Eamonn Kelly: Fintan Awakes


From top: Irish Times columnist and critic Fintan O’Toole; Eamonn Kelly

Fintan O’Toole stepped into the Patriarchy/Trans minefield on December 1 triggering a succession of small explosions on Twitter. The piece in question is hidden behind an Irish Times paywall and comments are disallowed, which is not terribly democratic, but perhaps wise under the circumstances.

But wokes will not be denied and the response to Fintan’s musings was taken up on Twitter. By close of business Fintan’s name was trending fiercely as the experts of patriarchal argument poured forth with woke jargon at the ready to participate on the specially created #fintan thread.

Twitter replies came in battalions; essays hidden in long lines of numbered tweets taking Fintan to task for all manner of infractions, many of which went over my head. What is a TERF? I had to resort to Wikipedia.

A TERF is a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” who hold that trans people are not women, but men, which they are, actually. But they are men who identify as women and Fintan was clearly taking their part, needlessly embroiling himself in an awkward woke squabble and getting absolutely no thanks for his troubles from anyone.

But though Fintan appeared to be writing from a woke position he still managed to raise ire on all sides, and even ire on some sides I didn’t even know existed. If there’s one thing about wokeness, it’s got no shortage of ire. Fintan, it seemed, was raising ire simply by being there.

Wrong Bodies

Some tweeters discerned in Fintan’s article an unconscious white male construct being smuggled into wokeness under the pretext of being pro-woke or pro social justice or pro whatever it was Fintan thought he was being pro.

One commenter accused Fintan of writing an article that only a man would write and that by doing so he was implying that women and trans people can’t write for themselves. That he was in essence attempting to supplant women and trans and their various woke affiliates by doing what he does for a living. That his article was in reality a prime example of over-educated and entitled mansplaining.

The writer of this comment was also a man. It was nice of him to take the time to mansplain Fintan’s political objectives.

Another commenter accused Fintan of blaming feminists for what was the fault of the Patriarchy, while yet another accused him of blaming the Patriarchy for what was the responsibility of feminists.

The existence of the Patriarchy was accepted on all sides without question, even by Fintan himself, one of our leading cultural critics, who never for a moment considered the possibility that the idea of the Patriarchy might itself also be a theoretical construct.

Another commenter pitied Fintan in making the mistake of writing such an article, regarding the act as a kind of mental aberration in an otherwise apparently healthy mind and healthy political position. Implicit in this comment was a kind of threat that Fintan’s infractions, and there appeared to be many of them, would not be forgotten.

Tweeter after tweeter wrote knowledgably and confidently in similar impenetrable woke jargon that you begin to suspect is not meant to be understood. The idea seems to be that you will surrender to the endless flurries of academic concepts and buzzwords and just agree, if only to make them stop re-phrasing the same general ideas in jargon laden sentences so that you can run away and find an aspirin.


Woke language is eerily similar to Orwell’s Newspeak, and like Orwell’s Newspeakers, the ones who can speak the jargon rapidly, without the aid of full stops, are considered the wisest of the wise by other wokes.

However, Orwell’s Newspeak was designed by authoritarians to stultify original thinking, to replace thought, which can be dangerous, with a mechanical substitute that people will believe is intellectualising, but which is actually just parroting set phrases without thinking.

A couple of days later, one of our multi-award-winning writers, (his wins including a Booker), the precise and exact John Banville, was also being pelted in a woke twitter storm for expressing a negative opinion of wokeness in an interview for the Hay Festival Winter Weekend.

His comment, that he “despised” wokeness, was held up as hate speech, inspiring social justice warriors to go to war in the name of equality to attempt to deny that writer freedom of opinion, and not one of them capable of seeing the irony of this crazy double-standard.

Instead, one commenter remarked that Banville’s motive for despising wokeness was a fear of losing status and that any loss of status he might suffer was justified in recompense for the privileges he had once enjoyed, until, presumably, wokeness came along to save the culture from his like.

