[Rosaleen McDonagh, a Traveller and playwright from Sligo]
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.
[Irish Times office (top) and Village magazine cover and (below] tweets from ‘Thomas59′]
“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.
I was just reading the usual gushing ‘cut and paste’ from the estate agents brochure in the Irish Times about a multi million euro house in Blackrock [Co Dublin].
They failed to mention that what they describe the house as ‘not overlooked; in front is the pitch and putt grounds of the St John of God’s Hospital’. This area is ear marked for a future Halting Site for Traveller Accomodation. Surely instead of stoking another bubble they could have taken a quick look at the council development plan to show what your millions will actually buy…
In August 2012, the UCD newspaper College Tribune interviewed John Waters for an article on gay marriage. The interview was conducted by the paper’s then editor James Grannell.
“Quotes from this interview have been widely circulated on social media in the last week, by Paul Murphy MEP in the European Parliament and by Senator David Norris on Friday’s Late Late Show. I am sending this because the publication of further details from this particular interview is in the public interest, irrespective of whatever side of the debate any individual falls on. Of particular interest, perhaps, are previously unpublished sections around the 30-33 minute mark.”
We have transcribed the full audio [below] however some parts of the conversation were impossible to discern due to poor sound quality. We are happy to correct any mistakes.
John Waters: “Sometimes I speak to classes of foreign students in a certain language school. In this particular class I noticed recently,they had all Googled me. And they had kind of, you know, a few of them were kind of waiting for me.
Now I think under the kind of instruction of their tutor more than anything, it is not the kind of thing a class would do spontaneously. And, yeah there were certain headings: abortion, gay marriage…and they were kind of like, exactly as you say, they all held the same views, and they were all kind of convinced that I was some kind of backward, kind of, reactionary redneck and they were going to make a joke of me. So I just said okay, em, gay marriage, what do you want to know? So ‘why are you opposed to gay marriage?’ I said, well, in a certain sense I said, you know, it’s not even gay marriage that I’m opposed to: it’s the idea of gay adoption. Because marriage is fundamentally societies way of organizing the the nurturing of children into the next generation. Marriage is the crucible in which children… and we had all that semantic, pedantic, argument that goes on in the whole country, some people blah, blah, blah, bullshit.
And, but I said, you know, where are the children going to come from for gay couples to adopt? Presumably these children are going to have other parents, real parents, fathers and mothers. What is your position on that? Do you have a position? Because I can tell you that the people who advocate gay marriage have nothing to say on this spectrum at all.”
James Grannell: I found that in my interview…
Grannell: “…they are…”
Waters: “They’re not interested in the words like (inaudible)
Grannell: “No. And it doesn’t really come into their conversation.”
Waters: “Well I would go further and say that actually it is obviously an obstacle (inaudible) the parents. supply of children for the gay couples to adopt…you know, about adoption initially being to create conditions in which the child who had been deprived of his parents or her parents for whatever reasons: death, incapacity, whatever, to have the same chances as other children by having society replicate, in so far as possible, the conditions of a normative family for that child. Now we have inverted this…”
Waters: “…into the idea that the child has become the product, the commodity, that is supplied to different , differently defined alternative families. This is not what adoption is and then I said that, there was this guy who was being particularly vociferous in the front row, and I said to him, you know, supposing you get your girlfriend pregnant?
I don’t know, he might have been from France, but in Ireland, if this happened to a young man. You would find that you had actually zero rights. You have a right to be consulted, which means they’ll tell you – maybe, if they can find you – if the mother says where you are, and they’ll tell you that the child is going to be adopted.
But I can tell you one thing, you do not have the right to adopt your own child. You do not have the right to say that you were child should not be adopted, you know, you have the right to apply for guardianship to the court, which may or may not be granted and if it isn’t granted well then you can forget about it. Do you care about that? Do you care about your own human rights?
So, what I’m saying is that there are lots of arguments that you obviously haven’t heard about this. Don’t think that this is something you can just jump on to become a fashionable person – to become a person with the right opinion. If you’re going to have opinions, by all means, whatever opinions you want, arrive at them on the basis of reason, and logic, and the facts. But don’t be coming to me thinking you’re superior to me because you actually happen to have a different – you know, a certain opinion which you picked up from your fashionable teacher or your fashionable friends. So this is not limited to abortion, which is even more interesting and I go into that in the article in the Irish Catholic. So. And that’s really the general experience. And you find that with politicians as well. Politicians see this as an opportunity to advertise their liberal credentials.”
