Radio presenter Tony Fenton dies, aged 53

Tributes paid to Today FM broadcaster who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010

Tony Fenton 1961 - 2015

Tributes have been paid to Tony Fenton, the Today FM broadcaster who died today after a long illness, aged 53.

Fenton, who worked for Today FM for the past 11 years, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010.

In a career spanning 35 years, Fenton became one the country’s most successful DJs, with a distinctive presenting style that proved enduringly popular even as the Irish radio landscape underwent huge changes.

A statement from Today FM said: “The world of radio and entertainment has lost one of its brightest lights, Tony Fenton. For over 30 years Tony lit up the airwaves and was one of Ireland’s most admired and respected radio hosts, unmatched in his knowledge of and passion for music.”

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Born Anthony Fagan in Dublin in 1961, Fenton was 17 years old when he started broadcasting with pirate station Alternative Radio Dublin, later moving to Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova. In 1985, his smooth delivery and easy patter led him to RTE Radio 2 - now 2fm - where he spent the next 18 years presenting shows such as the Hotline.

“It’s a cliché, but he was a small guy who was larger than life,” said his 2fm colleague Dave Fanning. “He was old school, in the best sense of the term. He was one of the DJs whose personalities came through on air - he was full on. He always had a cool car and the latest gadget. But he was also interested in music. He liked the whole idea of what music can do, and loved being on the radio.”

Having left 2fm in 2003, Fenton returned to radio the following year when he joined Today FM, presenting a number of afternoon music shows over the next decade. His on-air enthusiasm and professionalism won a number of awards, including his induction into the Phonographic Performance Ireland (PPI) Hall of Fame last year.

Fenton, who was unmarried, had a number of setbacks in recent years. In 2011, he was declared bankrupt, and had been diagnosed with prostate cancer the previous year. But made little on-air reference to his financial woes and continued to broadcast for much of his illness, saying it took his mind off it.

For the past year Fenton had been absent from his afternoon show as he underwent treatment. He died in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

Many colleagues and industry figures have paid tribute to his memory. Ray D’Arcy, who worked with Fenton on both 2fm and Today FM described him as “the real deal” on his RTE Radio 1 Show.

John Purcell, chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland, said: “Tony Fenton has been a consistent voice on Irish radio since he first graced the airwaves in 1979. His was a voice that many of us grew up listening to.

“A great voice has been lost to Irish radio and the entire industry is deeply saddened to lose one of Ireland’s most popular and well known broadcasters, most entertaining gentlemen and most loyal friend.”

Jim Jennings, managing director of 2fm, described Fenton as “one of the great 2fm DJs”.

“Tony was always larger than life and the ultimate showman,” he said. “He was at his happiest when he was in studio when that red light went on.”

Mick Heaney

Mick Heaney

Mick Heaney is a radio columnist for The Irish Times and a regular contributor of Culture articles