New documentary Ransom ’79 remembers the legacy of Irish journalist and LGBTQ+ ally Charlie Bird

Bird was an active member in the Yes Campaign for marriage equality ahead of the 2015 Irish Marriage Referendum.

A photo of late Irish journalist and focus of new documentary Ransom '97 Charlie Bird sitting in the Reading Room at the National Library of Ireland.
Image: Instagram

The premiere of Break Out Pictures’ latest documentary Ransom ’79 is set to make its grand debut in Irish cinemas this Friday, May 24. The upcoming film tells the story of legendary Irish reporter and LGBTQ+ ally Charlie Bird and his determination to break one final story before his life is cut short by Motor Neurone Disease.

Bird, who passed away earlier this year after a long battle with the illness, was well known, not only for his groundbreaking journalism work but also for his outspoken support of the Yes Campaign for the 2015 Irish Marriage Referendum. 

After announcing that he’d been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2021, Bird developed the ‘Climb for Charlie’ campaign, an event that saw Bird and other celebrities, such as Ryan Tubridy and Daniel O’Donnell, climbing County Mayo’s Croagh Patrick to raise awareness for the condition. 

In Ransom ’79, however, Bird sets out on one last investigative journalism journey. According to the filmmakers, the documentary follows Bird as he’s given an “extraordinary true crime story” to unravel: “the attempt by a criminal gang to extort millions from the Irish government”. 

Though Bird had already lost his voice as a result of his condition by the time filming began, the late journalist was able to use technology to conduct interviews and keep chasing the story, even as his strength faltered. 

A synopsis of the upcoming film reads: “Ransom ’79 charts Charlie’s investigation and reconstructs a scarcely-believable sequence of events that led from farce to tragedy, in a very different Ireland. But beneath it all, the film is an exploration of how one man confronting his own mortality can find respite in doing the thing he loves, even in the most terrible of circumstances.”

Ahead of the documentary’s release this Friday, Director Colm Quinn commented: “I first discussed the Ransom ’79 story with Charlie before his MND diagnosis, that he still wanted to pursue it while facing such a terrible illness is testament to his courage and determination. It was a privilege to travel around the country with him as he uncovered a truly unique story with his friend Colin Murphy.

“I know Charlie would be proud that his work has made it to the big screen, we miss him every day and feel very grateful to have helped him tell one last story,” Quinn concluded. 

Ransom ’97 premiers in cinemas on Friday, May 24. Check out the full trailer for the documentary below.  

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