O’Reilly pays tribute to ‘eternally curious’ journalist Ben Bradlee

Anthony O’Reilly invited Bradlee to join advisory board of INM in 1995 as its chairman

Sir Anthony O'Reilly has paid tribute to his friend Ben Bradlee the legendary executive editor of the Washington Post who famously steered its coverage of Watergate.

In a letter to The Irish Times from his home in Normandy Mr O'Reilly said Mr Bradlee, who died on Monday at the age of 93 from natural causes, was "eternally young and eternally curious."

"Ben . . . was chairman of the international advisory board of Independent News & Media [INM], and was in fact a one-man advisory committee!" Mr O'Reilly recalled.

Mr O'Reilly first became friends with Mr Bradlee when he was asked by Kay Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, to join the American newspaper's board. Mr O'Reilly then invited Mr Bradlee to join the advisory board of INM in 1995 as its chairman.


Advisory board

INM’s advisory board met twice a year in Mr O’Reilly’s home in Castlemartin in Co Kildare and in

South Africa

. It reviewed strategy of the then global media group which had substantial interests in


, South Africa,





New Zealand


Its membership included Baroness Margaret Jay, former British chancellor of the exchequer Ken Clarke and former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney. It also included Eric Molobi, a political prisoner on Robben Island who later became a successful South African businessman, and actor Sean Connery.

Ivan Fallon, a member of the advisory board and former chief executive of INM's UK division, recalled Mr Bradlee visited Ireland every year to attend board meetings.

“They were big affairs, usually coinciding with the Irish Derby (or one of the big race meetings at the Curragh) and O’Reilly usually gave an enormous party in a tent on the lawn,” he recalled.

“We also did some work! We would meet all day, initially in the great hall of Castlemartin, later in a barn which was converted into a conference room. Ben usually brought his wife Sally and son Quinn and sometimes they went on to Glandore, where Tony had a house.”

"One year we invited Gordon Brown – when he was chancellor – to talk to us and I brought him over from London on our plane," he recalled.

“Bertie [Ahern], at Tony’s request, laid on a police escort from the airport because the traffic was so bad. Ben chaired the meeting although Ken Clarke and Brian Mulroney did most of the talking.”

"I remember one day Tony asked him why the Washington Post had never mentioned Jack Kennedy's legendary 'screwing around' which he must have known about," Mr Fallon recalled.

“Everybody wanted to ask him that and nobody believed his answers.” Basically his attitude was: “It was accepted history now but it was not accepted history then.”

Mr Bradlee in his 1995 memoir A Good Life concludes the epic story of his career in journalism from the Pentagon Papers to Watergate by saying he was looking forward to the next phase of his career advising INM after "the charismatic Dr Anthony John Francis O'Reilly made me an offer I couldn't refuse."