It is with deep regret that we have learned of the death of Anthony Cronin.
Poet, novelist, memoirist, biographer, critic and cultural activist, Mr. Cronin was an iconic figure in Irish letters, an impassioned and incisive commentator on politics and culture, one of the most influential of Irish writers during a long and varied life. Born in Enniscorthy in 1928, Cronin was already a noted poet and critic while still a student in UCD. He went on to publish 14 volumes of poetry, acclaimed biographies of Flann O’Brien and Samuel Beckett, the novels The Life of Riley and Identity Papers, a number of books of essays, and the classic memoir of literary Dublin in the mid 20th century, Dead As Doornails. He was editor of The Bell magazine when that journal occupied a central place in Irish letters, and was also literary editor of the London journal, Time and Tide.
His Irish Times column, ‘Viewpoint’, published between 1973 and 1980, was typical of his journalism, dealing with political, literary and social topics with a style as distinctive as it was engaging. And, as time has shown, he was often prophetic.
Speaking today, Sheila Pratschke, Chair of the Arts Council said: “Tony Cronin was a rare example of the public intellectual in Irish life — committed, fearless, rigorous in his thought, and unashamedly forthright in his advocacy of what he thought right and good. Appalled by the penury faced by so many senior Irish artists in their later years, he persuaded then Taoiseach Charles Haughey, to whom he was cultural advisor, to establish Aosdána, an independent affiliation of artists which recognises significant achievement by artists in all disciplines. He served from its inception on the Toscaireacht, the steering committe, of the organisation. He was conferred with the high honour of Saoi by that body in 1993, joining among other luminaries Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Sean Ó Faoláín, Mary Lavin, Tony O’Malley and Brian Friel.
“Unfailingly courteous and generous in his dealings with others, and particularly kind to emerging younger writers, Cronin held himself to the highest standard in his literary production. The poems were ever and always at the heart of his work, being unashamedly modernist in their rigour, sometimes bleak, but always forgiving and always passionately humane.”
He believed in a Republic worthy of the Irish people, and was unstinting in his contributions to the public life of a country that often infuriated him but never lost either his love or his allegiance.
We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Anne , to his daughter Sarah; to them and to his colleagues and friends we pledge our enduring commitment to the humane cultural values his life and work so nobly embodied.
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