seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Matt Cooper Resigns as Editor of the “Sunday Tribune”

Matt Cooper resigns as editor of the Sunday Tribune on November 5, 2002 to replace Eamon Dunphy as presenter of The Last Word on Today FM. He edits his final issue of the Sunday Tribune in early November before joining The Last Word on January 6, 2003.

Today FM offers the job to Cooper a week earlier but he delays his acceptance in the interim. Dunphy describes Cooper as “a great choice and a heavyweight journalist.”

“I have enjoyed my time at the Sunday Tribune enormously and this is the only job that I would have left the paper for,” Cooper says.

When Cooper joins the Sunday Tribune in 1996 he becomes the youngest national newspaper editor in the country. Under his guidance, the paper’s circulation rises from 76,000 to 90,000 in 2001. However, sales fall to 85,000 copies in 2002.

Cooper is noted for his prolific writing output as well as regular stints as a stand-in presenter on The Last Word. He wins National Journalist of the Year in 1993 and in 2001. The Sunday Tribune says he will continue as a writer with the newspaper.

“We are sorry to see Matt leave. He made a significant contribution to the newspaper during his six years in the editor’s chair,” managing director Jim Farrelly says.

Speculation grows about who will succeed Cooper. “The appointment process will begin immediately and the job will be advertised. It will be similar to the selection process for The Irish Times editor’s job,” said Tribune spokesperson Martin Larkin.

Candidates interested in the job include Irish Independent business editor Richard Curran as well as in-house candidates Martin Wall, Diarmuid Doyle, Jim Farrelly, and Paddy Murray, who takes over as acting editor.

Much depends on the attitude of Independent News & Media, which has a 29.9% stake in Tribune Publications. It may be unwilling to grant a new editor significant funds since this would threaten the market of its flagship newspaper, the Sunday Independent. When asked about this in an interview in 2001, Farrelly says, “To grow your company, you must be financially independent.”

Acting editor Paddy Murray ultimately succeeds Cooper as full-time editor.

(From: “Last Word as Cooper quits Tribune” by Michael Brennan, Irish Examiner, November 6, 2002)


Leave a comment

Birth of Footballer Johnny Giles

Michael John “Johnny” Giles, former association footballer and manager, is born in Ormond Square, Dublin, on November 6, 1940. He is best remembered for his time as a midfielder with Leeds United F.C. in the 1960s and 1970s. After retiring from management in 1985, Giles serves as the senior analyst on RTÉ Sport‘s coverage of association football from 1986 until 2016. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) votes Giles as the greatest Irish player of the last 50 years at the UEFA Jubilee Awards in 2004.

After winning an FA Cup winner’s medal under Matt Busby at Manchester United F.C., Giles moves to Leeds in 1963 where he plays in midfield alongside captain Billy Bremner. The duo goes on to form a central midfield partnership which is one of the best in English club football. Their pairing helps yield several major trophies in the most successful era in Leeds’ history. By a strange coincidence, Giles and Bremner both score exactly 115 goals for the club.

In his later years in football, Giles pursues a managerial career which sees him installed as player-manager and manager of, among others, West Bromwich Albion F.C., the Republic of Ireland national football team, Vancouver Whitecaps F.C. and Shamrock Rovers F.C. Despite having an outstanding knowledge of the game, Giles personally never likes being a manager. He becomes disillusioned with aspects of the job, such as suffering at the hands of non-committal boardrooms, and leaves management permanently in 1985. He later declares that he has no regrets about quitting managerial life.

Subsequently, after repeated encouragement from childhood friend Eamon Dunphy, Giles inadvertently enters the world of football punditry in 1986. He goes on to establish himself as the highly respected senior analyst on RTÉ Sport. In addition, he writes two columns per week for the Irish Evening Herald newspaper, and offers his opinions about the game on radio station, Newstalk 106.

Giles resides in the Harborne area of the city of Birmingham, England. To coincide with his 70th birthday, Giles compiles a first ever autobiography chronicling his life in and outside of football which is released in November 2010. The autobiography, titled A Football Man, becomes the best selling book in the Republic of Ireland.