Mooney: “keen intelligence”
Former Irish Post editor and community stalwart Donal Mooney has died following a long illness. The 63-year-old from Rathmines in Dublin leaves his wife Helen and two sons, Ross and Neil.
Mooney was one of the most highly respected journalists in the Irish community in Britain, having edited The Irish Post for many years before later taking charge of The Irish World.
He was respected by everyone who worked with him and was a leading voice in the fight for greater recognition for the Irish community across the country.
The Irish Post’s West Midlands correspondent Brendan Farrell worked alongside Mooney for many years. He said: “Donal was softly-spoken and in all the years I worked with him, he never lost his temper.
“We set up and worked on many Irish Post stories over the years, including numerous features on the Irish in the US, France and Spain. During his years with the Post, Mooney remained 100 per cent committed to his role as editor and to the paper’s readers.”
Former director of the London Irish Centre, Father Jerry Kivlehan, knew Mooney for more than 10 years and said he would be hugely missed by many within the Irish community.
He paid tribute to Mooney’s skill and ability as a journalist who served the Irish community well for so many years: “I thought he was an exceptional journalist and had a really good insight into issues relating to the Irish community.
“His understanding and analysis of more complex issues – particularly during the Troubles in Northern Ireland- were unique. He was a very balanced journalist and gave all sides of the issues in a very objective way.”
Donal Mooney was a key figure on newspapers serving Britain’s Irish community for more than 30 years.
He was born in Nenagh, County Tipperary, but spent most of his formative years in Abbeyleix, County Laois and in Palmerston Park, Rathmines, Dublin.
He was educated at Belvedere College and at University College Dublin, where he completed degrees in English and commerce.
He began his journalism career at Hibernia magazine in Dublin, which was well known for its coverage of his other passion – the arts. Indeed, during this time, he was also heavily involved with Dublin’s Project Theatre, where he was a director and lighting designer.
Mooney became editor of the Catholic Standard before moving to London in 1973 to join the staff of The Irish Post.
Mooney’s career at the Post, where he rose to become editor for many years, included many of the most turbulent years of the Troubles. It was a time when many Irish people in Britain understandably chose not to “put their head above the parapet”.
As editor of the Post, he had a prominent public role that demanded courage and sound judgement, qualities he always displayed.
His approach was informed by a staunchly constitutional nationalism, in the tradition of those such as John Hume, who have sought to achieve a united Ireland through peaceful means.
Under his leadership, the Post strongly supported victims of miscarriages of justice, such as the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, but also condemned IRA atrocities such as the Enniskillen bombing.
In latter years, Mooney edited the other main newspaper for the Irish in Britain, The Irish World, bringing a new level of professionalism to the paper. His tenure there coincided with dramatic changes in the Irish community linked to the peace process, and the birth of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger, which led to many Irish emigrants returning home.
This development raised questions over the future of the Irish press in Britain, but Mooney understood that the community’s need for a voice was as strong as ever.
The slogan he devised for the World, “the paper which puts community first”, might equally have reflected the values of the early Post.
As the peace process unfolded, Mooney’s keen intelligence and affable nature ensured he had the respect of contacts on all sides of the political divide. He was much in demand as a commentator for international broadcasters such as CNN and BBC World.
Yet for all his ability, Mooney remained a down-to-earth man who was able to observe the machinations of politicians with a cool scepticism that often proved justified. He never lost sight of the importance of the “person on Cricklewood Broadway”, the ordinary members of the Irish community, whom The Irish Post and Irish World existed to serve.
Through his role at the two papers, Mooney could claim no small role in the vast improvement in the position of the Irish in British society over the past 30 years.
That was far from his only contribution to the community. He also served as Chairman of The Irish Club in Eaton Square between 1999 and 2001. His high profile and the much deserved recognition of his personal integrity in the Irish Community, propelled the re-emergence of Eaton Square as a focal point for all that was best in Irish culture and tradition.
Tom Griffin, political correspondent, The Irish World