Monday 18 December 2017

Courage of his convictions

The death yesterday of 'Sunday Independent' editor Aengus Fanning marks the passing of one of the true giants of modern Irish journalism. In the near 28 years that he edited Ireland's best-selling Sunday newspaper, Aengus displayed an unerring instinct for what his readers wanted and then gave it to them without fear or favour every weekend.

At a time when the rise and rise of the internet threatens print newspapers everywhere, Aengus's 'Sunday Independent' was a true one-off. With more than one million readers it was by far the most widely read Irish newspaper. While the controversy it invariably generated ensured that the 'Sunday Independent' was not without its critics, the readership numbers didn't lie. One million-plus readers can't be wrong.

Over the past quarter of a century the 'Sunday Independent' was at the centre of the debate that helped redefine Irish nationalism and paved the way for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. By mercilessly pricking the intellectual pretensions of old-style physical-force republicanism, the 'Sunday Independent' was one of the main forces pushing Irish nationalism away from its outdated obsession with the "fourth green field" and towards a long overdue realisation that we share an island with a million Ulster unionists who view the world very differently from most of us in the Republic.

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