From top: The Stand with Eamon Dunphy podcast; Kevin Myers
Three weeks ago, Eamon Dunphy posted an interview he carried out with Kevin Myers for his podcast The Stand.
This was prior to the fallout of Mr Myers’ column in The Sunday Times on July 30 and his subsequent sacking for the same.
During the 71-minute interview they discussed The Irish Times and Mr Myers’s time in Northern Ireland, Beirut and Sarajevo.
He told how he wasn’t invited to Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the war memorial in memory of the Irish soldiers killed in World War I, in Islandbridge, Dublin; and how a journalism student told him he was warned not to mention Kevin Myers’ name if he wanted to proceed on his course; and how media/journalism courses in Ireland teach conformity.
He also lamented the lack of “good columnists” in Ireland under the age of 40, or even 50.
From the interview…
Eamon Dunphy: “Now you got the job of writing the Irishman’s Diary in The Irish Times which was very prestigious. You had some very amazing predecessors in that slot, you might tell us about. But it’s quite onerous because I think it’s three or four times a week?
Kevin Myers: “It was five times a week when I started.”
Dunphy: “Tell me who’d done it before.”
Myers: “Well, Patrick Campbell famously.”
Myers: “Not famous anymore. He was a very, very celebrated man in the BBC and a very funny man and, before that, or well, after him, there was Seamus Kelly whom I never knew. He had a reputation for being very irascible but perhaps that was because he was drunk every morning by 11am and he had terminal cancer for a long time, so that would make you irascible.”
“But, it was, I didn’t want to be a diarist, I didn’t want to be a columnist. It seemed to me to be onerous, too onerous. But it was something that was a marking in the absence of anyone else, somebody else, a journalist in the newsroom pool, would be given the diary to write. So I was doing, they were going down well. Douglas…”
Dunphy: “In journalistic parlance, just to make it clear, a marking is a gig.”
Myers: “Yeah. And, I…Douglas Gageby that then edited The Irish Times didn’t like me at all. And made it very evident that he didn’t like me. He didn’t want me to be employed by The Irish Times but the overwhelming impression, decision amongst his, opinion amongst his senior editors around him, I should be employed, he was emphatically against me being employed as a columnist but, again, there was no one else to do the job.”
Dunphy: “Have you any idea why?”
Myers: “No. He’s gone so we can’t ask him.”
Dunphy: “He is said to have transformed the paper?”
Myers: “Enriched himself a great deal aswell, as the small cabal did. Major McDowell did. They transformed their own personal wealth staggeringly. They sold their own shares to the trust that they themselves owned.”
Dunphy: “Yes, I know.”
Myers: “Douglas Gageby, in 197-, this is long before I joined The Irish Times. Douglas Gageby, in 1974/1975 received a gift, tax-free, of 350,000 pounds.”
Dunphy: “My god. That was a lot of, that’s worth about €3million?”
Myers: “No, no, no, it’s worth much more than that. It’s… I did the multiplier at the time of the Celtic Tiger, 2008, it’s the equivalent of, in 2008 terms, about the equivalent of 30million.”
Myers: “Euros. Tax free.”
Dunphy: “You didn’t write about that?”
Myers: “No, no but he did in The Irish Times and when Gageby… I’ve gone through the records…”
Dunphy: “I think Phoenix wrote about it?”
Myers: “Phoenix hardly touched it. Phoenix, if it’s a really serious issue, Phoenix doesn’t touch it.”
Dunphy: “Yeah, yeah.”
Myers: “You know that?”
Dunphy: “I do of course, yeah.”
Myers: “It’s a trivial… It’s 14-year-olds edification from Phoenix.”
Myers: “So that story was never revealed in The Irish Times. And the editorial for The Irish Times, written by Gageby, was ‘if you want to know the truth, you’ll always find it in The Irish Times’. No. That’s not true. That’s not true, not about the trust. But the trust wasn’t the reason why Gageby didn’t like me. He just didn’t like me as a person, that’s it.”
Myers: “What I didn’t write was what Gageby wanted me to write which was names. ‘Names, I want names, big names.’ He’d come up to me, occasionally when he spoke to me, oh he really did dislike me, he would come up and say: ‘I am the editor of this newspaper, I am asking you to write a column with names in, there isn’t a single name in this column, apart from yours at the very bottom. Will you just do that for me?’. And I’d say ‘yes, Douglas’, and then didn’t..”
