Sunday 17 December 2017

Taoiseach leads the tributes to 'fearless' editor

Colm Kelpie and Majella O'Sullivan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins yesterday led tributes to 'Sunday Independent' editor Aengus Fanning, who died at the age of 69 after battling cancer.

Mr Fanning, editor of the paper for 28 years, passed away yesterday morning after a short illness at St Vincent's Private Hospital in Elm Park on Dublin's southside.

He is survived by his wife Anne Harris, who is also the 'Sunday Independent' deputy editor, and his three sons Dion, Evan and Stephen.

He is predeceased by his first wife Mary.

Mr Kenny described him as a charismatic and significant media figure, who took a "hands on" approach to his role.

"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," the Taoiseach said.

President Higgins said Mr Fanning 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."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he was a larger than life character who established himself in his own right as an institution in the Irish media.

"He was a passionate, opinionated and fearless journalist who had a great news sense and a love of top-quality writing," Mr Martin said.

Mr Fanning was credited with boosting the success of the 'Sunday Independent', bringing in a range of diverse columnists. The newspaper currently boasts one million readers every week. Independent News and Media chief executive officer Gavin O'Reilly said Mr Fanning was "one a kind, possibly the greatest and most instinctively brilliant editor that Irish journalism has ever produced".

"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 to embed the 'Sunday Independent' into the very fabric of Irish society over almost three decades as editor," Mr O'Reilly said.

"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."

Managing editor of Independent Newspapers Michael Denieffe said Mr Fanning was "colossal" in every sense of the word. "His consummate passion for the health of his paper; his unerring instinct for the mood of the country; his love of sport, cricket but above all GAA and his native Kerry; his pride and loyalty in his family," Mr Denieffe said.

Independent TD Shane Ross, who wrote for the 'Sunday Independent', said Mr Fanning produced the most "compelling cocktail of news ever served up by any Irish newspaper editor".

"He floored the competition over 20 years. Competitors, foreign and national, came and went, but the 'Sunday Independent' -- Aengus's unique publication -- saw them off one by one," he said.

'Sunday Independent' Operations Editor Campbell Spray said Mr Fanning was the most brilliant and inspirational editor across two generations.

"He could cut to the chase immediately. The newspaper's job was to inform, entertain and provoke. Good copy was his mantra -- wherever and whatever its source.

"There was a touch of divine madness about him. If you fought and argued for your point he would respect you.''

Press Ombudsman John Horgan said Mr Fanning had flair and intuition.

"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," he said.

Irish Independent journalist Sam Smyth described him as the most successful editor of his generation.

"It was all down to his instinct. He had a basic instinct for what middle Ireland wanted to hear... and the people just couldn't get enough of it," he said.

Bernie Guerin, mother of murdered 'Sunday Independent' reporter Veronica Guerin, praised Mr Fanning.

"I couldn't speak highly enough of him. I am very, very sad to hear of his death."

Mr Fanning's former club mates in Tralee's Austin Stacks remembered him as "one of the best prospects that never made".

The National Union of Journalists said Mr Fanning was a journalist of skill and imagination.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

Irish Independent

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