Lelia Doolan celebrates 90th birthday with ‘nice and easy’ charity skydive

In pictures: Film-maker marks ninth decade with event that doubled as fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, with €28,000 collected so far

A cultural trailblazer has celebrated her 90th birthday with her first ever skydive.

Lelia Doolan wanted to mark her ninth decade with an event that would twin as a fundraiser for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) Ireland.

“These men and women give themselves to healing in the likes of Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine. Every penny counts. People are enormously generous,” she said in advance of the jump.

Ms Doolan’s tandem parachute jump last Saturday, when she did a free fall from almost 4,000m at the Irish Parachute Club in Clonbullogue Airfield, Co Offaly, has so far raised over €28,000, surpassing her original €3,000 goal.


“It was shocking, it was shocking at the beginning ... and then it was nice and easy,” said Lelia, moments after she and instructor Łukasz Kucharski landed.

The writer, broadcaster, television producer, film-maker, theatre director, lecturer and environmentalist was the first woman artistic director of the Abbey Theatre, the first woman to be appointed chair of the Irish Film Board and was co-founder of the Galway Film Fleadh. In the last decade she has been at the forefront of the campaign to create a Galway arts cinema, Palás.

Her best known films are the 2011 documentary on political activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey called Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey and the 1988 film by Joe Comerford, Reefer and the Model.

She was one of several high profile producer directors who resigned from RTÉ in 1969 over the direction of the station. At the time she was head of light entertainment and had been a director on The Riordans and a producer on flagship current affairs programme Seven Days.

The native of Cork, who now lives in Killeenaran, Co Galway, turned 90 on May 7th, a few days before the jump.

“It’s a great village – there are five of us who have all have a birthday within a few days of each other in May so the place is full of celebrations at that time.”

Donations can be made until July 5th at idonate.ie.

To make a donation, log on to idonate.ie/fundraiser/LeliaDoolan