This is a common charge, that the perceived privileged deserve to be demoted and denied, raising the suspicion that much woke uproar is driven by simple spite.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet



57 thoughts on “Eamonn Kelly: Fintan Awakes

  1. Toby

    Woke speech and hate speech are close cousins. Twins even. Amazing how the woken have gone from self declared kings and queens of Kindness, to being feared and loathed in equal measure.

  2. Tony

    I got as far as…

    A TERF is a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” who hold that trans people are not women, but men, which they are, actually.

    …and then I thought naah

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Trans people are women and men, but the men AFAB are somehow non existent in terfland. The old gay panic chestnut has found a new audience, but instead of gay men going after your sons in public toilets, it’s trans women going after your daughters. Same homophobia, different decade.

      1. Cú Chulainn

        Trans people are absolutely included in the feminist world. Men, who feel the need to barge into women’s space (howsoever they identify) are the problem. Every society on this planet has created separate private space for each sex with good reason. Men and women need private secure spaces where they can be open about the experience of being. Transpeople also need private secure space to share. What is no ok, and it has to be called out; are men, who identify as women, going uninvited into private women’s space.

        1. Oro

          This public toilet drama is soooooo weird. What do you think happens in women’s toilets? Do you think they all use one big communal toilet? You’re in a cubicle which is essentially a room unto itself so privacy is guaranteed regardless. If you are in a public toilet and someone of the opposite sex or gender comes in and washes their hands and then leaves before you leave the cubicle does their sex or gender (which you have not witnessed) adjust your relative experience? Not in the slightest!

          And if the ‘good reason’ you’ve mentioned is men attacking women, then any space where a woman could be alone with a man should also be shut down and segregated non? Why would a woman ever be allowed to be alone with a man, this is an extension of your own logic btw.

          1. scottser

            Male poo can get female poo pregnant, everyone knows that. Trans people don’t poo at all you see, that’s why they shouldn’t be in there.

          2. Tinytim

            One assumes women’s toilets in bars are opposing pairs of long drops or ‘ Turkish toilet ‘ such that working in pairs to improve balance is advantageous.

            The real mystery is whether they face each other and hold hands or lean back against each other during the process.

          3. Cú Chulainn

            I wasn’t thinking of toilets. Nor was I suggesting that women would be attacked. Have men’s, women’s and trans. Simple. I’m talking about why men, who identify as women, feel the need to camp out in women’s private spaces. Why. They might feel like they are a woman. They might identify as a woman. But they’re not. They are trans. Own it.

          4. Oro

            What ‘private secure women’s spaces’ were you thinking of then? I think you probably were thinking of toilets and you’re just saying otherwise now. Trans people don’t have to be segregated just because you say so. Also – as an aside, have you ever used a communal bathroom? I have and it was fine. I also used a women’s bathroom last week at a shopping center because the men’s was closed for cleaning. Nobody got upset with me and nobody got attacked. I don’t think anyone even looked up.

          5. Tinytim

            I’m inclined to disagree.
            No toilet segregation. Just toilets.
            Universal access toilets for all.

            They are somewhat symbolic of the need to label everything/one within society.
            If we have toilets for trans, ( so male,female, universal aka disabled, trans then we may as well go for blonde and brunette and bald.
            But segregated natural bald and otherwise. And so on.

            If we need to separate people for toilets then let’s do it thus: 1) people who don’t piss on toilet seats and 2) willies

          6. Clampers Outside

            With regard to 1), you’ve clearly never worked in a bar frequented by 18 to 25 year old women out clubbin’ :)

          7. Nigel

            They don’t ‘camp out.’ It’s their safe sapce, too, until terfs and friends decided to persecute them over it.

      2. Andrew

        Trans women are trans women. They’re not women though and women like you are a traitor to your sex and the hard fought rights those before you campaigned for if you continue to erase women in this way.

        1. Oro

          I see you’re being anything but traitorous to your sex by continuing the grand tradition of men shouting at women that they don’t know personally.

          1. Clampers Outside

            He’s supporting the women saying it, maybe.

