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Former Sunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning Photo by: Journal.ie

Ireland’s most influential and controversial journalist dies of cancer

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Former Sunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning Photo by: Journal.ie

Aengus Fanning, editor of the Sunday Independent  and one of Ireland’s most influential and controversial journalists has died. He was suffering from cancer.

The 69-year-old had edited the top selling Irish newspaper since 1984.

The Independent.ie website paid tribute to him, saying:

“He transformed the Sunday Independent into Ireland’s largest selling newspaper with a mixture of passionate opinion columns, gossip, features and fashion”.

“He introduced exciting new columnists including Gene Kerrigan, Ronan Fanning, Anthony Cronin and Brendan O’Connor”.

He is survived by his wife Anne Harris, now the deputy editor of the Sunday Independent, and his three sons. He first wife Mary predeceased him.

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Fanning often used his newspaper to attack the nationalist position on Northern Ireland. The paper was an arch critic of the Irish peace process in its early days, slamming Nobel Prize winner John Hume for talking to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and leading opposition to the process.

The paper, through columnists such as Eoghan Harris, became known for its strong pro -Unionist positions.

It strongly reflected the view of its owner, Sir Anthony O’Reilly, who was also anti Sinn Fein.

The paper became deeply influential in Irish politics under Fanning, and its support was sought by all major political parties.

It was also the newspaper that slain writer Veronica Guerin wrote for when she was gunned down by drug lords in 1996.

Politicians lived in fear of the clout of the Sunday Independent under Fanning, who did not hesitate to use its pages to push a particular agenda. The backing of the newspaper was considered  critical for politicians such as former Irish leader Bertie Ahern who bent over backwards for its support.

He hired dozens of columnists over the years such as Ruth Dudley Edwards, Eoghan Harris, and John Paul McCarthy, to slam the nationalist position on Northern Ireland.

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