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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Bus Éireann Strike Over Cost-Reduction Measures

Tens of thousands of people have to make alternative travel arrangements on March 24, 2017 due to a strike at Bus Éireann over the company’s implementation of cost-reduction measures without union agreement. The bus and coach operator warns that the strike will worsen the company’s financial situation, which it describes as perilous.

Iarnród Éireann, the operator of the national railway network, says some Intercity services are affected by the dispute due to picketing. It says there is significant disruption, with some services cancelled and others curtailed. But Iarnród Éireann says special late-night trains for football fans returning from the Republic of Ireland vs. Wales match will operate to Cork, Limerick and Galway.

The Minister for Transport Shane Ross says that he will “categorically” not be intervening during the strike and calls on both sides to get back to the talks. He says an industrial relations dispute is not a matter for the minister and that both parties should go to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court for talks. He adds that the only reason people are calling on him to intervene is to pay taxpayers’ money and he says he will not be doing that. He says the company needs to reform and that can be done maturely through talks by the two sides.

Dublin Bus services operate as normal. GO-BE, the joint venture company between Bus Éireann and Go-Bus, suspends its services between Cork and Dublin and the Dublin Airport. While it is not meant to be affected by the dispute, it is understood there are issues at its base in Cork and the service is suspended. Aircoach, which has a sizable part of the market for the Cork to Dublin route, contracts ten buses from a private bus operator to meet the additional demand.

The general manager of the Irish Citylink private bus service says the company has increased their departures by 25% on the Dublin to Galway route and other services around the country to meet demands. Irish Citylink usually has 100 daily departures on services that include 14 different towns on the “off motorway route” to Dublin from Galway, but has around 25 additional buses out to meet demands.

The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) issues a number of steps to its members to assist in ending the strike by Bus Éireann workers. Earlier, a SIPTU official says the blame for the strike must be laid at the door of management and the Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

Divisional Organiser Willie Noone says staff had “no other choice” but to strike in an attempt to protect their livelihoods, but acknowledges that it is unfortunate for commuters. He says that the unions had worked hard to keep staff at work to this point given the anger at company proposals to cut pay.

National Bus and Rail Union General Secretary Dermot O’Leary says disputes such as that at Bus Éireann are solved by discussions sitting around a table behind closed doors and that is where his union would like to be. He acknowledges the strike will exacerbate financial problems at Bus Éireann, but says his members have demanded for many weeks this action be taken in response to what the company has done since January.

Stephen Kent, Chief Commercial Officer with Bus Éireann, apologises to customers for the “highly regrettable” inconvenience caused by the strike. He says the company has run out of time and absolutely needs to implement the cost-cutting measures it has put forward. He adds that the company is doing everything it can to minimise all non-payroll costs and has eliminated all discretionary spending and that the issues at Bus Éireann can only be resolved through discussion with the workforce but they need to deliver work practice changes that will deliver urgently needed savings.

The strike represents a serious escalation of the Bus Éireann row, which could push the company over the edge. It lost €9.4m in 2016 and a further €50,000 a day in January 2017. But each strike day will cost another half a million, which the company insists is unsustainable. Management says that it had to proceed with unilateral implementation of cuts due to the financial crisis, and because unions would not agree to any reductions in take-home pay or unnecessary overtime. However, the unions have accused the company of seeking to introduce so-called yellow-pack terms and conditions in a race to the bottom, to groom the company for privatisation.

The strike affects businesses as well as disrupts the travel plans of 110,000 passengers each day, though not all are stranded. The National Transport Authority reminds passengers that there are alternative private operators on many routes. If Bus Éireann passengers defect to them, they may never return, further damaging revenue at the State-owned company. No further talks are planned as of this date.


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Funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

dana-fitzpatrick-funeralOn Saturday, March 18, 2017, President Michael D. Higgins is among hundreds of mourners at St. Patrick’s Church in Glencullen for the funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died when her Sikorsky S-92 helicopter (call sign Rescue 116) crashed off the County Mayo coast on March 14.

The funeral cortege arrives at the church in Glencullen at 11:00 AM and is met by an honour guard from the Coast Guard and other rescue services. Captain Fitpatrick’s parents, four siblings, her young son Fionn, and other family members accompany the coffin into the church.

In addition to President Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross are in attendance, as is Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Also present are members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Civil Defence Ireland, mountain rescue and many other groups.

In his homily, Parish Priest Fr. Andrew O’Sullivan says St. Patrick’s church has seen many sad and tragic funerals but few as sad and sorrowful as this one. He pays tribute to the Fitzpatrick family and says they and the community have lost a loved and valued member. He adds that the congregations’ thoughts are with Captain Fitzpatrick’s three crew members who have yet to be found.

Fr. O’Sullivan says the family takes comfort from the fact that Dara had lived life to the fullest. Mourners hear that as well as being a loving mother, Dara was an avid traveller, cook and animal lover.

The funeral Mass is followed by cremation at Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Poor weather conditions off the west coast of Ireland hamper the search for the three missing crew members and the wreckage of the Coast Guard helicopter R116. On March 22, the wreckage of the main part of the helicopter is detected by underwater cameras about 60 metres off Blackrock Island. The body of co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy is found in the cockpit section of the wreckage. A helmet and lifejacket belonging to one of the two missing crewmen is discovered on a beach on the Mullet Peninsula on September 30, 2017.

(From: Captain Dara Fitzpatrick remembered during funeral service, RTÉ.ie, the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster, March 18, 2017)