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Willie Kealy: Much-loved leader who inspired loyalty in all his staff

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Aengus Fanning with his wife Anne Harris

Aengus Fanning with his wife Anne Harris

Aengus with the
late Ronnie Drew

Aengus with the late Ronnie Drew

With the late
Garret FitzGerald
in Ranelagh

With the late Garret FitzGerald in Ranelagh

Aengus with Bertie Ahern in September 2002

Aengus with Bertie Ahern in September 2002

Aengus Fanning with the then UUP
leader David Trimble at Stormont

Aengus Fanning with the then UUP leader David Trimble at Stormont

Aengus with the late
Veronica Guerin
in 1995

Aengus with the late Veronica Guerin in 1995

Aengus Fanning (back row) when he played for Kerry in 1960s

Aengus Fanning (back row) when he played for Kerry in 1960s

Aengus with former Kerry footballer Mick O'Connell at Valentia Island, Co Kerry

Aengus with former Kerry footballer Mick O'Connell at Valentia Island, Co Kerry

Aengus Fanning with Ulick O'Connor on Bloomsday in 2009

Aengus Fanning with Ulick O'Connor on Bloomsday in 2009

Aengus with first wife Mary and their sons Dion, Evan and
Steve

Aengus with first wife Mary and their sons Dion, Evan and Steve

Aengus as part of the Sunday Independent's Cricket Society (back
row, second from left)

Aengus as part of the Sunday Independent's Cricket Society (back row, second from left)

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Aengus Fanning with his wife Anne Harris

AENGUS Fanning was the most successful editor in the history of Irish newspapers. He brought an intelligence and wealth of experience to the Sunday newspaper market in the early 1980s that had the effect of profoundly changing the Irish media.

The mix of campaigning journalism and informative and entertaining reporting in the 'Sunday Independent' brought a new energy and set a standard that endures. Aengus Fanning was the pre-eminent newspaper man of his generation.

He encompassed every important aspect of newspaper production, as aware of the need for good-quality paper and printing and proper marketing as he was of the need for quality words and pictures.

Aengus was respected and loved by most people in the industry, not just in the 'Sunday Independent' or in Independent News and Media. This was unusual in such an intensely competitive business.

He knew that a good newspaper -- or even a great newspaper -- is not like a 24-hour TV news channel. He believed that while readers needed to be informed and stimulated, they also needed to be entertained and sometimes given hope.

But always, they had to be told the truth. This was especially so throughout our most recent harsh economic times.

He never courted popularity from the great and good. In fact, he often drew their fire, but the readers understood that this was the sacred trust he held for them. This was his job. And he did it.

In dealing with people, he showed all the skills of a psychiatrist and a ringmaster, marshalling his resources and using them to their best, soothing egos and encouraging initiative. He could not stand mediocrity and considered boring the readers to be the greatest crime.

Aengus saw it as his chief role to produce a commercially successful newspaper that would appeal to, and serve, as wide a section of the public as possible and preserve the jobs of those engaged in producing it.

He was fiercely loyal to his friends, especially if they hit rough times, and he inspired great loyalty in others, including those who worked with him.

Aengus could feel things deeply but was never in the least sentimental.

Throughout the white-knuckle ride of first creating and then maintaining the premier position of the 'Sunday Independent' over almost three decades, no journalist ever departed from the paper other than of their own volition.

He could be passionate in defence of democracy and creating and sustaining employment for the citizenry. It took courage not to bend when he faced down those who sought power with the Armalite because they did not fancy their chances with the ballot box.

The saddest day of his editorship came when one of the best journalists ever to work for the 'Sunday Independent' -- or any other branch of the media -- Veronica Guerin, was murdered by organised criminals for, as Aengus said at the time, just doing her job. It touched him deeply and he could never forget the effect that tragedy had on Veronica's family and all who loved her.

He will be greatly missed by all those who worked with or knew him, but especially by his wife Anne Harris, deputy editor of the 'Sunday Independent', his sons Dion, Evan and Stephen, as well as his brothers and sister.

Willie Kealy is deputy editor of the 'Sunday Independent'

Irish Independent