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Colum Kenny: Creative chaos the stamp of his genius

TO SAY that Aengus Fanning was easy to deal with would be an overstatement. He could be formidable, a potent mixture of old decency and intellectual impatience. But an encounter with Aengus was never less than bracing, and frequently rewarding.

He knew his job, and his job was giving voice to a range of opinions that represented men and women in the street.

Aengus ensured that the Sunday Independent had more upper-class readers than The Irish Times on any given day, while engaging other social classes equally well.

Aengus had that special feel for public opinion that the best journalists have. It requires a combination of compassion and life experience and is sometimes called instinct.

Aengus also recognised commercial realities and popular tastes. He himself was not in the business to make a personal fortune, but to make Ireland better.

His editorial brusqueness earned him enemies. But, as a contributor to his paper, I never felt pressure to write anything or in any way.

It seems to me that creative chaos, rather than conspiracy, was the hallmark of Aengus's genius.

Societies continually tend towards consensus. Aengus rocked boats. It amuses me to recall how he was vilified for creating a platform for opinion on Sundays at a time when other newspapers did not yet grasp the changing function of print media. Some of his strongest critics soon benefited from the trend when other newspapers followed suit.

Aengus ensured that there was an underlying editorial orientation in his paper, one that was aligned with the sort of common sense that you are likely to find in a cafe or pub when Irish people discuss the things that affect them most.

Just when we need you more than ever, why have you left us, Aengus?

Sunday Independent