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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Birth of RTÉ Broadcaster Joe Duffy

Joseph Duffy, Irish broadcaster employed by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), is born in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on January 27, 1956. One of RTÉ’s highest-earning stars, he is the current presenter of Liveline, an interview and phone-in chat show broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1.

Duffy is brought up in Ballyfermot, one of five siblings. His father is Jimmy and his mother Mabel. His father, who has problems with alcohol, dies aged 58 in 1984. His 25-year-old brother Aidan is killed in a road accident on the Maynooth Road in 1991, with Duffy first learning of the “horrific accident” on the news on RTÉ Radio. His brother Brendan is described by him as “crippled, ruined and wrecked by a savage addiction” to sniffing glue which he develops as a teenager.

Duffy attends De La Salle Boys’ primary school, St. Lorcan’s B.N.S and St. John’s De La Salle College. He enrolls at Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) in 1977 to study Social Work and is elected President of Trinity College Students’ Union in 1979, becoming President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) four years later.

Duffy considers resigning from RTÉ in 2007 after the broadcaster forces him to give Minister for Justice Michael McDowell a platform on Liveline to make a “party political broadcast.” He considers it “direct party-political interference” in Liveline. However, he goes ahead with the broadcast and does not resign or make any protest on air.

In October 2008, Duffy is proactive as a supporter of Irish pensioners who march on Leinster House to protest at the proposed means testing of their medical cards in the Government Budget. However, earlier that month, he is reportedly censored by the government when he attempts to continually discuss the effects of the global financial crisis on Ireland. This follows on from the outrage caused when he is held responsible by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan for inciting widespread public fear that Irish citizens are on the verge of losing their savings. Several callers freely speak of their lack of confidence in the banking system, of how they have withdrawn their money from banks, some of which are identified, and are either carrying it around on their person, or considering keeping it “under the mattress,” or burying it in their garden. Lenihan personally calls Cathal Goan, the Director-General of RTÉ, to express his outrage at the sudden increase in potentially disastrous speculation following the show.

The extent of the Finance Minister’s concern first publicly emerges the following morning when he is interviewed by RTÉ’s economics editor George Lee. In that interview, Lenihan insists that deposits are not in any danger and says that people should not be going to banks to shift their deposit accounts “on the basis of unfounded allegations made on radio programmes.”

Rival broadcaster TV3 accuses Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) and Duffy of waging a “dirty tricks” war against them after a late-night game show run by TV3 is berated by callers to Liveline and saying several times on air that he has been unable to get a representative from the station to reply to callers’ concerns. TV3 says a lengthy statement is sent to the Liveline office almost two hours before the September 2009 show goes on air but is ignored, despite the fact that it clarifies some of the issues. The Play TV service is discontinued by TV3 in March 2010 after 29 complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), though TV3 says it is because of a decline in viewership.

Duffy is famous for taking up the causes of the disadvantaged on Liveline, and examples of this include Berry Fleming who lost her job in 2010, and Aubrey McCarthy, who is trying desperately to get his removal business off the ground in 2012/2013.

Duffy is frequently lampooned at length on the satirical TV programme The Savage Eye. It portrays him as a fetish garment clad sado-masochist who derives perverse pleasure by urging his call-in radio listeners in a strong working class Dublin accent, to express excesses of degradation and misery as he “empathizes” verbally and plays with his nipple clamps. He has since questioned viewership figures for The Savage Eye on his daily radio show and has questioned whether it is “blasphemous” on his Sunday afternoon religious affairs TV show Spirit Level.

Duffy is married and is the father of triplets. He currently resides on Dublin’s Northside. His autobiography, Just Joe, is launched by Gay Byrne in Harry’s Bar in October 2011. In 2014, he makes a cameo in Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie as himself. The film is negatively received but is a moderate box office success.

In 1992, Duffy wins a Jacob’s Award for his reports on RTÉ Radio 1’s The Gay Byrne Show. He is named 11th most influential person of 2009 by Village.