Journalist Desmond Fisher left archive of a life serving the public

Desmond Fisher, a respected commentator on religious matters and a journalist who worked in both the print and broadcast sectors, has died aged 94.

Derry-born and Dublin-raised, his career commenced in the provincial press in Carlow and he went on to work for the Irish Press, becoming its London editor, as well as being a correspondent for the Economist and both a deputy head of news and current affairs editor of RTÉ.

He was editor of Britain’s Catholic Herald and, during his reign, covered the Second Vatican Council.

He married Margaret (Peggy) in 1948 and they had four children.

In a substantial archive piece that he prepared for Dublin City University, Mr Fisher recalled developments which concerned him most during his years as a journalist: The threat of nuclear war; the progress of the European ideal from its start as the European Coal and Steel Community to its present 27-member EU; the Troubles in the North; and, above all, the inspired but so far unsuccessful attempt of Pope John XXIII and many of the world’s bishops to pioneer a new Pentecost in the Roman Catholic Church.

In his archive submission, he noted: “As I wrap up this work of preparing my archive, I look back over a life of hard work, a fair deal of satisfaction and a greater amount of dissatisfaction about the fact that I had to resign from two of the most important and prestigious jobs I had in my career — the editorship of the Catholic Herald and the Head of the Current Affairs Grouping in RTÉ.

“Both of these events caused me a lot of mental suffering at the time and resulted in making me feel that I had been, in some sense, a failure. It was much later that I realised I had resigned on points of principle and could — to my own satisfaction at least — fairly.

“As far as the Catholic Herald was concerned, I preferred to resign than to suppress my own deepest beliefs and adopt a policy I considered wrong. In the case of RTÉ, I resigned because I had been the victim of a politically inspired intrigue by ideologues in the station and because the director general of the time would not accept the terms I laid down for my continued tenure in the post.”

Standing up for one’s principles sometimes comes at a price, he stated. “I end by saying that I am glad to have had journalism as a career. It is — or it can be — a satisfying life, especially if one works for the more serious publications or in public service broadcasting. What I am not sure of is whether anything I wrote or initiated has done any good or helped any of my fellow creatures the better to understand or appreciate the world we live in. I must leave that to anyone who sifts through this archive to determine.”

After attending University College Dublin, his career in journalism began and ended at The Nationalist and Leinster Times.

He had joined as an assistant to the editor in 1945 and rejoined the paper in 1984, as editor.

Mr Fisher died in Dublin on Tuesday.


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