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Obituary of Colm Rapple, Irish financial journalist

Colm Rapple  -  © Private

2 February 2015

Martin Fitzpatrick

Colm Rapple, who became a business journalist in the late 1960s, left a very distinctive mark on his chosen field. He brought a social conscience to bear on a branch of journalism that had hitherto been the preserve of bankers, stockbrokers and the business elite.

For Colm, business was everyone’s concern. All citizens were stakeholders where public money was involved.  He wasn’t afraid to articulate that philosophy, even if it displeased his bosses, which it almost always did.

Repeatedly his bosses were chided by their compatriots about the inconsistency of employing what they regarded as an 'anti business' business editor.

But of course Colm wasn’t 'anti-business’. He simply believed that when fairness and equity was being dished out, the workers, who were part of that contract, were not getting their fair share and if no one else was going to report this, he would.

Colm Rapple was studying at University College Dublin (UCD)  when he went to work in the Irish Press in the 1960s, transferring in the early ‘70s to the Irish Independent, then edited by Aidan Pender and his assistant Vinny Doyle.

Shortly after the Tony O’Reilly takeover of the Indo in 1973, Colm was appointed business editor, a position he would hold well into the 1980s. While there, he graduated with an MBA from UCD, amply reinforcing whatever credentials he might need as a critic of the business classes.

The relationship between Colm and O’Reilly was uneven, but Colm had a strong supporter in Vinny Doyle, who had moved into the editor’s chair. His crusading approach to business journalism and his enthusiasm to offer the ‘other’ view, was ‘meat and drink’ to Doyle.

Doyle also had an enthusiastic backing for the development, indeed the pioneering development, by Colm of his personal finance columns which was another way of bringing business coverage to the people.

During that time, Colm had numerous spats with the Indo management as Father of the branch of the NUJ, including some serious disputes about the treatment of the competing business interests of Tony O’Reilly.

Eventually, he and the Indo parted company. He returned to the Irish Press which was then riven by disputes between the workers and management over the future of the business.  He resumed his trade union role in the Irish Press and played a key part in the final fate of the company in 1995.

A column written by Colm Rapple for The Irish Times on the parlous state of the sector was used as a pretext by Irish Press management to shut down operation and, alas, the paper was lost forever.

After the loss of the Irish Press, Colm was a regular contributor on his specialist subject of personal finance on radio, television and latterly in a column in the Irish Mail on Sunday. He could always be relied upon to take the uncomfortable, contrarian view of the economy and of business behaviour. The spirit never faltered.

Tags: , colm rapple, michael d. higgins, irish press, irish times, irish mail on sunday, independent newspapers (ireland), newspapers, financial journalism