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Shay Healy

Shay Healy (born 1943) is an Irish songwriter, broadcaster and journalist. He is best known for his role as host of Nighthawks, a RTÉ Television chat show of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and for composing "What's Another Year", Ireland's winning entry in the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest.

Early life

Shay Healy was raised along with his five siblings in Sandymount in Dublin. His father, Seamus, was a civil servant and part-time stage actor who performed at the Abbey and Olympia theatres. His mother, Máirín Ní Shúilleabháin, was a singer of Irish traditional songs.[1] She also wrote plays and stories and encouraged young Shay's early talent for writing. This led to his first appearance at the age of fifteen on the Irish national radio station, Radió Éireann, reading a self-penned article.[2]


Healy has had a varied career to date, never focusing too intently on any one of his various professional interests. Of his tendency to diversify he has commented: "I know it infuriates some people when you don't pigeonhole yourself, but I don't take on anything that won't stand up to public scrutiny."[3]


Healy first received attention as a performer of his own "songs of social significance" during the 1960s.[4] Later he wrote comedy songs for Billy Connolly,[1] including "The Orient Express-a tale of intrigue and cross dressing", "The Shitkickers Waltz", and "The Country & Western Supersong".[5] Healy achieved his greatest success as a songwriter with "What's Another Year", which won the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest. Over the course of the next fifteen years, the song earned him a total of £250,000.[6] In 1983 his song, "Edge Of The Universe", sung by Linda Martin, was the overall winner of the Castlebar Song Contest. Under the name of Crack, he and Dave Pennefather released a parody song called "Silly Fellow", which was about Paul McCartney's arrest and jail experience in Japan.[7][unreliable source?]

Musical theatre

In 1977, Healy branched into musical theatre with the script, co-written with Niall Toibin, for a stage production entitled The King. This was a show based on the life and music of Elvis Presley and was premiered at the Cork Opera House two months after the singer's death.[8] However, Healy's rock opera, The Knowledge, failed to receive commercial backing and was premiered in Dundalk by an amateur group in January 1989.[9]

Healy was more successful with his musical, The Wiremen, which received its premiere on 4 May 2005 at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre in a production by John McColgan and Moya Doherty that ran for six weeks. The Wiremen tells the story of the introduction of electricity into County Mayo during the 1950s.[10] In March 2010 the show was revived in an amateur production by the Birr Stage Guild.[11]


Healy joined RTÉ Television in 1963 as a trainee cameraman.[12] Within five years he had moved to the other side of the lens with appearances on programmes such as Twenty Minutes With..., Ballad Sheet and Hoot'nany.

Between 1988 and 1992 Healy hosted Nighthawks, a late-night satirical chat show broadcast on RTÉ Two, which he later described as "the best four years of my working life".[13] In January 1992, the show became embroiled in political controversy as a result of Healy's interview with former Fianna Fáil Justice Minister Seán Doherty. During the interview, Doherty revealed that some members of the cabinet with whom he served in 1982 had been aware of his order to illegally tap the phones of a number of Irish journalists. The revelation led to the resignation of Taoiseach Charles Haughey a few weeks later.[14][15]

In January 1995, RTÉ terminated Healy's contract.[6] One of his last shows for the station was Where Are They Now? in which he interviewed former celebrities whose fame had largely faded.[16] Healy then set up his own production company which made a series of television documentaries. His 1995 TV documentary on Irish musician, Phil Lynott, The Rocker, was broadcast on RTÉ Two and BBC Two, and later released as a DVD.[6] In 1998, Healy made two half-hour documentaries for the RTÉ One television series, Against The Odds. The series focused on individuals who had overcome adversity in their lives. Healy's two films featured an actor, Chris Burke, who was born with dwarfism, and a singer, Ronan Tynan, whose legs were amputated when he was twenty.[3]

Healy has won two Jacob's Awards. He received the first in 1984 for Strawberry Fields Forever, a radio documentary series on the 1960s which he presented. His second award came in 1989 for his television work.

In 2007, Healy joined the judging panel on TG4's talent show, Glór Tíre.


In the early 1960s, Healy became Folk Correspondent for Spotlight, an Irish pop music weekly, and he continued to write for the magazine until its demise in the mid-1970s.[17] He currently writes a weekly column for the Irish Daily Mail.

The Stunt is the title of Healy's debut novel, published in 1992. It deals with the Irish rock scene and was described by one reviewer as "a more truthful... representation (of) the Irish music scene than The Commitments".[18] His second novel, Green Card Blues, is set among the illegal Irish immigrant community in New York City.

In 2005 On The Road, Healy's memoir of his life in showbusiness, was published.

Personal life

Healy married Dymphna Errity in September 1967.[19] They have two sons, Oisin and Fionain.[20]

In 2004, Healy was diagnosed with the degenerative disorder, Parkinson's disease.[21]



  1. ^ a b The Irish Times, "Shay Healy", 26 July 1980
  2. ^ On The Road, p. 21
  3. ^ a b The Irish Times, "Success in a small way", 7 March 1998
  4. ^ The Irish Times, "Dublin Folk and Ballad Concert", 10 October 1966
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c The Irish Times, "THE MULTI-MEDIA ARTIST: Shay Healy", 28 December 1995
  7. ^
  8. ^ The Irish Times, "'The King' at the Cork Opera House", 18 October 1977
  9. ^ The Irish Times, "Broadway? No, try Dundalk", 14 January 1989
  10. ^ The Irish Times, "Singing power to the people", 7 May 2005
  11. ^ Offaly Express, March 18, 2010
  12. ^ The Irish Times, "Countdowns, cameras and orgies", 21 December 1991
  13. ^ On The Road, p. 172
  14. ^ The Irish Times, "Obscure hints on 'Nighthawks' led to Haughey's darkest hour", 25 January 1992
  15. ^ Irish Examiner, "Telephone bugs that toppled a Taoiseach", 10 May 2001
  16. ^ The Irish Times, "RTE makes home-produced television drama 'a priority'", 9 August 1994
  17. ^ On The Road, pp. 23–4
  18. ^ The Irish Times, "Live rock", 6 March 1993
  19. ^ On The Road, p. 32
  20. ^ Sunday Independent, "What's another decade?", 21 December 2003
  21. ^ Sunday Independent, "Presenting with Parkinson's", 18 December 2005

External links

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