Des Fisher’s ‘incisive’ work gave Irish Catholics an insight into the momentous event that was Vatican II, writes Michael Kelly
The death of journalist Desmond Fisher on December 30 at the age of 94 can truly be described as the end of an era.
For decades, Mr Fisher was a prominent journalist who travelled extensively. He made a remarkable contribution to religious affairs, particularly during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) where he reported from Rome for a time. In retirement, he was an occasional contributor to The Irish Catholic.
His reporting was acknowledged as incisive, with Vienna’s Cardinal Franz König reportedly saying that he learned “more of what is going on at the council from your superb reports” than he heard “while on the spot”.
Mr Fisher, as editor of The Catholic Herald, was in Rome in 1962 before the council opened. He also wrote for the Irish Press, giving Irish Catholics an insight into the momentous event that was Vatican II.
According to Arthur Jones, who worked closely with Mr Fisher, when the latter resigned in 1966, an anonymous article in Herder Correspondence described the backdrop.
“Many bishops in England and Scotland, plus Dublin’s overbearing Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, had strongly opposed Fisher’s interpretation of council events – McQuaid called it ‘very objectionable.’
“When Fisher resigned, dozens of other bishop-attendees wrote to say quite the opposite,” according to Mr Jones.
He was born in Derry in 1920 and his first foray in to journalism was at the age of 25.
Mr Fisher and his wife, Margaret (Peggy), wed in 1948 and marked their 65th wedding anniversary in 2013.
For four years, Mr Fisher was with the Irish Press, and in 1952 became its London editor and daily columnist. He became the Press political correspondent and travelled widely in the early 1960s.
In 1962, he wrote in The Catholic Herald that a lay-owned and independent Catholic paper had “a freedom that is journalistically necessary if it is to carry out what it conceives to be its function and which relieves the hierarchy and the clergy generally of any responsibility for opinions expressed in its columns”.
It is a sentiment very close to the heart of The Irish Catholic.
He began working for RTÉ in 1973 and was, for 14 years, Ireland correspondent for The Economist.
Desmond Fisher died peacefully in Blackrock Hospice after a short illness. He is survived by his wife Peggy, daughter Carolyn, sons Michael, Hugh and John, daughters-in-law Evelyn, Ruth and Carmel, grandchildren Sarah, Clare, Sam and Lucy, sister Deirdre, sisters-in-law Nuala Fisher and Sr Nora Smyth, nephews, nieces and a wide circle of friends.
Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace.