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Born in County Kerry, Rae attended the DIT School of Journalism, qualified as a barrister-at-law at King's Inns, Dublin, has a qualification in Criminology from DIT, and received the Directors’ Programme Award in Business and Leadership from the Management School, Cranfield University, UK.
He was Young Journalist of the Year in 1985 and subsequently became a freelance journalist for a range of national newspapers. He spent a period as editor of the Garda Review (the monthly magazine of the national police force), before becoming crime correspondent for the "Evening Herald". Rae became acting editor of the Evening Herald in September 2005, before being appointed editor in May 2006.
In 2012, Rae was appointed the editor of the Irish Independent, Ireland’s largest selling national newspaper. He was later promoted to group editor-in-chief. While editor of the Irish Independent, Rae oversaw the ending of its publication as a broadsheet and the development of its online news site which recorded average audiences of 12,000,000 monthly users.
On 23 May 2018, it was announced that Rae would step down from his post at INM.
As editor-in-chief at INM, he reportedly fired journalist Gemma O'Doherty after she made an attempt to interview Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. at his home at 10pm, April 11, 2013. This was ignored by the mainstream media in Ireland, as noted by media in Great Britain. It was later claimed that Rae himself was among those to have had penalty points annulled. These claims were ignored by the Irish media and only reported either on social media or internationally.
On the evening of Saturday 19 July 2014, Rae, in his role as group editor of INM, reportedly ordered the presses to be stopped to amend a column written by Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris, which featured references to Denis O'Brien. He never ordered the presses stopped but did include clarified information in later editions. Copies of the original article did, however, appear, allowing comparisons between the two. Harris originally wrote: "Denis O'Brien is the major shareholder in INM. In theory, with 29% of the shares, he does not control it. In practice, he does." The last sentence was deleted and the wording of the next paragraph about O'Brien was also amended. Representatives of O'Brien later demanded a retraction and apology from Ms Harris. A prominent apology to O'Brien from Ms. Harris appeared in the Sunday Independent on August 3, 2014, . Harris left the newspaper in December 2014, with praise from her colleagues.
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