Our ‘Splendid Torch’: UL Journalism’s Dr Kathryn Hayes pays tribute to Joe Drennan

Tribute to Joe Drennan on behalf of the journalism department in the University of Limerick.

Our job as journalism lecturers is to provide students with the skills to tell stories, to ask hard questions, and to shine a light in dark parts; very often in search of difficult truths. Working as a journalist is an enormous responsibility but also a great privilege, particularly when it allows you to speak for people whose voices often go unheard.

Despite only turning 21 a fortnight ago, Joe Drennan was a critical thinker and deeply committed to the principles that underpin best journalistic practice.. He wanted to change the world. His desire for change can be seen in the work he was doing as a journalist with Gay Community News and the plans he had for his role as Editor in Chief of Limerick Voice digital news project in the University of Limerick. Joe’s pitch for the job as editor, just a few short weeks ago, epitomised his wider vision to effect change through his journalism work. 

He spoke about bridging divides and fostering a deeper understanding of marginalised communities, through dynamic story telling techniques.  He wanted to give a voice to members of the Latin American, Ukrainian, LGBTQ+, and homeless communities, whom he believed were often misrepresented in Irish media. He was determined that Limerick Voice would aim to counteract these narratives and he urged reporters to “find a voice that they themselves had not heard before”. Joe also had plans to collaborate with The National Council for the Blind to find innovative ways to improve accessibility features of Limerick Voice. He encouraged reporters to record their voices reading their own work, to ensure a more inclusive audience experience. 

Joe’s incredible work ethic, was undoubtedly influenced by his upbringing and his parents Marguerite and Tim. His ability to connect with people from all walks of life was no doubt also helped by his infectious smile and stylish presence. This remarkable ability to connect can also be seen in the many friends he had from growing up in Co Laois, to studying and working in Limerick, Dublin and Berlin. His passion to pursue a journalism career that was dedicated to inclusivity is reflected in the stories he had published and those he was yetto write. 

Joe Drennan’s life has been cruelly cut short, but the indelible print and legacy he has left, will remain in the hearts of all those he inspired.  We know his story is one that will never be forgotten.   

I’d like to finish with some words taken from George Bernard Shaw that I feel, speak directly to Joe’s passion and selflessness, and his determination to make the world a better place. 

“This is the true joy of life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can…. The harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible….”

Joe Drennan leaves an indelible mark on all of us who knew him. The ‘splendid torch’ of the life he lived so well will never be extinguished. 

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