Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fintan O'Toole and the Two Archbishops

Fintan O'Toole
Archbishop Eamon Martin (Catholic) and Richard Clarke (Anglican)

Fintan O'Toole "columnist, literary editor and drama critic for the Irish Times" is described by Wikipedia as having "generally left-wing views" which is a curious way of putting it and might suggest that he occasionally expresses viewpoints that stray from the strictly orthodox. This is not correct!

The following is from a discussion on the website regarding George Hook Note that the two Archbishops I refer to in the title, are John Charles McQuaid who died in 1973 and the current Church of Ireland Primate Richard Clarke. (For obvious reasons, there is no photo of those two  standing side by side but I'm sure that, given the opportunity, Fintan O'Toole would write a kindly review of a book that slandered Archbishop Eamon Martin!)

In his article of 12 September entitled "Why I will Not Appear on Newstalk Again" (subtitle "George Hook’s Rape Comments are the Result of the Station’s Flagrantly Sexist Strategy")
Fintan O'Toole begins as follows:
What I have to say is of no consequence. The organisation against which it is aimed will be no more conscious of it than a speeding car is of a fly mashed into the corner of its windscreen. But here it is anyway: from now on I won’t be appearing on any Newstalk programmes

O'Toole presents himself as a lone individual who is "speaking truth to power" and bravely taking a stance against "the powers that be". The opposite would be closer to the truth!

Fintan O'Toole and Believing Lies

Original Post by Surkov
There is a piece on this by Fintan O'Toole in the Irish Times where he lambasts Newstalk. In his mind, he seems to imagine that the entire organisation is corrupt, hateful, etc. As though some cancer of hate had metasticised to an horrific extent.

Admittedly I don't listen to it all that much, but Newstalk seems pretty standard fare to me. Why does FOT hate it so much? Did they do something to him in the past that made it personal for him

Reply by Kilbarry1

I don't know the specifics of why Fintan O'Toole hates Newstalk. I have his article in front of me now and it is indeed grossly over the top.  One clue as to his attitude. In 1999 John Cooney former Religious Affairs correspondent for the IT (and future one for the Indo) published a biography of John Charles McQuaid that depicted him as a homosexual paedophile. The allegations were panned by every historian who reviewed the book and by ALMOST every journalist. (Guess who was the exception.) Reviewers who praised the remainder of the book said that Cooney should have omitted the Paedo claims. Most anti-clerics were annoyed and embarrassed; I recall one guy who REGRETTED that the accusation might create sympathy for the late Archbishop!

The exception was of course Fintan O'Toole. Not that he exactly believed the claims but he WANTED to believe them. The article entitled "Cooney Has At Least Posed Right Question" was published in the Irish Times on 26 November 1999.
"...   In the midst of the recent controversy over the allegations in John Cooney's new book that John Charles McQuaid had an unhealthy sexual interest in young boys, I began to interrogate that old memory. Was it just an innocent encounter with a nice old man who was privately more at ease with children than his stern public demeanour would suggest? Or must all such memories now be lit with the sinister glow of corruption?

The answer, tentative and paradoxical though it must be, is probably "yes" in both cases. Certainly, John Cooney's suggestions are not backed by anything approaching an acceptable level of historical evidence. But at the same time anyone reading another book published this week has to acknowledge that everything we know about the history of the State has to be re-examined from the bleak perspective of its most vulnerable children." [The book was "Suffer the Little Children" by Mary Raftery]   .........

"Speculating about the nature of John Charles McQuaid's sexuality, as John Cooney does, may not be the right answer. But John Cooney at least managed, as no historian has done, to pose the right question. ....."

O'Toole's thuggish desire to believe lies because those lies would depict his enemies in a bad light, may throw some light on his  rant in today's IT!

Interesting Article by Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke

Interesting Article by Church of Ireland Archbishop (and Primate) Richard Clarke in Irish Times on 12 September. In the PRINT version it is headed "Defensive Rage of Social Media is Horrifying" with sub-heading "Reasoned persuasion has been replaced by the hasty production of battle-lines"

It is a truism that we are living in a culture of adversarial anger. We most readily discover our identity not by establishing what we are, but in finding and vilifying those who are against us. A cursory engagement with social media will horrify most of us. It reveals a pervasive if anonymised defensive rage. It is an inchoate anger that can also present itself – even more dangerously – in the casual savage violence visible throughout our island.

In an apparent corollary, civic discourse (and not merely within political life) is likewise being steadily degraded as a stark binary pose on all issues becomes the predominant public mindset – no reasoned discussion, simply some new scheme presented with a minimum of nuance and a surfeit of self-righteous assertiveness.

The routes of reasoned persuasion have been replaced by the hasty production of battle-lines. In the midst of this is it not sensible to suggest that more wholesome conversations are needed in our public discourse? In particular, we surely need to consider together not simply the latest momentary squabble but far deeper matters. ......

It seems to me that the remainder of the article is a bit disconnected from this beginning. Did the Archbishop do a last minute revision in order to take on board the hysteria surrounding George Hook??

Also his article is on the same page as Fintan O'Toole's preposterous one "Why I Won't be Appearing on Newstalk any more." It functions as a kind of response to O'Toole's rant!
NOTE: See Post #1835 concerning Fintan O'Toole vs a different Archbishop!

