Tributes paid to veteran RTÉ broadcaster and producer Alf McCarthy

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said popular Cork figure had ‘warm, courteous and happy disposition’

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has led tributes to veteran RTÉ broadcaster and producer Alf McCarthy, who died in hospital in his native Cork on Wednesday at the age of 73 following a brief illness.

Mr Martin said he was “deeply saddened at the passing of Alf McCarthy”. “Raconteur, broadcaster & actor – Alf had a wonderful personality. His warm, courteous, and happy disposition towards life was truly infectious. My sympathies to his family & friends at this time,” he said.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Kieran McCarthy, who knew the late Mr McCarthy well from their shared interest in drama and the Everyman theatre, where they both trod the boards, also paid tribute to the popular Cork broadcaster and performer.

The late Mr McCarthy was “always a great pleasure to chat to, a great performer and a dedicated building community man,” said Cllr McCarthy.


Best known nationally for his presenting work on Late Date on RTÉ Radio 1 until his retirement in 2015, Mr McCarthy was also well known to television viewers for his work on PM Live with Marty Whelan and Mary Kennedy in the late 1990s and Down Here with a View to Above in the 1980s

One of the well-known McCarthy stonemason family in Cork, Mr McCarthy, who was born in 1950, grew up in Ballinlough on the city’s southside and worked in a variety of jobs including in the Sunbeam, Irish Steel and managing Pizzaland on Cork’s Patrick Street. He also worked abroad for a time.

In a recent interview he recalled how the family’s fortunes suffered and money became tight in 1957 after his father, Buddy Mac, suffered an injury when a headstone fell and crushed his hand. “That was the end of the money coming in,” he said.

Working as a DJ earned him a slot with RTE’s Cork Local Radio in 1979, marking the start of a radio career lasting 36 years. He later told Linda Kenny in the Echo that radio captivated him from an early age because “you could listen to parts of the world that you only visited in your dreams”.

He said that as a youngster he was sent to Sullivan’s Quay school in Cork city centre but he was a “dreamer” so his parents decided to enrol him in the Capuchin College boarding school in Rochestown in Cork in the hope that it would help him focus on his education.

He said in an interview that he got his artistic inclinations from his father who, along with being a stonemason, was a popular band leader and saxophonist in the showbands around Cork.

Mr McCarthy was best known locally for presenting Corkabout, the flagship current affairs and arts programme for more than two decades on Cork Local Radio, while nationally, he created comedy and satire series Shortt Circuit, The Usual Suspects and Bull Island.

He also produced documentaries for RTÉ such as The Cleggan Disaster, Early Doors No More and A Tale of Three Cities, while he was a regular on the stage of the Everyman theatre, often appearing with members of The Great Singalong Songbook.

The Cork Theatrical Memories Facebook page featured messages from producer, director and playwright and former director of the Everyman theatre Patrick Talbot, Catherine Mahon Buckley of Cada Performing Arts and Elmarie Mawe, arts presenter on Cork’s 96FM.

“Just 10 days ago, we shared the Everyman stage together in Burt Bacharach – A Celebration. We don’t know how to begin to process our profound loss. Our deepest sympathies go to Alf’s family and friends at this most difficult time,” said Ms Mawe.

Mr McCarthy lived in Dublin for more than a decade, but he moved back to Cork upon his retirement, settling in Rosscarbery in west Cork, where he presented the Later with Alf music podcast. Mr McCarthy is survived by his daughters, Sarah and Ruth, and seven grandchildren.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times