Grannell: “Do you think that is a big part of it? These people are talking . I know that David Quinn has mentioned it to me and I was talking to Brendan O’Neill in London. And some people have been saying that, at a time when politicians don’t have much moral weight with people, this is something they can latch on to and show that they’re liberal and that they’re all for equality. Do you think that it’s been latched on to by them?”
Waters: “And interestingly it is the more conservative – quote, unquote – who are most vulnerable to that because they’re looking for brownie points. They think it doesn’t matter, they don’t really care, fundamentally, it’s not an economic issue in an obvious way. It’s not something that their careers will live or die on and so it’s an opportunity to buy credit, you know, in Ireland, with the Irish Times. Oh he’s a liberal, on that issue at least he’s on the right side, so we’ll cut him some slack somewhere else, you know. If you’re in Fianna Fail, you need some slack right now. That’s why Fianna Fail in its recent Ard Fheis had a whole movement which swept the board pushing gay marriage when in fact there there is no discussion at all, none, no discussion. And I actually spoke, I was actually at the Ard Fheis, and I actually raised this question and I said hang on, don’t get carried away with this have a discussion about it because there is lots of issues which you should be looking at here and which you won’t get another chance to look at.”
Grannell: “Do you think there is a danger there because in UCD, there is really isn’t any discussion ongoing? Do you think there is danger on a national level as well, that without proper debate, proper discussion, and people actually looking at both sides of the argument, that something that could be cast into law which will prove two or three years down the line perhaps to cause huge issues…”
Waters: “Oh I have no doubt about it and I think it is going to happen and I don’t think there is any way back from it now, because the way that this is being set up, where there is almost a blackmail clause involved, you know, whereby if you don’t support it you are a homophobe and this bullying is actually silencing people and it is preventing any kind of open discussion people are actually afraid to go out now and march on this issue and you are smeared at and ridiculed and particularly at a time of the internet and the way that they use the internet to bully and harass people and demonise people and I think that it is having this effect. So it is eventually going to happen, and of course the consequences will flow and among the consequences I predict will be the whole, this is really a kind of a satire on marriage, that is being conducted by the gay lobby. It is not that they want to get married it is that they want to destroy the institution of marriage because they are envious of it and they see it as a, really, as an affront to their equality.
“It doesn’t mean much, it doesn’t really mean much, this is the interesting thing, when they were fighting for civil unions, and I raised this question that what they really were wanting was marriage, what they what they were really wanting was adoption. They all denied it, oh no no no, that’s completely paranoia we have no interest in marriage at all, this is about our civil rights. Fine, I have no problem with your civil rights, so that’s fine, you’ve got that but the next day they got out of bed and started to campaign for marriage which is purely an attempt to discredit an institution, a normative institution, on which society, on which human civilization, is founded, and inevitably if you do that there will be consequences, and among those will be be that marriage will become really a nothing in our culture, in time.” Continue reading →
At time of writing the column does not appear on the paper’s website (which would usually be the case). We will remove this post once that does happen. We are reprinting Mrs O’Brien’s column because it is an important contribution to the homophobia debate and in the public interest that it be made available online.
It may be worth noting that neither Breda O’Brien nor John Waters appear on the list of Irish Times columnists on the paper’s site this evening.
Update: Breda O’Brien’s column is now available on the Irish Times website.
The Irish Times reviewed The Frontman. I complained that the review contained inaccuracies, unfounded accusations and failure to distinguish fact from comment. The Irish Times contested that (apart from one minor inaccuracy) so it went to the Press Ombudsman. He decided that my complaint was “well documented” and required “a remedy”. But he said that, on balance, the paper had offered sufficient remedy when it said I could write a letter for publication. I wrote such a letter. The IT published it but added a snarky Editor’s reply saying the Ombudsman had rejected my complaint about the review. That wasn’t true. The paper wouldn’t publish my letter saying as much so I had to make a new complaint. Now upheld.