'Irish Times' literary editor dies

Thu, Dec 22, 2011, 00:00

Caroline Walsh, the literary editor of The Irish Times, has died unexpectedly. She was 59.

She joined The Irish Times as a journalist in 1975 and remained with the newspaper for her entire career, holding a number of senior editorial posts.

She had been literary editor since 1999.

She was married to the teacher and novelist James Ryan. They have two grown-up children, a son and a daughter.

Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan paid tribute to her today, describing her as a pioneering journalist who had played a central role in the development of the newspaper for more than 35 years.

“Caroline’s work, whether as a writer on women’s issues in the early 1980s, as features editor or as literary editor, was notable for its intelligence, its vigour and above all, its sense of purpose,” he said.

“She had a passionate commitment to outstanding journalism and good writing. She ensured The Irish Times celebrated new literary talent and introduced readers to important voices from outside the English-speaking world.”

He added: “Unfailingly generous to colleagues and especially supportive of younger journalists, Caroline will be missed most terribly by everyone at The Irish Times. Our thoughts and our deepest sympathy are with her husband James Ryan and their two children.” 

Paul Cullen, father of the National Union of Journalists chapel at The Irish Times, said she will be greatly missed by her friends and colleagues.

“Caroline was always generous, considerate, thoughtful and attentive to the needs of other colleagues. She embodied the best of The Irish Times, and not just because she was on the staff for more than 35 years. Our thoughts go out to James and the rest of her family.” 

Born in 1952, she was the daughter of the noted short story writer Mary Lavin. She graduated from University College Dublin with a Master's degree in Modern English and American literature, and joined The Irish Times shortly afterwards as a news reporter.

In 1983, she became editor of the Our Times page which investigated issues affecting women’s rights and place in society.

From the late 1980s until the early 1990s, she was features editor and had responsibility for the daily features pages, as well as the Weekend Review supplement published on Saturdays.

She returned on secondment to the newsroom for a period in the late 1990s to reshape the newspaper’s news coverage outside Dublin as Regional News Editor.

She became literary editor in 1999, enhancing the newspaper’s reputation for literary criticism by increasing the number of pages devoted to books, championing emerging Irish writers and ensuring attention was paid to foreign writers translated into English.

Her book The Homes of Irish Writers was published by Anvil Press in 1980. She later edited three collections of Irish short stories: Modern Irish Stories from The Irish Times (published by Irish Times Publications, 1985 ); Virgins and Hyacinths (Attic Press, 1993), and Arrows in Flight : Stories from a New Ireland Scribner/TownHouse, 2002).