editor Tommie Gorman will appear on tonight's Late Late Show.
Tommie Gorman became northern editor with RTÉ News in 2001.

Despite highly regarded interviews with figures including Gerry Adams and former billionaire Sean Quinn standing out as highlights, Tommie’s best known is arguably one with a figure as formidable as any political leader or business heavyweight - Roy Keane after he left the Republic’s squad ahead of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Tommie Gorman is a former northern editor for RTÉ News
Tommie Gorman had previously been RTÉ's European editor before heading the northern newsdesk

That broadcast became the most-watched that year for RTÉ, attracting three-quarters of a million viewers.

As the curtains drew on his long career, he was invited onto the Late Late Show, where he spoke of his hopes for the north’s future after watching peace percolate over the decades. He also said he believed a border poll was “inevitable” in the years ahead.

A year after his retirement, Tommie returned to Belfast, where he launched his memoir, My Life in Our Times, in the company of figures who played a significant role in the stories he brought to TV screens each evening, including Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill and former DUP leaders Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson.

Former RTÉ northern editor Tommie Gorman with Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster at the launch of his memoir Never Better. PICTURE: HUGH RUSSELL
Tommie with Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster at the launch of his memoir in Belfast in 2022. PICTURE: HUGH RUSSELL

Behind the scenes, Tommie fought a personal battle with cancer, having been diagnosed with a rare form of the illness in 1994.

In his family’s statement following his passing, they described him as a “cherished husband, father, brother, and friend whose innate kindness and generosity of spirit touched the lives of all who knew him”.

“His memory will forever remain in our hearts, and his spirit will continue to guide and inspire us every day,” they added.

RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst said he had been speaking with Tommie on Monday ahead of his former colleague’s planned surgery that had been due to take place this week.

“Tommie was not only a great friend and colleague to me, and to so many in RTÉ and beyond, he was also a journalist of outstanding pedigree, integrity and incredible tenacity,” he said.

“As RTÉ's northern editor he was the voice of an era as that era itself transformed from violence to peace.”

President Michael D Higgins said Tommie “will be remembered as one of the outstanding public service broadcasters of his generation”.

Taoiseach Simon Harris said he was “a journalist of enormous standing who carried out his job and duty to report fairly and accurately with the utmost professionalism”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Tommie was a “great storyteller and a fiercely independent, fair-minded journalist”.

First minister Michelle O’Neill described him as a journalist “invested both professionally and personally in our peace process and in reconciling everyone who shares this island”.

DUP leader Gavin Robinson said: “Tommie was a titan of a journalist who not only got to the heart of the story, but built relationships with everyone he met, right across the divide”.