— Simon Palmer (@SimonPRepublic) May 27, 2014
It’s a fupping family paper for fupp’s sake.
From the letters page in today’s Irish Times.
Previously: Lookin’ For Bubble
[John Waters (top and Patsy McGarry]
Further to Pantigate, etc., etc.
Seán O’Rourke played a (pre-recorded) interview with John Waters on RTE Radio One’s Today With Seán O’Rourke this morning.
Grab a tay.
Sean O’Rourke: “Now the past three months have been a time of upheaval in the life of journalist and author, John Waters. It began in January when he was described as a homophobe on RTÉ’s television’s Saturday Night Show. The station apologised and paid him €40,000 in defamation damages, unleashing a torrent of criticism of RTE, of John Waters himself, and of the Iona Institute, whose members were also compensated. More recently, John Waters resigned as a columnist with the Irish Times, saying that the highly toxic of illiberal antagonism towards particular viewpoints exists at the heart of the paper’s editorial operation. That’s what he wrote in a long article in the current issue of Village magazine. So when he came into studio, I first asked John Waters if he’d any regrets at all about threatening to sue RTE and then taking the money?”
John Waters: “No, I don’t because all I did was I sent, I got my solicitor to send a letter requesting an apology, a clarification for what had happened. And there was a lot of prevarication which followed on that. And, because of that, we lost the first opportunity for an apology which is the most critical moment, the week afterwards. So things escalated from then and this society offers as a means of recompensing somebody who’s being defamed, just two things. One of them is an apology done in the quickest possible time and the other is damages. And therefore the process which requires, which arose, occurred because of the prevarication of RTÉ. This could have been sorted out on day one with an apology and a minimal cost, a donation to charity, to St Vincent De Paul, that’s all that was asked for. So I’ve no regrets about that. And I never will have regrets about defending my reputation because it’s vitally important for a commentator, of any kind, to preserve the one thing they have, which is their reputation, their credibility in the public sphere.”
O’Rourke: “And you’re emphatic that if RTÉ had been prepared to include the following, which you quote in your, or which you reproduced in your article in Village magazine this month. There would have been no more about it. “We accept that it is an important part of democratic debate that people must be able to hold dissenting views on controversial issues, without characterisations of malice, hatred or bad faith”.”
Waters: “Absolutely right. I mean, it’s vitally important that it be seen that I’d intervene, my job was to intervene in public debate and have controversial views and have robust views and if you can be portrayed and presented as being motivated by malice or hatred in what you say, then you’re entirely disabled as a commentator. And, so for that reason, it’s vitally important that I preserve my, the sense that I have, that I actually contribute intellectually debates, on the basis of my understanding of the issues, not because I hate particular individuals or because I hate any particular kind of individual, that’s indispensable to my role as a public commentator.”
O’Rourke: “But, at the same time though, as I said earlier in the introduction, a torrent of criticism, of RTÉ in the first instance, for caving in to what was seen as pressure from yourself, and the Iona Institute and others, and not standing up for robust debate.”
Waters: “Well you see I think, this word debates keeps coming up. But there’s no right to defame as part of debate. I’ve been writing columns for the Irish Times for 24 years. If I defame somebody I’ll be sued. And if we lose a case, I’ll probably have got fired. But there’s no right, there’s no free speech right to defame someone, just steal somebody’s reputation because how can you answer this kind of charge?”
O’Rourke: “Well, right of reply the following week, you were offered that…”
Waters: “A right of reply can work, if there’s an allegation put forward of a factual nature which you can respond to ad seriatum. This was not that kind of allegation, it was simply part of a smear. It wasn’t, and interestingly it wasn’t the first time it happened. This arose a couple of years ago during the Presidential election campaign when, if you recall Seán, there was a controversy about [Senator and former Presidential candidate] David Norris and an interview he had given to Magill magazine. At the time, which, back in 2002, when I was the consultant editor, and I became embroiled in that, defending Helen Lucy Burke’s position because she was attacked that time. And I was called a homophobe on a programme on TV3. Now I raised this issue with the programme in question, I asked for an apology and the apology was given immediately, so there was no money changed hands, there was no question of money. I didn’t even ask for my lawyers fees. So the same could have happened this time if RTÉ had acted with alacrity and with a degree of gravity with regard to what had actually happened.”
O’Rourke: “You wrote as well that, in the aftermath of this, or at the height of it maybe, I don’t know, maybe it’s still going on, it became unsafe for you to walk down the street. Really?”