            My point, it ain’t that black and white mate.

          2. Oro

            Doesn’t your popping up just backup my point? You’re the definition of finger wagging middle aged under informed man that lectures women on subjects you know little about. And nobody asked!

    2. Mr .T

      They are men though. They identify as women but were born male.

      If they were actual females then they wouldn’t be trans, they would just be female. The very fact that they themselves use the label of trans implies that they are different to biological women – its of their own admission.

        1. Cú Chulainn

          Yeah, but they don’t seem to run into the same problems by forcing their way into other peoples personal space. I wonder why that might be?

          1. Nigel

            Trans women have never ‘forced’ their way into women’s spaces, they’ve always been welcomed, until this campaign to force them out.

          2. Clampers Outside

            Rubbish, and ya know it. Self ID trans individuals were not.

            They can’t have been because, for example, Self ID’ing as a woman is still relatively new, and defining Self ID as trans is very new, and women were never comfortable with swinging mickeys in women’s sex segregated spaces.

            Or if you know better, please do elaborate on the claim.

          3. Nigel

            Trans women have been using women’s facilities for as long trans women have existed. I actually don’t know what it is you think you’re even saying.

          4. Bitnboxy

            The level of nuance Clampers and Nigel are bringing to this complex issue is truly illuminating. Might I suggest you two get a room: you are both so alike.


      1. Darren

        It’s only a penis. Can I say that? The power that it confers is only that which is attributed to it. I love mine. And if the vulva had lips it would say whatever the feic it likes cos the penis is apparently in charge of the rules and penis likes vulva. But not vulva that misidentifies. That makes penis angry. That makes penis confused. What is penis if vulva is penis? Good that someone came up with a valuable addition to how we talk about sexual identity or we would have to pretend they werent there at all. Like in the old days. God bless us and may god bless both with equal vigour when the time is right.

      2. Oro

        Ok. Bear with me.
        Male and female refers to biological sex. Man and woman refers to your gender, which is a human sociological determination.
        They align almost always but not always. This very small group of trans men and women is where the ‘not always’ lies. How is this difficult to understand?

    1. Brother Barnabas

      he’s administered so many slapped arses and red faces to the brexit fanboys over last few years that its perfectly understandable you shudder at the mere mention of his name

  3. gallantman

    Is he he even standing up for any point of princple? Irish Times columnists who had put the boot in to JK Rowling every chance they got all came out to bat for one of their own…

  4. Bitnboxy

    I’m not even reading this post. The subject matter baffles me and to be honest I am not even remotely qualified to make pronouncements. The sheer scale of moral panic and the slew of people ready to offer an opinion without having the faintest iota of the complexity involved is quite something. I see a tiny group of vulnerable people with risible life expectancies and chances who deserve a little bit of respect and dignity (I mean how many of us want to roar MAN! to an open trans woman’s face?), instead of being the latest causes celebre of the culture wars. And while the some of us who are not trans and with no understandung whatsoever will exert no amount of energy either “defending” them or demonizing them, their lives simply get even grimmer.

    1. Charger Salmons

      Indeed, I tend to ignore the whole frightful business as it seems to be the same yellow mattress crowd who get into Twitter pile-ons about BLM,de-platforming and nude vegan inner-city cycling or some such nonsense.
      Meanwhile everyone else gets on with their lives.
      Which in my case is the first Tanqueray and Fever-Tree of the day.
      Here’s to the weekend.

      1. Bitnboxy

        I wouldn’t call it “frightful business” but deeply personal issues and business about which every Tom, Dick and Jerk now has an uninformed view. I cannot begin to understand trans issues but they are generally very vulnerable people whose lives are now made even worse by the uninformed (no matter if they think they are doing good) and worse, the frothing far-right lynch mobs. Trans people are real people with real lives who are entitled to live their lives with some dignity and peace and not either venerated or despised.

