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Writer and 'rare public intellectual' Anthony Cronin has died

He was 88 years old and is survived by his wife and daughter.

Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland!

Updated 3.21pm

WRITER, CRITIC AND cultural activist Anthony Cronin has died at the age of 88.

The author of novels The Life of Riley and Identity Papers, the Wexford man has also been described today as a poet, memoirist, biographer and political advisor.

President Michael D Higgins led tributes this afternoon, noting the ‘immense contribution to Irish life and sensibility’ made by ‘the master of the long poem’.

“Committed to poetry, he introduced a new generation to iconic and often eclectic neglected works of immense beauty,” he wrote in a statement.

It was an immense privilege to have known him as a friend and to have friends we shared such as Peadar O’Donnell and so many others in different generations.

“Sabina and I offer our deepest sympathies to his wife Anne, to his many friends in the community of letters, and all those who will miss his generous wit, contestatory humour and capacity for life in all its contradictions.”

The Arts Council also expressed its deep regret at losing ”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”.

Chairperson Sheila Pratschke added: “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.”

As a cultural advisor to Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, Cronin lobbied for the establishment of Aosdána, an independent affiliation of artists which recognises significant achievements in a variety of disciplines.

“His commitment to the right of artists to simply survive in the most basic sense led to his role in the establishment of Aosdaná, of which he was made a Saoí in 1993,” President Higgins explained today.

Born in 1928, Cronin was a noted poet and critic while a student at UCD. He published 14 volumes of poetry and penned Flann O’Brien and Samuel Beckett’s biographies.

An activist against censorship in the 1950s, he was editor of The Bell magazine and was also literary editor of the London journal Time and Tide. From 1973 to 1980, he wrote a column for the Irish Times called Viewpoint. He continued to write for the newspaper until his death.

“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,” continued Pratschke in a statement this afternoon.

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.”

“His version of the Republic was as one of a republic of ideas, international, informed and not bound by a single language,” continued Higgins, on the same theme.

He is survived by his wife Anne and daughter Sarah.

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