” When you get on to that first sentence of Article 41, the state recognises the natural primary unit of responsibility in society. You don’t need to go any further than that word natural to understand what a catastrophe this is.
Because the word natural as it stands as interpreted time and time again in court hearings has to do with the biological complementarity of a man and a woman who together in their sexual union beget a child and begin the process of creating a family.
And that word natural will go, it will still be there on Sunday if we get a yes but it will no longer have the meaning it has now.
I was on TV recently and I made this point and the interviewer said ‘Hang on it could be said that what you’re saying is gay sexuality is unnatural’ and I said ‘I’m not saying that I’m saying something completely different’ but that’s an interesting point.
That’s possibly what this will mean. it’s one of the things it could mean, That the sexuality of a gay couple is just as natural as the sexuality of a heterosexual couple. The meaning will slip to that.
….Every couple will have to come down to the level at which they meet, call it the lowest common denominator call it the common denominator, and that would be a level in which biological procreative capacity is irrelevant…”
John Waters of First Families First at a Mothers and Fathers Matter public meeting in Tralee, Co Kerry.
Mr Waters cites the case of ‘John’, a gay man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple and having had a change of mind was denied any meaningful role in the child’s life.
In today’s Sunday Independent, author and journalist John Waters writes about his experience of Pantigate west of the Shannon and wonders if teh gays would be treated differently in relation to the Croke Park gigs.
Nobody I met had ever tweeted anything, or cared one whit what some drag queen had said about me, or what had happened afterwards.
Most had registered nothing of it, and those who had were even more perplexed – one woman even thinking that someone had accused me of being a homosexual.
On the issue of Garth Brooks in Croke Park, he poses the question:
Ask yourself this: if the performer in question was Elton John, would the same objections be raised?
“Author, columnist and Dalkey resident, John Waters, will discuss the role and impact of the father and the crisis of fatherhood in modern culture…’What Happened To The Great Father. Based on the experience of his previous appearances at Dalkey, this is likely to be a sell-out event. Sunday 22nd June, 2014 at 17.00. Tickets €10….”
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 →
A video compiled by Newswhip the people-powered news people on how Pantigate – a story intiailly ignored by mainstream media – evolved with YOUR help.
Paul from Newswhip sez:
“We wanted to show how social media and more unofficial online news outlets can drive news agendas…”
…holding a minority view does not automatically confer martyr status on an individual. It just means their opinions are unpopular.This phenomenon was evident during the Pantigate controversy when some commentators, railing against the online backlash, seemed to suggest that central to the concept of free speech was the right to express an opinion without that opinion being challenged or derided.No such right exists.
…If there is a threat to freedom of speech in this country, it is not coming from social media, but from people who prefer to make accusations of bullying instead of defending their opinions from legitimate criticism.
“What is the great crime in taking money off the state broadcaster?” “Let me tell you this, if this had gone on, it isn’t €40,000, I would have got €4m out of RTE.”
…Asked if he had become depressed as a result of the national backlash, he said, “I don’t believe in depression. There’s no such thing. It’s an invention. It’s bullshit,” he said, “it’s a cop out.”
He also described how the backlash had taken a personal toll on his physical health: “I lost nearly a stone in the first few weeks of this. I didn’t sleep.”
Mr Waters said he gave serious consideration to quitting journalism and is still considering leaving Ireland to work elsewhere. “I have no friends in the media anymore.”
“You have a certain hope that somebody, somewhere knows you for who you are, you kind of have some kind of naive hope that one of these people are going to stand up and say ‘hang on, this is wrong, this is not this guy’ and that moment never came.”
“I neither agree with nor respect a lot of views that he expresses however I think a person is entitled to express their views in as rational a manner as possible.’
…John is not a person who doesn’t believe in depression. He is not a person who doesn’t believe that there are suffers of depression. What he meant was he doesn’t believe for himself.’
…As of this morning, I do believe there is a bit of a witch hunt going on now in terms of what the man has said about depression.”
‘I am getting concerned now for John, because actually I do believe he’s probably a little bit depressed.’
Sinead O’Connor speaking with Anton Savage on Today FM’s Savage Sunday earlier..
[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.