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Excuse Me, Can I Speak to the Editor?
In his first major interview, Aengus Fanning, editor of the Sunday Independent, discusses how he manages the most successful paper in Ireland and the death of Veronica Guerin.
Jason O'Toole, 04 Nov 2008
Of course I am. With hindsight, I would have stopped her – if she had gone somewhere else, too bad. That’s the cruel judgment of hindsight. (Pauses) She was taken away brutally and how can you come to terms with that?
It must be frustrating to know that the actual killer was never convicted of her murder?
It is very frustrating, particularly for her family and for the Garda who worked on the case. Who’s the expert on how the legal system works – who can explain all that to me? Is justice ever done? Sometimes it’s done, sometimes it’s not done, and sometimes it’s obstructed. I’ve been down in the courts often enough and – I’m sorry to say – I don’t really believe that justice is what drives the legal system. The legal system seems to be so arcane and isn’t amenable to ordinary common sense a lot of the time.
What are your fondest memories of Veronica Guerin?
(Pauses) She had a wonderfully engaging and kind of cheeky way about her. To tell you the truth, if Veronica came into my office for five minutes we just had a bloody laugh. She had a spirit and was no respecter of anything! She was just a very engaging, very attractive, lovely, beautiful, talented girl. I will say one thing about Veronica – she was absolutely driven. She was one of the hardest working journalists I ever met in my life.
Bertie Ahern has a unique relationship with the Sunday Independent. While other papers were constantly knocking him over the Mahon Tribunal, you gave him a platform to get across his side of the story.
I’ll tell you how it came about – when the Irish cricket team came home from the World Cup, Bertie was there to greet them. I was chatting to Bertie – I’ve known him for 30 years since he became a TD – and I said, ‘You’re having a hard time’. He was quite frank and confided in me. He said, ‘They’re persecuting me!’ I said, ‘How about an interview?’ Bertie not only did the interview but he gave me the date of the election. I realised I was onto something the minute he gave me the interview. One thing I found with Bertie – as a journalist – and it’s a rare thing, he gave quid pro quo. He gave you stories. Stuff that sold papers. We sold an awful lot of newspapers during that period.