Poet and novelist Anthony Cronin dies aged 88

Anthony Cronin was praised by President Michael D Higgins, top right, as having introduced a new generation to “iconic and often eclectic neglected works of immense beauty”. He had previously been an arts adviser to former taoiseach Charles Haughey. Picture by RTÉ 
Ed Carty, Press Association

THE writer, critic and poet Anthony Cronin has died.

The Arts Council paid tribute to the influential cultural commentator and arts adviser to former taoiseach Charles Haughey, who died aged 88.

Cronin was a noted poet and critic while still a student in University College Dublin.

He went on to publish 14 volumes of poetry, the classic memoir of literary Dublin in the mid-20th century, Dead As Doornails, acclaimed biographies of Flann O'Brien and Samuel Beckett, the novels The Life of Riley and Identity Papers and books of essays.

He was described by the Arts Council as an iconic figure in Irish letters, an impassioned and incisive commentator on politics and culture and one of the most influential of Irish writers during a long and varied life.

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."

Cronin was central to the establishment of Aosdána by Haughey, the affiliation which recognises achievement by artists in all disciplines.

He was conferred with the high honour of Saoi by the organisation in 1993, joining the likes of Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Seán Ó Faoláin, Mary Lavin, Tony O'Malley and Brian Friel.

Ms Pratschke said: "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."

Cronin was born in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford in 1928.

He was editor of The Bell magazine and also literary editor of the London journal, Time and Tide.

He wrote an Irish Times column Viewpoint from 1973 to 1980, which dealt with political, literary and social topics and has since been regarded as often prophetic.

The Arts Council said: "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."

Cronin is survived by his wife Anne and daughter Sarah.

Heather Humphreys, minister for arts, heritage, regional, rural and gaeltacht affairs, paid tribute to his writing and journalism and his work on fellow artists' welfare.

"Anthony loomed large in Ireland's cultural life, both as a prolific poet and an acclaimed author," she said.

"However, it is perhaps for his cultural activism and his work as an advocate for the artists of Ireland that he will be best remembered."

Ms Humphreys said the creation of Aosdána was a concern "typical of a man who continued to make a significant contribution to the public life of this country throughout his life".

Publisher New Island Books said: "The passing of Anthony Cronin is a great loss. We're proud to have worked with him for many years. RIP."

President Michael D Higgins said Cronin made an immense contribution to Irish life and sensibility.

"His version of the Republic was as one of a republic of ideas, international, informed and not bound by a single language," he said.

Mr Higgins praised his work as a critic and poet, introducing a new generation to "iconic and often eclectic neglected works of immense beauty."

"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," he said.

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