President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to the late broadcaster Marian Finucane, who has died suddenly aged 69

President Higgins said: "It is with the greatest sadness that I have learned of the passing of broadcaster Marian Finucane.

"With her death, Ireland has lost a deeply respected, trusted and much-loved broadcaster.

"Having started her career with RTÉ in 1974, Marian Finucane had become a central part of Irish broadcasting life, covering its events, its personalities, its changes and its tribulations.

"A superb professional, many will remember the wisdom and sensitivity with which Marian Finucane dealt with discussions and confrontations between different voices on what were controversial issues of the day.

"She was one of the very early exemplars to those who sought a proper representation of women in broadcasting.

"There will be many, in every part of Irish life, who will miss Marian's voice, but of course her loss is felt most acutely by her family and friends."

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Leo Varadkar in the studio with Marian Finucane in December 2017

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described her as a true broadcasting legend who reshaped current affairs radio. 

Mr Varadkar said: "I spent many hours in the studio with Marian. She was thorough, courteous and professional.

"I'm very sad to think that we won't hear her voice again on the radio. The deepest sympathies of the Irish Government to her family, friends and colleagues."

RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes said: "We learned today of the sudden passing of Marian Finucane with profound shock and sadness.

"Marian was a broadcaster of immense capability; a household name, she was first and foremost a tenacious journalist with a zeal for breaking new ground.

"From Women Today to Liveline to her weekday radio show on Radio 1 and, latterly, her enormously popular Saturday and Sunday radio programme, she tackled the big social issues of the day with command and insight.

"Multi-skilled, she forged a distinguished career on television, as well as undertaking significant charity work in Africa. Ireland has lost a unique voice. RTÉ has lost a beloved colleague. My sincere and heartfelt sympathies to her husband John and son Jack."

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Producer and broadcaster Doireann Ní Bhriain has described the death of Ms Finucane as a "terrible, terrible loss".

Ms Ní Bhriain said Ms Finucane had great human warmth and empathy and that was at the core of everything she did.

She said she had insatiable curiosity, had great respect for everyone who she interviewed and absolutely no fear of people in power.

Ms Ni Bhriain and Ms Finucane co-presented a women's progamme on television.

She said: "It was very influential in its time. Marian was at the heart of all of that and wanted to give voice to women. She was a very fair person so she would have wanted equality and justice for everyone – male and female.

"She had no fear of Church or State – both of which had conspired for many years to keep women in their place.

"Marian was fearless."

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin said Ms Finucane has "left an enormous mark on current affairs broadcasting during her career." 

Mr Martin said: "Her ability to spark a debate and journalistic skills were second to none. 

"Later in her distinguished career she could hold politicians from all parties and none to account on her hugely popular weekend shows, which was to the fore on social and current affairs issues."

Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland Diarmuid Martin said this evening he was saddened by news of the broadcaster's death.

The Archbishop spoke of her immense courtesy and professionalism and said he is keeping her family and friends in his prayers.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke has expressed his shock and sadness at "the death of one of our finest, inquisitive broadcasters." 

He said: "She asked friendly, yet incisive questions. Her abilities will be missed. I extend my condolences to her family."

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has extended her condolences to Ms Finucane's family, friends and RTÉ colleagues.

Ms McDonald said: "Her contribution to Irish journalism and broadcasting has been immense, and she has occupied a special place in the hearts of many radio listeners over the years."

The National Union of Journalists has paid tribute to Ms Finucane saying she brought "grace, charm, curiosity and wisdom to her work".

In a statement, the Union said: "Marian had a genuine interest in people combined with an innate sense of fairness and social justice. As a journalist she blazed a trail for women in broadcasting and was unfailingly supportive of younger colleagues, especially women seeking to enter journalism".