Waters: “Yes, I felt that, whether that was objectively true in the sense that, obviously a lot of this can occur in one’s mind but, at the same time, there were a number of incidents which were disquieting, you know people would come on..Mostly, I would have to say, they kind of, a dominant note of these was the cowardice of the individuals concerned because they almost invariably came up to me on bicycles and start roaring ‘homophobe’ at me, or ‘f-ing homophone’ or whatever and then scooting off. And this kind of thing happened several times so gradually it got to me, I didn’t really want to go into certain places. I didn’t want to go into Dublin, I don’t have a great time in Dublin anyway, to be honest but I did feel in myself that I was becoming changed and that worried me as well because the nature of my job is I have to be able to look people in the eye, to actually stand up and defend my positions and if I find myself under this kind of barrage of assault, then I have to consider my own position and my position as a public commentator.”
O’Rourke: “We’ll come back in a few minutes to what happened in the Irish Times itself but, apart from what went on there and the abuse that would have been hurled at you occasionally in the street, what else did you have to deal with? And you mentioned Twitter?”
Waters: “Well I outlined in the, I gave some flavour in the Village article about the kinds of emails I was getting and these were absolutely vile, you know, very short, always a certain pattern: short, very often in capitals, you know expletives, splenetic language, the word homophobe always there, terrible personal commentary about my family life perhaps, or about my appearance, all that kind of stuff. And there was like hundreds of these and I began to notice a pattern in this which was really astonishing. That, even though in the public domain in the Dáil, this came up in the Dáil and the Seanad, it came up in RTÉ, it came up in lots of places and it was being talked about for, particularly for about a week or two all the time and yet I noticed in that period, there was a certain pattern. That the one day – on a Wednesday, say – I would get 20 or 30 of these emails, and I would think, this would go on, then on Thursday, there would be none. And I’d think: it’s finished. But then Friday morning, I’d get another one and then on Friday, I’d get 20 or 30 more, so it seemed to me there was a certain orchestration about this whole thing that was actually, that there were people actually working hard to send these messages to me.”
O’Rourke: “Well you were criticised as well by the Minister for Communication, as well as his other responsibilities, Pat Rabbitte. Basically saying, look if you’re in the public square having a debate, you gotta be able to take it as well as give it.
Waters: “I’ve said it before, you know, Pat Rabbitte is entitled to express his opinion, just as anybody else is but I think Pat Rabbitte might be better off looking after his job as Minister for Communication. This was nothing to do with his job as Minister for Communications.”
O’Rourke: “Well, except for the national broadcaster, for which he has responsibility, shelled out over €85,000 in compensation.”
Waters: “That’s a legal matter and is entirely a matter for the people in charge of the national broadcaster and it’s contingent on the legal peculiarities. It is not a political question.”
O’Rourke: “Coming to the Irish Times, now you’ve identified, by my count, five people who were critical of you. Either openly, in print or tweeting openly, or using a nom de plume or maybe by what might be called a passing innuendo in various pieces they wrote. Now we don’t have time to go into every detail but you wrote a letter of resignation after a fellow columnist, Fintan O’Toole, had a go at you, which you say was utterly cowardly and disgraceful. Why would you use it, why would you speak in those terms? Why would it prompt you to resign?”
Waters: “Because it was part of a sustained campaign, it goes back actually to something that had happened earlier on. Because remembered the accusation was made that I was a homophobe, now on RTÉ, and it would say that I had been campaigning on the issue of gay marriage and that I had been more or less, it was insinuated that I’d been on TV and radio every day of the week. Now anybody in RTÉ can simply, by, within 30 seconds can ascertain how often I’ve been on radio and television, talking about gay marriage because the answer is I’ve never been on, I’ve never been on any programme. Many times I’ve turned down invitations to appear on Prime Time, the Frontline, all these programmes, who’ve asked me to go, because they assume they know my position on gay marriage and I can assure you, they don’t. But there was one time where I did outline my full position on gay marriage in an email to a colleague in the Irish Times, Una Mulally, who actually about five days before the Rory O’Neill interview on The Saturday Night Show, asked me, because she said she was writing a book, and I sat down and I wrote, even though this woman had attacked me numerous times, I sat down, I wrote her a 2,000-word email, outlining in full my position on gay marriage. In which I said, inter alia, that I actually don’t think I am against gay marriage per se. That I have a question because I have campaigned for many years on the question of the relationship between fathers and children and the rights and the lack of rights pertaining to those relationships and I’ve been asking why is this, this situation not being fixed when all these other issues are being dealt with and so I said my problems relate to this problem, this issue. I also said that I got no support from Catholic organisation, from Catholic bishops or priests or popes or anybody like that…” Continue reading
Jane McCormick writes:
I have been waiting for the right moment to send in this illustration and today might just be the day, having just read former Irish Times journalist Don Buckley’s excellent letter in response to the Irish Times/Martyn Turner cartoon debacle. I made this image in response to the involvement of Cardinal Seán Brady in the Fr Brendan Smyth child abuse cover-up in Cavan in the 1970s.