Dunphy: “Right and I can’t believe it lasted that long [25 years]. But also, at that time, if you like, the ethos of The Irish Times was left, liberal-leaning, people like Nell McCafferty…”
Myers: “She was before me, she’d left The Irish Times, by the time I had…”
Dunphy: “Had she really?”
Dunphy: “Well there were many others.”
Myers: “Yes there were.”
Dunphy: “Fintan O’Toole, notably, and many others who were, shall we say, leaning towards what’s called, quote unquote, progressive politics.”
Myers: “Well I would have started off from there.”
Dunphy: “And tell us about that sort of curve of change in you? Cause it’s really what marks your work over the last several years is a very striking individualism but also a very keen understanding of the liberal tyranny and of the…”
Myers: “It has become a tyranny. I remember somebody saying to me about a column I’d written, this could be offensive to women. Now I was unaware of the concept of being offensive to men. So when did women become so vulnerable, during the course of feminism, that they had to be specially regarded? Why should special language be used about women if no language, no such language is being used about men? And I had a column…”
Dunphy: “I could answer that question actually, I could answer that question…”
Myers: “Well that’s…”
Dunphy: “Just, I’ll try it, the reason I think a particular fairness should be bestowed on women and a sense of justice and respect would be because of the casual you know insults to women, the objectification of women in so many ways that we didn’t even really understand ourselves, that would be my…”
Myers: “Well whatever you call that, it’s not equality. You can’t use equality adjustment, political adjustment in the same sentence. It’s not equality. What you’re saying is you’re using language to achieve certain political objectives. I’m sorry, you can do that but I’m not going to. All right?”
Myers: “So you and I will part company here. But I remember I was visiting a friend of mine called Cally Berry, who’s a vet, a woman vet in Northern Ireland. And it was one of those columns, a filler column, and she was giving, she was involved in utero fertilisation of a cow and I discussed how she put the arm up the cow’s rectum to in fertilise, that’s what happens.”
“And a woman deputy editor came out and said ‘this is offensive to women’ and I said ‘you can’t be serious’ and she said ‘it is’. You’re not to refer to the female anatomy in any sense. I said ‘I can understand cattle being offended but not a human being’ and she said ‘well, no, this is not going to be discussed, this line is going’. So I realised then that we were embarked on a trajectory which has continued ever since.”
Dunphy: “Yes. You were swimming against that particular tide.”
Myers: “Well, I don’t know whether I’m swimming. I think the tide doesn’t notice me so therefore it’s…”
Dunphy: “Well the readers might notice your absence?”
Myers: “Maybe. I don’t know. But it has become a convention that somehow or other language is used differently about women then it is about men and that’s wrong. It’s not equality. Whatever it is, it’s not equality. Now I don’t even know what the term equality means. I’m not an egalitarian. But when people use the term equality and justice in the same sentence…”
Dunphy: “I suppose it’s positive discrimination is the phrase they use.”
Myers: “Then it’s not equality. The outcome…”
Dunphy: “In order to adjust for things…”
Myers: “That doesn’t mean anything. There’s never been an equality, equal society. My mother was not equal to her children. She wasn’t equal to her husband and her husband is not equal to her. There isn’t any. This is not an equal relationship, you’re asking me questions, I’m not asking you questions. There is no such thing as equality in any society anywhere.”
Dunphy: “At what stage did [working for Irish Times] did it become tiresome for you?”
Myers: “It wasn’t tiresome, it was the unmitigated hostility of the letters pages. That you can only be abused so often by the newspaper for which you work. People would contact me and say, ‘look, terrible letters have appeared about you but letters that I have written in support’, the reader, are not being published. I referred this to the editor and nothing seemed to be done.”
Myers: “I met some ex-servicemen in Belfast who talked about how the nationalists from the South were just as brave as the unionists in the North. So, then I started interviewing veterans as I could do in those days in the very late 1970s and when I started writing An Irishman’s Diary, I started writing about this [World War One]. And Douglas Gageby was not at all pleased.
“He allowed me to do it, he never spiked a single column but he did ask his deputy Ken Gray to come out and ask me to stop writing this. And I said ‘Ken, I absolutely will when this State acknowledges the Irish dead of the Great War’. And he said, ‘that’ll never happen, Kevin’.”
Myers: “Well, he was wrong.”
More to follow.
Previously: ‘I’m Sorry This Has Happened’