By Eugene McGloin
THE MOST memorable Christmas present outside my own family circle was handed to me by Vincent Browne.
A small group of us had been summoned to an afternoon meeting in his office, December 1982.
Was this, after all his huge energy and great effort to fund a re-launch The Sunday Tribune, to be the fatal coup de grace in time for Father Christmas.
was no double tap that December day and Browne himself, though it took a
wee while to realise it, was doin' Santa without donning the red suit.
had been a bruising year for many of us, the work of journalism itself
in 'the GUBU year' and then the collapse of ''the Tribune'' and its 15
days old sister, The Daily News.
It was one of the very few times I've cried uncontrollably in public as an adult.
End-of-month cheques for salaries, expenses and holidays etc bounced all over Dublin, lost and irretrievable. Immense.
Daily News people, some in from abroad, got no salaries, expenses or
holidays for any part of their employment either. Immense.
Yes, immense but lost most of all --
and many people have experienced this in the brutalities of
receiverships and liquidations -- is the friendship, camaraderie,
comradeship and trusts built between colleagues.
Into that cauldron of catastrophes stepped Vincent Browne to attempt rescue and re-launch, of the Sunday title anyway.
His only other real rival was the outgoing Sunday title editor, Conor Brady backed by venture capital agency DCC.
Crucially Browne had the support of staff and the High Court approved his bid to buy the title for a nominal sum.
DCC, his financiers had no known experience of the (notorious)
bottomless buckets of cash needed then to run a national newspaper.
Best known among Browne's backers would be up and rising star Tony Ryan.
was the founder of Ryanair and jetted the globe after setting up
Guinness Peat Aviation with its 'who's-who' starry board of directors.
Tony Ryan wrote the cheques in those envelopes handed out by Vincent Browne that December day.
was an extraordinary kindness from a man we had never met and who, then
or afterwards, owed nothing to anyone present that December day.
people left the room without opening their envelope but one whisper on
the way out said '£40 pounds.' Kindness from a stranger.
In Buswells lower bar somebody stripped their envelope and spotted the mistake.
Er, our mistake: It's four hundred pounds, not forty. Surely some mistake on their part?
A stranger would hardly go that far with people he didn't know, hadn't met and didn't even employ.....yet.
But he did and before another year had passed he was getting -- any by some accounts -- giving, too, some bangs for his bucks.
The biography of Tony Ryan claims he flattened Vincent Browne in one angry encounter.
has always roundly denied such an incident but, yes, there were points
of view exchanged over his interview with INLA leader Dominic
In that notorious exclusive McGlinchey had described how he liked to get in close and see the eyes of people he assassinated.
Disgusting in any sense and way, way beyond where Ryan had expected his (new) Sunday Tribune to be, even though people were certainly talking about it.
Earlier, and within a short time of re-launch, Ryan let it be known he thought the newspaper was too ''left wing.''
campaign to have Nicky Kelly released from prison, led by Longford
journalist the late Derek Dunne, failed to float the boat of some.
Minister for Justice Michael Noonan did the decent thing and released Kelly.
before the brown-foldered lengthy memorandum re that 'Left drift'
landed on each desk Browne was already giving a prescient taste of
President Donald Trump.
style was chaotic. People who had been hired to important posts were
mesmerised and demoralised by his style, or absence of it.
Those peoples (plural) early senses of those things, in turn, demoralised others.
were those who stood up to be counted and spoke Truth to Power,
especially that power which Browne now held, aged just forty.
Those voices included the late Mary Holland, the complete journalist AND great humanitarian and Fintan O'Toole, a fearless and good union officer.
fearless was Paddy Prendiville, who left to be editor of Phoenix magazine
when it was established by the original founder of The Sunday Tribune, John Mulcahy.
the decades, only Phoenix magazine has managed to hold Vincent Browne,
an important figure in Ireland's public domain, to any sense of
It does so without the negative traits sometimes displayed publicly by Browne himself.
On his day, Browne could be the Pele, Suarez or Eusebio of journalism, the star turn.
He could also be Norman Hunter or be like Roy Keane in the tackle.
He witnessed the May 17th 1974 Dublin bombings within minutes of their aftermath and their record loss of life in the Troubles.
seemed to shape a lot of what came later but 'the North' is the least
of what his legacy will remember. Nothing he did shaped the Peace
Vincent Browne was the first-ever to put the Gardai and The Church
under the spotlight after decades of their unchallenged and unquestioned
He systematically promoted and powerfully enabled the voices of women
in journalism and in Irish Life.....long before Bono's roll call last
weekend in Croke Park;
3. Vincent Browne was the first to begin to comprehend and then to publicly explain the scale of child abuse in Ireland.
He used Magill magazine to reveal the scandals of neglect inside
Ireland mental hospitals. Helen Connolly's innovative investigation
stands the test of time.
will argue -- but I'm not sure -- that his Magill three-parter on the
1970 Arms Crisis got to its root, or got to the rot in the Republic
hidden in/by that Crisis.
Shops refused to stock those issues but then that only heightened the demand.
That magazine (or that series) never dented Charles Haughey or Fianna Fáil.
Anything but when you recall Fianna Fail's market shares in general elections, even ones they lost.
The Public are also mistaken in thinking Browne held Bertie Ahern to account.
his public harangue and rants at Ahern in the 2007 campaign greatly
helped to turn the tide for an FF three-in-a-row when all seemed like it
might be lost.
Postscript: When Browne bowed out from broadcasting on TV3 on Thursday night he read a long list of names of people he wished to thank.
is another list, probably lengthier: Those who refused to appear or
weren't invited to join his panels. It would speak for itself.
In the past decade some people found delight in the entertainment value of a Browne rant or harangue on TV3.
Hardly, and some of the those silly and stupid people who spoke to me
would not like or tolerate it for their own spouse in the workplace.
One rule imprinted in me as I grew up and learned: Namely, never ever crush anybody's Spirit.
That message is the gift I'd offer VinB, hashtag or by hand, this July 2017 morning.