Previously: Cardinal Brady: Accused
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin voiced his grievances about a cartoon which appeared in the Irish Times on Wednesday, during a Holy Thursday Mass in the Dublin’s Pro Cathedral yesterday morning.
It appeared in the paper a day after retired parish priest Fr Gearoid O Donnchu told Chris O’Donoghue on Newstalk that he will not break the seal of confession under any circumstance.
The cartoon – a comment on the Children First Bill which provides for the mandatory reporting of child abuse and the Catholic Church’s seal of the confessional – no longer appears on the Irish Times website.
Previously: Too Toon?
Thanks Joan O’Connell
A judge describing Travellers as “Neanderthal men abiding by the laws of the jungle”; politicians suggesting Travellers could be sent to Spike Island to live in isolation, away from settled people; schools refusing enrolment; and racial profiling of infants – these are all examples of everyday racism. Travellers don’t have to be involved in feuding to be stopped, picked up or questioned by gardaí. Racism is seen as a valid way of the State controlling and punishing the collective by not implementing policies.
Suicide rates in the community are six times than the average for the settled community. And seven times higher for men. The unemployment rate among Travellers is 84 per cent. Endemic racism, poverty, isolation, alienation and lack of opportunity relate to a much larger picture of internalised oppression and systemic discrimination. The low expectations of Travellers as citizens – police do not always protect us – mark our community as beyond the protection of the State.
Pic: Kaite O’Reilly
“The ‘homophobe’ deluge might have been bearable if the Irish Times had behaved with a scintilla of integrity during it. Instead, it seemed to join gleefully in the witch-hunt, publishing a series of outrageously one- side articles directed at me or the Iona Institute, sometimes carrying splenetic or sarcastic asides in articles which had nothing to do with the controversy.
There were also frequent attacks on me by Irish Times ‘colleagues’ on Twitter, most notably the Consumer Affairs Editor Conor Pope, who had been tweeting in a derisive fashion about me, which I believe to be in direct contravention of the Irish Times social media policy. Following an intervention on my behalf, the Deputy Editor Denis Staunton instructed Pope to remove these tweets, which he did. On February 7th, a review of a movie by the paper’s film critic Donald Clarke included the following sentence: “Given recent, unhappy developments in domestic discourse, there could hardly be a better time for a film about a homophobic jerk – partly fictionalised and entirely dead, so he can’t sue”.
Nothing was done to discourage or inhibit the attacks. This was the newspaper for which I’d worked for 24 years. These people knew me and knew how far off the mark the depiction of me as a homophobe was. Everyone sat there enjoying the spectacle of me being savaged.
On February 4th, in the wake of Fintan O’Toole’s utterly cowardly and disgraceful attack, I resigned as a columnist with the Irish Times by sending an email to Denis Staunton at midnight. Staunton was my sole point-of-contact in the newspaper, the editor having all but ignored me since his appointment in 2011.
Following a discussion between Denis Staunton and Kevin Brophy, I agreed to put my resignation “on ice” and continue with a five-week leave period I’d negotiated to work on two books I was writing.
I believe I would have eventually withdrawn my resignation, as Denis Staunton indicated he wanted me to do, had it not been for what happened next.
Perhaps the most sinister development over the course of the entire saga was the unearthing of the phantom tweeter, Thomas59….
My internet sleuths followed Thomas59’s tweets back to the point when he initiated his Twitter account. There they found that, either carelessly or naively, he had given away his true identity in several ways, including by supplying his work email address for someone he was requesting to contact him. He had also neglected to disable the GPS facility on his mobile device, which meant that, every time he tweeted, he revealed his precise location – sometimes his flat in southside Dublin, sometimes his local public house, and some- times the offices of the Irish Times on Tara Street, Dublin. Thomas59 was revealed in all his glory as a longtime senior correspondent with the Irish Times [Irish Times Religious Affairs correspondent Patsy McGarry, whom the author had regarded as a friend]….
….It is clear to me that such attacks were provoked out of the deeply noxious atmosphere of antagonism which had been allowed to fester towards me for many years inside the Irish Times growing exponentially worse in the years since Kevin O’Sullivan became Editor.
His craven paralysis on this entire issue, and in particular his failure to enforce the company’s own alleged policies and social media guidelines, if only to protect the credibility of his newspaper, must call into question his stature and even his continuing tenure as Editor.”
An extract from an article by John Waters in Village magazine, out now.
Previously: I’m A Patsy
Phoenix says the phrase ‘corporate bullying’ has started appearing in correspondence between John Waters’ solicitor and the Irish Times.
— Oireachtas Retort (@Oireachtas_RX) April 11, 2014