Charlie Bird: "The level of support I have received over the past number of months has stunned me beyond belief." PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

Charlie Bird completes remarkable personal triumph at Croagh Patrick

Former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird has completed a remarkable personal triumph today at Croagh Patrick, overlooking the majestic Clew Bay.

He achieved his goal of scaling the 764-metre high west Mayo mountain, a task he set for himself after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease last October.

Since revealing his ambition on the Late Late Show last December, he and his family and friends founded the Climb with Challenge event which, at the time of writing, has raised over €1.5 million for the two charities closest to his heart, The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House.

Accompanied by his wife Claire and many of his best friends, he reached the top of the Holy Mountain at around 12.30 p.m. amid great scenes of joy and celebration.

He listened as leading Irish entertainer Daniel O'Donnell sang 'Glorious St. Patrick' to mark the end of Charlie's glorious journey.

Daniel said when Charlie's illness is taken into account, what he has achieved is simply remarkable and an inspiration to everybody.

Charlie lit five candles on the summit in honour of his great friend Vicky Phelan, for everybody with a terminal illness, those who find themselves on a dark place and climb their own mountains every day, all those who helped in the battle against the Covid pandemic since 2020 and the people of Ukraine.

The national flag of Ukraine and the Tricolour, with the words 'Climb with Charlie' written on it, flew alongside one another on the mountain top.

Charlie and Claire visited St. Patrick's Chapel for a silent prayer. There was a candle lighting on the altar in their honour.

Members of the Clew Bay Pipe Band entertained the large attendance on the mountain summit with Matt Molloy of the Chieftains joining in.

An immense sense of friendship and community spirit marked the solemn occasion which was broadcast live throughout the world by Midwest Radio and RTÉ.

Well-known personalities who climbed the mountain included Ryan Tubridy, Baz Ashmawy, Dermot Bannon, George Lee and Barry McGuigan.

It is estimated that over 20,000 people joined Charlie on the Reek in good weather conditions, barring a short rain shower or two.

Vicky Phelan made contact with Charlie via a video link.

Mayo TD Alan Dillon was delighted to climb the mountain in support of the wonderful event and he met a Dáil Éireann colleague, Tipperary Labour Party TD Alan Kelly, along the way.

In a recorded message, Charlie thanked everybody who made the event possible.

He stated: "What has happened today is a tribute to tens and thousands of people across the world who extended the hand of friendship to climb with me.

"Last October when I was diagnosed with a terminal illness, it was a devastating moment for me, my wife Claire, and family.

"But something amazing has happened since then. I mean this from my heart when I say that something spiritual has been moving me forward.

"Yes, I had a mad idea when, off the top of my head, I told Ryan Tubridy that I wanted to climb Croagh Patrick.

"Now only have people joined us at Croagh Patrick, but there have been 150 climbs across Ireland, America, Canada, Dubai, Australia and the United Kingdom.

"My former RTÉ colleague, Jim Fahy, Tuam, was going to climb with me as he knew this mountain so well, but he sadly passed away earlier this year.

"The support I have received has lifted me in a way that I cannot express in words.

"The event was not just about me but about everybody with a terminal illness. Remember we never know what is around the corner for any of us.

"I have no idea for how much longer I am going to survive.

"Every moment that I am around I am going to extend the hand of friendship.

"As a journalist for 40 years, I have come across the generosity of spirit by the Irish people many times.

"But the level of support I have received over the past number of months has stunned me beyond belief.

"I have received hundred and hundreds of letters of support for all over the country. All of these people are in my thoughts today.

"Even though I cry a lot due to my condition, it is as a result of the kindness extended to me every day.

"I have made amazing new friends over the past few months.

"In Westport, I have made friends with Fr. Charlie McDonnell, Harry Hughes and Denis Harrington.

"I have been touched with incredible kindness by all those who joined my on the Reek today."

Charlie thanked all the volunteers who came on board to help his event, including the An Garda Siochana, Irish Defence Forces, Mayo Mountain Rescue Team and Westport Order of Malta.

He is delighted that two very worthy causes will benefit from the money raised.

Charlie was followed by television crews along the route and there will be special programmes broadcast over the coming weeks, including one by iTVMayo.

The pupils of Scoil Phadraig, Westport, performing their wonderful song, Aghaidh Le Chéile, with Charlie Bird at the Octagon, Westport, ahead of his climb of Croagh Patrick today.

The school has found a special place in Charlie's heart since embarking on his Climb With Charlie journey.