former religious affairs correspondent of the Irish Independent, has
died in a Dublin hospital from complications following a liver
He had retired in 1998 after 42 years service with
the Independent News and Media group. Over those four decades Joe had
combined coverage of religion with political reportage from the
Government press gallery.
On his retirement, tributes were paid
by several prominent senators who described Joe as an “old-style
journalist – old style in the best sense of the word, in that he was
both accurate and fairâ€¦ and as exemplifying the best traditions of a
great profession” and of being “a very humane person for whom facts
As religious specialist with the Irish Independent
from the late 1960s, Joe is credited with having made a distinctive
contribution to Irish journalism.
Among his many exclusive stories, he broke the news of the intended visit to Ireland of Pope John Paul II in I979.
made regular visits to the Vatican during the papacies of Paul VI and
John Paul II. He covered the funeral of Paul VI in 1978 and the
election of two Popes, John Paul I and John Paul II. Joe also reported
on every international synod of bishops in Rome from I967. He also
attended World Council of Churches meetings in Geneva and was regarded
as making good contact with Protestant church leaders.
regarded as having belonged to a new generation of religion specialists
active during the often turbulent years after the second Vatican
The changed coverage saw the disappearance of the
exaggerated deference in the media to church dignitaries and the
traditional focus on ceremonial events. On occasions Joe was hard
pressed to conceal his frustration at the secretiveness of bishops and
their poor understanding of the media.
In recent times however,
he could be heard complaining privately and to colleagues that his
newspaper had become too inclined to sensationalise religion coverage
and to give undue emphasis, as did the Irish media in general, to
negative events surrounding the Catholic Church On retirement from the
Irish Independent, Joe continued to write for a number of weekly
Catholic newspapers as well as for Ireland on Sunday.
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, officiating at his
Requiem Mass, recalled the many occasions he had encountered Joe during
his many years in Rome as a Vatican diplomat. He paid tribute to him
for his unfailing courtesy as befitted a “gentleman journalist”.
Aged 72, Joe is survived by his wife Brigid, daughters Ann Marie, Marie- Therese, Justine, Caroline and son John.