AENGUS liked to give people a start in life, including me. When the 03 team was born, I joined a group of twenty-somethings writing about subject matters not to everyone's taste, but both deputy editor Anne Harris and Aengus were of the opinion that younger people needed a voice in the Sunday Independent, so they gave it to us.
I had the time of my life in the year-and-a-half I spent with team members Emma Blain, Sonia Harris and Julia Moloney. It was an amazing learning curve. Aengus and Anne would sit down with us on a weekly basis and we'd come up with different ideas, quite often a little risky or controversial. Some of the short features we wrote included "Why most men are dickheads" and "Party lesbianism", and I could never forget the time our inexperienced group gate-crashed the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis. We were there to find out what makes politicians tick. The look of disbelief when the Fianna Fail heavies saw a pack of young female rookies raining on their parade was comical.
Aengus always encouraged us to give our point of view regardless of negative perception. There were many detractors and "serious journalists" who assumed we were all airheads as each week a glossy picture of us would be used in tandem with our articles.
"Our readers want the truth," he'd say. "F**k the begrudgers, just go for it."
If you ever felt unsure of yourself, he'd say, "Darling, don't worry, nobody knows anything."
He gave me gems of wisdom that will stay with me forever.
If anyone complained about the 03 team Aengus would laugh, "Well, they're all talking about you aren't they?"
If people got offended by what they perceived as the "03 team's, overtly sexy pictures", Aengus would lament, "There's only ever been one nipple shown in the 03 team pictures, feck them, this is showbiz".
I'm in showbiz now and it's genuinely thanks to Aengus. He's the reason I work in media, he's the reason I have self-belief, and I'm eternally grateful. We haven't just lost our mentor, we've lost a dear friend. Our thoughts are with Aengus's wife Anne Harris, deputy editor of the Sunday Independent, and his sons, Dion, Evan and Stephen.
Aengus, we will miss you dearly.