Thursday 23 May 2019

Sunday World founder who revolutionised Irish media dies aged 79

‘Sunday World’ founder Gerry McGuinness (left) as the first paper rolls off the press in 1973 watched by then editor Joe Kennedy (centre) and Minister for Industry and Commerce Justin Keating. Photo: Sunday World
‘Sunday World’ founder Gerry McGuinness (left) as the first paper rolls off the press in 1973 watched by then editor Joe Kennedy (centre) and Minister for Industry and Commerce Justin Keating. Photo: Sunday World

Sean Boyne

When budding media tycoon Gerry McGuinness tried to raise the money back in the early 1970s to launch the 'Sunday World', the bank manager he asked for help was not impressed.

Casting a sceptical eye over the eager young entrepreneur before him, the banker quipped he would advance him money to back a horse, but as for starting a newspaper, "forget it".

McGuinness, still only in his 30s, persisted and managed to raise the money from other sources.

The tabloid he and the late Hugh McLaughlin launched in 1973 became a success beyond their wildest dreams.

Gerry McGuinness, who died yesterday in Dublin aged 79, will be remembered as one of the most notable entrepreneurs to emerge in the challenging world of Irish publishing.

In 1978, Tony O'Reilly's Independent Newspapers took a controlling share in the newspaper he founded, with McGuinness staying on as chief executive, as well as becoming a major Independent shareholder.

Gerry was a go-getting businessman but for many of us who knew him, he will be remembered for the humanity that always lay behind a sometimes tough-talking exterior. He had style, charm, a sense of humour and a sense of fun, and he had loyalty towards people who worked for him.

From Terenure, Dublin, he always showed flair and a can-do attitude. In the early 1960s, he was manager of a leading cinema, the Carlton, and the film company MGM gave him a special award in 1961 for his skill in promoting their films. It was a portent of bigger things to come.

He became a director of the Creation group later in the 1960s, based first in Grafton Street and later in Glasnevin, publishing a range of magazines.

It was there he launched the 'Sunday World', the offices later moving to Terenure. In managing the fortunes of the newspaper, McGuinness showed he had the Midas touch.

He branched out into other projects. In the late 80s he oversaw the installation of a high-tech printing press at Terenure.

It would print, among other titles, the Irish 'Daily Star', a joint venture between Independent Newspapers and Express newspapers.

Golf was his major passion, and like everything else he undertook, he threw himself into the game with gusto.

Skerries professional Jimmy Kinsella once said that in 40 years as a teaching pro, the best pupil he ever taught was McGuinness.

His great golfing buddy was Sean Connery, and they played together in Spain where they both had houses. On one occasion, a secretary at the office in Terenure almost fainted when the door opened and the James Bond star himself walked in, looking for Gerry.

For a period, before moving to the west of Ireland, Gerry lived at Emsworth, a Gandon-designed villa in Malahide, next door to Charlie Haughey, with whom he was friendly. He always loved a challenge, and even learned to pilot a helicopter.

His period at 'Sunday World' had its own share of tragedy and challenging moments. He had particularly dark memories of 1984, the year when Northern Editor Jim Campbell was shot and wounded by loyalist paramilitaries.

They would strike again in 2001, murdering Martin O'Hagan, another 'Sunday World' journalist.

Also in 1984, one of the newspaper's leading lights Kevin Marron was among those killed in the Bournemouth air crash.

Gerry was a great raconteur and great company and his many acts of generosity will be remembered by those who came to know him.

He is survived by his beloved Heather, and by five children, Gerry, Mark, Kerri, Gary and David, as well as his three sisters, Eileen, Christine and Marie.

His funeral will take place at 11am on Thursday at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook.

Irish Independent

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