Newstalk Managing Editor Patricia Monahan Replies to Fintan O’Toole

However I see that Newstalk managing editor Patricia Monahan replied to Fintan O’Toole on 16 September in an article entitled All who work in Newstalk subject of outrageously unfair attack

Among the points she makes are:

....... O’Toole chose to ignore several salient facts, most importantly the number of women employed by the station and their impact on the daily output. Would it not have been worth mentioning that I as a woman, am Newstalk’s managing editor, that the chairperson of our group is a woman, or that our head of news is a woman? At Newstalk, the majority of our production staff are women. As editor, I am the final decision-maker on all editorial matters and have responsibility for content produced by the station across all platforms. But my work apparently deserves no recognition because I am not a presenter. Do I not qualify as female representation because my voice is not heard on-air? ....

Does [Fintan O'Toole] conclude that we are all party to a concerted effort by the station to “keep women presenters off the airwaves” and that I as the principal editorial decision-maker proactively restructured the schedule to do just that in a “highly conscious” manner? .....

As a commercial station in Newstalk we fight for audience share in every quarter hour of every day, as if our lives depend on it. And the truth is, our livelihoods do. That is the commercial reality of our business. Almost €40 million has been invested in Newstalk in a media landscape where the State-owned broadcaster is given the lion’s share of the €330 million collected in television licence fees. We don’t have the luxury of hiring men or women because it is the politically correct thing to do. We make decisions that make sense for the business....

And Finally:
One is only left to wonder why he never bothered to tell anyone at Newstalk how “flagrantly . . . and systematically sexist” the station was on any of his visits to our studios. [My emphasis]

The last point is the key one. Fintan O'Toole joined a lynch mob BECAUSE it was a lynch mob.


  1. Has any Catholic Bishop said anything as powerful as the sentiments expressed by Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke? I do understand that Catholic clergy feel they cannot speak out on this sort of issue without exposing themselves to the same torrent of rage that was directed at George Hook. BUT there is one exception - our own beloved Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin (please do not confuse with Eamon Martin above). Archbishop Diarmuid is a hero to secular liberals like Fintan O'Toole. It would be safe for him to speak out and condemn the hate-filled ranting. So why doesn't he do so? Maybe it's BECAUSE he is a hero to secular liberals (like Fintan O'Toole) - and wants to ensure that things stay that way?

    1. Rory, while I haven't read all of your articles on your main website I have read most, and some of them more than once as I try to get a clearer idea of the extraordinary story you have discovered and explored. I also get the impression that Archbishop Martin is a media darling. As you say, if he did speak out they would turn on him. I suppose there is a parallel with Nora Wall's order who were quick to condemn her.

      One of the books I have looked at in some detail is John Cornwell's Breaking Faith, who also wrote about 'Hitler's Pope' (as you already know of course). This seems to me to sum up well the views of the new liberal church.

      Archbishop Clarke is right but his article isn't particularly good. I don't see it as a situation characterized by 'battle-lines' so much as dissidents hiding in trenches to avoid get shot. Certainly there are no battle-lines in the main media (whatever goes on in the social media) as with the departure of Waters, Myers and now Hook there is little resistance left. I wonder what Archbishop Clarke means by a world spinning out of control? I agree that it is but I'd be interested in knowing his own reasons for saying this. He calls for serious dialogue between religious and humanists but the problem is the latter's intolerance. I am not too impressed by the rest of his article either. His worries about environmental disaster, for example, appear to be exaggerated and are one of the articles of faith of political correctness.

      I came to Ireland from London in 1987, my mother and father having left Ireland in the 50s. In the early years I read a lot by Desmond Fennell and, after him, by John Waters. (My father had worked with Waters's father in the post office in Castlerea.) Compared to what I had come across in England, and with the rest of the Irish media of course, they were original and intelligent.

    2. Talking of Hitler and descriptions of him as a Catholic here is an good article from Peter Hitchens:

    3. Sean. Regarding Archbishop Clarke I agree that his article could be bettered but at least a senior Christian cleric is tacking the subject of our rabid hate-filled public discourse. I suspect that he may have altered his original article at a late stage to take the controversy regarding George Hook on board. (I see that the online title of his article is "Stewardship of Planet Must Begin With Better Conversations" which is different from the print version). And yes there are few "Battle Lines" - it's mainly a question of "liberal" and left-wing journalists hurling abuse at those with different opinions and trying to get them fired from their jobs. However at least Archbishop Clarke - unlike our own beloved Diarmuid Martin - makes an effort to deal with this issue!

    4. Sean. Regarding the description of Hitler as a Catholic, I note the following by Peter Hitchens in the article you link to:

      I suggested that Hitler's keenness for compulsory sterilization, then his programme of 'euthanasia' (aka murder) for the mentally handicapped and finally his racial mass murder were at least partly the result of ideas founded on Charles Darwin's proposition. I might point out here that my idea is not original or rare. In Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler, Professor Kershaw (who has no axe to grind on this topic, so far as I know) repeatedly attributes a belief or world view which he terms 'Social Darwinism' to the National Socialist leader.