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Sunday 22 January 2012

I am proud to be part of this 'small army'

Thank you, Aengus, for being such a journalistic buccaneer, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

In August 2000, with the prisons of Northern Ireland virtually emptied of paramilitary murderers and torturers, Gerry Adams announced that -- under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement -- the killers of Garda McCabe should also be released.

I had a call from the Sunday Independent asking me for an article. I'd been writing for the paper for years, and was well known as an enemy of the Provos.

Logic, however, forced me to write -- with great reluctance -- that Adams was right that what was sauce for the northern goose was sauce for the southern gander. I expected a protest, but there was silence. What the paper did was to ask Emer O'Kelly, who loathed paramilitaries as much as I did, for her view.

I don't know how Aengus reacted when he discovered that -- just as reluctantly -- Emer took the same view as I did, but I expect there were some loud expletives. But being Aengus, and having style as well as principle, what he did was to publish both our articles along with a furious editorial saying the McCabe killers shouldn't be let out under any circumstances.

I've often used that story to explain to critics of the Sunday Independent why I've been so proud to write for it and to be one of that small army dismissed by critics as Aengus's hired guns. I prefer to describe us as weasels fighting in a sack.

Aengus was a joy to work for, not least because he put into practice his belief in free speech and the challenging of orthodoxy. Unlike most newspapers, there was no censorship and no pointless meddling with copy. And when on occasion one of my unguarded phrases brought expensive writs, there were never any recriminations.

Thank you, Aengus, for being such a journalistic buccaneer, for having such guts, for imbuing the paper with passion and outrage, for impressing on us that the worst sin was to bore our readers, for loving your job and for protecting your staff from bean-counters and ill-wishers. You were truly a gentleman of the press.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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