seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Aengus Fanning, Journalist & Editor of the Sunday Independent

Aengus Fanning, Irish journalist and editor of the Sunday Independent from 1984 until his death, dies on January 17, 2012, following a battle with lung cancer. He is also a former editor of farming for the Irish Independent. He is listed at number 31 on a list of “most influential people” in Irish society compiled for Village magazine.

Fanning is born on April 22, 1944, in the family home at Cloonbeg Terrace, Tralee, County Kerry, the fourth child among five sons and one daughter of Arnold (‘Paddy’) Fanning, a teacher, and his wife Clara (née Connell). Originally from Rostrevor, County Down, his mother is born a Presbyterian and converts to Catholicism to marry his father, though neither is religious. His father is a noted organiser of local theatrical productions, having written a one-act play, Vigil, which is staged in the Abbey Theatre in 1929.

Fanning has a keen interest in sport, having represented Kerry in Gaelic football in his youth. He is also passionate about cricket. He also plays the clarinet, and is a jazz fan. He is a graduate of University College Cork (UCC).

In May 1964 Fanning is hired as a reporter by his uncle, James Fanning, the owner of the Midland Tribune in Birr, County Offaly, and pursues an unglamorous beat covering court sittings, local authority meetings and GAA matches. Needing a better salary to start a family, he joins Independent Newspapers (IN) in Dublin as a general reporter in May 1969, and soon after marries Mary O’Brien from Streamstown, County Offaly. They settle in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, and have three sons.

Fanning covers the Northern Ireland troubles during 1969–70, before reporting increasingly on farming matters, becoming the IN group’s agricultural correspondent in 1973, as Ireland’s European Economic Community (EEC) accession sparks a farming boom. He is made head of news analysis at the Irish Independent in 1982, improving the op-ed page and using it to advocate more market-driven economic policies.

Fanning is appointed editor of the mid-to-upmarket Sunday Independent in 1984 from. Under his leadership, the newspaper adopts what Irish newspaper historian John Horgan calls a “new emphasis on pungent opinion columns, gossip and fashion” which results in the paper overtaking its main rival, The Sunday Press. For a time, his deputy editor is journalist Anne Harris.

In a 1993 interview with Ivor Kenny in the book Talking to Ourselves, Fanning describes himself as a classical liberal who is opposed to both Ulster loyalist and Provisional Irish Republican Army terrorism. He also expresses a strong advocacy of the free market, arguing that the goal of a good newspaper is to be as commercially successful as possible:

“If three or four papers out of 15 are successful and the others are not, they might say they’re not driven by the market, they have some higher vocation: to serve the public interest or some pompous stuff like that. That’s how they feel good about themselves. Fair enough, if that’s how they want to explain the world. It’s a grand excuse for relative failure… I think we live or die by the market, it will always win through.”

Fanning recruits a number of noted writers to contribute to the newspaper, including historians Conor Cruise O’Brien and Ronan Fanning, journalists Shane Ross and Gene Kerrigan, poet Anthony Cronin and novelist Colm Tóibín. However, his editorship is not without controversy. The columns published by Eamon Dunphy and Terry Keane draw criticism. Michael Foley notes some Irish commentators criticised Fanning’s Sunday Independent, claiming the newspaper was publishing “a mix of sleaze and prurience.”

Fanning also defends the controversial Mary Ellen Synon, who calls the Paralympics games “perverse.” One of the more bizarre incidents occurs in 2001 when he is involved in a fisticuffs with a colleague at the newspaper – operations editor Campbell Spray.

Diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2011, Fanning spends his last months undergoing treatment in St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, dying there on January 17, 2012, at the age of 69. His remains are cremated at Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Anne Harris, Fanning’s second wife, succeeds him as editor and lasts three years. As well as pioneering changes in the domestic print media’s role, Fanning’s Sunday Independent led Irish society’s turn towards free market hedonism, catching the public mood better than its more conventionally liberal rivals by rendering this cultural transformation in an exuberant, somewhat parodied form, and without regard for lingering post-Catholic inhibitions.


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Death of Paul Funge, Painter & Arts Enthusiast

paul-fungePaul Funge, internationally respected painter and arts enthusiast, dies at Loughlinstown Hospital in the south Dublin suburb of Loughlinstown on February 21, 2011 after a short illness.

A native of Gorey, County Wexford, Funge is a founder of the Project Arts Centre in Dublin and the founder of Gorey Arts Centre in 1970. He is also a founder of the Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick while the regional arts officer for the midwest. In addition he establishes the Gorey Arts Festival, a three-week summer arts festival, and runs it for more than fifteen years. He is remembered as the man who brought U2 to play at the Gorey Arts Festival in the days before they became an international success.

A painter of portraits and landscapes, Funge teaches art in many schools including Clongowes Wood College and Newbridge College. He also lectures at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), the University of California, and Kunsthistorisch Instituut in Amsterdam. He is also an inspector for art in the Department of Education for a number of years.

As a portrait artist Funge’s sitters included U2’s Adam Clayton, Frank McGuinness and Colm Tóibín as well as many ministers and academics.

Funge suffers a fall before Christmas 2010, badly fracturing his leg and he is admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital. On January 6, he transfers from Vincent’s to recuperate at a nursing home in Bray. In early February he takes a turn and develops chest problems. His condition deteriorates and he is admitted to the ICU in Loughlinstown Hospital. Initially he appears to be making a reasonable recovery, but his condition deteriorates again in the days prior to his death.

Following Funge’s death, Eamon Carter, director of Gorey School of Art, pays tribute to him as a visionary who felt passionate about decentralising the arts to areas outside of Dublin.

Carter adds that it had just been announced that the Gorey School of Art is linking up with NCAD to provide a masters in fine arts and it is sad that in the week it receives such good news it also receives the sad news of Funge’s death. “I’m saddened that he wasn’t here to see that because he would have been chuffed obviously,” he said.