THE Irish Independent has scooped the most prestigious prize at the National Newspapers of Ireland Journalism Awards.
Our presidential election team of Fionnan Sheahan, Cormac McQuinn, Fiach Kelly and Michael Brennan took the prized National Journalist of the Year title.
The team, drawn from the newspaper's political and investigative units, was commended for breaking three exclusive stories, which "shone a light into the darker recesses of the nation's body politic", and effectively changed the course of the election.
The stories concerned presidential candidate Sean Gallagher's links to a secret Fianna Fail fundraiser, how Martin McGuinness had "blood on his hands" and David Norris's disability claims spanning 16 years.
Our writers also won the Newspapers in Education award for the two-part supplement commemorating the sinking of the Titanic, written and compiled by Ciaran Byrne, Valerie Vetter, Paul Melia and Ronan Abayawickrema.
Political editor Fionnan Sheahan was nominated for Scoop of the Year.
Investigative journalists Cormac McQuinn and Eimear Ni Bhraonain were nominated for Political Journalist of the Year, claimed by Miriam Lord of the 'Irish Times'.
Others shortlisted by the judges were: legal editor Dearbhail McDonald; feature writer Gemma O'Doherty; business writers Mark Keenan and Charlie Weston; and GAA writer Martin Breheny.
In our sister title, the 'Sunday Independent's' Eamon Sweeney was awarded the prize for Sports Columnist of the Year, for writing that put him "very much in a class of his own".
And in our other sister title, the 'Evening Herald's' Niall O'Connor was shortlisted for Young Journalist of the Year.
A special award for his Outstanding Contribution to the Newspaper Industry was bestowed posthumously on late 'Sunday Independent' editor Aengus Fanning, who died on January 17 of this year.
Accepting the award on his behalf, his wife and 'Sunday Independent' editor Anne Harris described him as a "serious editor" despite "the gentleman journalist or eccentric exterior".
"Like many editors and journalists, he met with power along the way but never inhaled its incense," she said, adding he was "all about circulation" because the number of copies sold drove revenue and advertising and ensured a newspaper's independence from government and all other vested interests.
A special 'NNI Supreme Wordsmith' award was introduced and awarded posthumously to legendary Kerry writer Con Houlihan, who died earlier this year. The award was presented by fellow Kerryman Pat Spillane, who read a special citation in honour of the late writer and journalist.
The Irish Independent continues to be the country's favourite newspaper, with a readership of some 465,000 adults. Our sister product, the 'Herald', has 223,000 readers a day, giving both titles a joint daily audience of almost 700,000. The 'Sunday Independent' enjoys a readership of 914,000 adults -- giving all three titles a readership of more than 1.6 million.