PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins led the tributes to Sunday Independent Editor Aengus Fanning who died today. Mr Fanning (69) was Ireland’s longest serving newspaper editor with 28 years at the helm of the hugely successful Sunday Independent.
Highlighting Mr Fanning’s talent as a journalist and musician, Mr Higgins said: “I wish to extend my sincere sympathies to Aengus’s wife, Anne and his sons Dion, Evan and Steve on their very sad bereavement.
“Aengus was a very committed journalist and editor whose energy and talents will be greatly missed by his colleagues, not only in the Sunday Independent, but also in the wider world of journalism.
“He will also be missed by his many friends in the world of music.”
Paying tribute to Mr Fanning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny described him as a “charismatic” character whose influence on the newspaper was obvious.
“Throughout his 28 year tenure as Editor of the paper, he ensured that the Sunday Independent remained relevant and influential on the important news stories of the day,” he said.
“Aengus was a charismatic and significant media figure who took a very hands on approach to his job as Editor of the Sunday Independent.
“I want to pass on my condolences to his wife Anne and his sons and wider family and friends and to all his colleagues at Independent Newspapers.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
The board of Independent News and Media PLC also paid tribute to Mr Fanning.
“Aengus truly was one a kind, possibly the greatest and most instinctively brilliant editor that Irish journalism has ever produced,” said Independent News and Media CEO Gavin O’Reilly today.
“Not only was he absolutely fearless but he had an innate ability to read and understand both the aspirations and fears of the Irish people and it was this skill that allowed him embed the Sunday Independent into the very fabric of Irish society over almost three decades as editor.
“If you wanted to know what people were thinking of the big issues of the day or, indeed, what would be the big issues of tomorrow and next week all you had to do was ask Aengus.
“He is a huge loss to Irish journalism but an even bigger loss to his family. Our thoughts today are with Anne and his three sons, Dion, Evan and Steve.”
A Tralee native, Aengus Fanning was a former gaelic footballer for Kerry and was known for his passion for cricket as well as jazz music.
He passed away this morning after battling cancer.
He transformed the Sunday Independent into Ireland’s largest selling newspaper with an eclectic mixture of political and economic opinion columns, celebrity, gossip, features and fashion.
He introduced many new columnists including Gene Kerrigan, Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Ronan Fanning, Anthony Cronin and Brendan O’Connor propelling the Sunday Independent into the position of Ireland’s leading Sunday newspaper with one million readers a week.
Mr Fanning was a graduate of University College Cork and his family owned the well known local newspaper The Midland Tribune based in Birr, Co Offaly.
He is survived by his wife Anne Harris, deputy editor of the Sunday Independent and his three sons. He is predeceased by his first wife Mary.
He joined Independent Newspapers in the late 1960s as a general reporter before becoming Agricultural Correspondent. He comprehensively covered Ireland’s accession negotiations into the then European Economic Community.
He was then appointed News Analysis editor of the Irish Independent before being appointed editor of the Sunday Independent in 1984.
Under his leadership the Sunday Independent established itself as the biggest and most influential newspaper on the island of Ireland.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said that Mr Fanning established himself as an institution in the Irish media.
“I am saddened to learn of the death of Aengus Fanning,” he said.
“I want to extend my sympathies to Aengus’s family, his friends and to his colleagues in the Sunday Independent”.
He added that Mr Fanning was a larger than life character who established himself in his own right as an institution in the Irish media.
Members of the Independent National Union of Journalists chapel paid tribute to Mr Fanning’s contribution to Irish journalism.
“Aengus was a long time member of the chapel from his days as a reporter and Agricultural Correspondent,” it said in a statement.
“A self described commercial editor, Aengus lived by the market and always sought to deliver an entertaining, provocative and lively paper every Sunday.”
“His love of music, sport and politics were well known and he himself played the clarinet and later took up the tin whistle, regularly displaying his talents to his colleagues.
“Our thoughts are with his wife and deputy editor of the Sunday Independent, Anne Harris, and his three sons Dion, Evan and Stephen.”
The National Union of Journalists today paid its own tribute.
Seamus Dooley, general secretary of the union, said:
‘He belonged to a great newspaper family and was deeply rooted in the tradition of journalism. He was at heart a Kerryman but he owed much to his rich Offaly ancestry. He was proud of his association with Birr and the Midland Tribune, where he began his journalism career under the direction of his uncle James I Fanning and two mentors, the late Bud Burke and Geoff Oakley.
‘His death is a loss to the Sunday Independent but especially to his family. Our thoughts are with them at this time’.
Jimmy Deenihan TD Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht also expressed his sympathy:
“It is with a deep sense of sadness and loss that I learned of the death of Aengus. While I had been aware of his ill health and recently had occasion to speak with him I feel an immense sense of loss on his all too sudden passing. Aengus grew up alongside my wife’s family and they shared a strong friendship Aengus was a very proud Kerryman and a keen underage minor footballer for the county. Aengus was a dear friend of mine ‘outside’ of politics and I want to extend my sympathy to Ann, his sons, extended family and friends. Beannacht Dé lena anam.’’
Bernie Guerin, the mother of murdered Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin, said she would remember Mr Fanning “with affection and respect for him as a journalist, as her editor and as a friend”.
She said that after Veronica’s death he remained a friend of hers. “I couldn’t speak highly enough of him.”
Aengus Fanning produced the most compelling cocktail of news ever served up by any Irish newspaper editor. He floored the competition over twenty years. Competitors, foreign and national, came and went, but the Sunday Independent---Aengus’ unique publication-- saw them off one by one.
I HAVE had the pleasure of knowing Aengus Fanning for many years, not just on a personal level but as an occasional contributor to the Sunday Independent. Whether you agreed with him or not (and he never took disagreement personally), he was unfailing good company, full of ideas, and perennially involved in the business of shaping the public consciousness in ways he felt were important for the country.