  5. Junkface

    Wokeness is post modern nonsense, based on unfounded theories, papers that were never peer reviewed or fact checked, because doing so would be racist, as the key authors were black. So no matter what, you cannot win with wokeness. I absolutely despise it. Kudos to John Banville. Lets hope more people speak up before its too late and a generation of kids are poisoned with reckless identity politics.

    Check out The madness of crowds by Douglas Adams, or else one of the many discussions about it from a black perspective with Coleman Hughes, John Mc Whorter


        1. bisted

          …easy mistake…especially on Broadsheet…Adams was the author of the most prophetic quote that Bodger is itching to use on 1st Jan: So long…and thanks for all the fish…

    1. Micko

      That’s a very good book Junkface. Good read. I like John McWhorter too.

      Interesting the explosion of referrals in the U.K. for adolescents being sent for transgender issues.

      Especially girls. There was only 15 girls in 2009 referred and 1071 in 2016. A massive explosion.

      The graph on this page shows how big it’s become.


    2. Nigel

      Junkface, I am shoulder to shoulder with you on so many things, but not on this. On this I think you are wrong.

      1. Clampers Outside

        You also deny biology, and think women have a penis.
        Not exactly a stalwart for being right with the basics, regardless of what ya think is wrong.

        1. Nigel

          Your obsession with trans women’s genitalia, and the mockery and contempt and entitlement that go with it, contradics your denial of transphobia.

          1. Clampers Outside

            Oh here we go. My ‘obsession’, yet is TRAs like yourself that call gay people “genital fetishists”.

            It’s clear who the real genitalia obsessed is. Homophobic TRAs like yourself.

          2. Bitnboxy

            Clampers and Nigel: Jesus Christ- both of you are obsessed for entirely the wrong reasons- one who uses this as a culture war clarion call, the other in a state of moral panic about trans people coming for your kids. Give me flipping head piece. And in the middle of this ignorant mud-slinging, life for a tiny section of society that is already grim, get even grimmer. FFS.

          3. Nigel

            Calling people TRAs, as if trans rights are a bad thing, and accusing them of non sequiters like homophobia are certaily amongst your diverse obsessions.

  6. curmudgeon

    Well its a first Eamonn Kelly, but I completely agree. The twitterati are toxic and unfortunately their “values” are leaking into Irish society at pace.

  7. Rob_G

    I’m mystified why any man over 40 would decide to weigh in on such matters; I can’t see it going well for them, under any circumstances.

    1. curmudgeon

      Probably because look at the mess woke culture has caused already, its too late to nip it in the bud over here re cancel cuture, but its not too late to stop a dangerous ideology from convincing impressionable kids to take hormones and undergo surgery. Did you know its illegal in some states for a doctor to talk a underage teenager out of a sex change!

  8. Shadow Hound

    In rare agreement, well said Eamonn.

    An accurately perceptive analysis of the weak-minded tosh trying to become mainstream culture.

    For the permanently indignant and offended: can we prepare a dose of common sense to accompany their covid vaccines?

    Or maybe a choice between-
    6 months of hard labour on a farm without a tractor, or,
    6 months of prison-like re-education with only a library of classic novels for company

  9. Clampers Outside

    A fine piece that does a good job of taking the mick out of woke nonsense Eamonn, fair dues :)

    BS’s most notable wokist is very quiet on this…

  10. bisted

    …as ever, this trans argument generates neither light nor heat for me…I’ve tried to understand the different positions but given up…I’ve googled terf which only added to my confusion and wokism is not a language I want to learn.
    Many years ago my work meant I travelled through Paris a lot and often stayed there. In a local bar I was ogling a very exotic and scantily clad girl. Except, neither she, nor her equally sultry mates were girls…yet. Turns out these were Brazilians who had come to Paris for the very expensive surgery to transform them completely to women. In the meantime, they worked as prostitutes and collectively plied their trade along a part of the Bois de Bologne. Turns out their exotic looks and male genitalia was in big demand and they could charge a multiple of the local rate. They quite quickly accumulated the fee for surgical treatment but their value on the street dropped to zero…after that I assumed they just went back to Brazil. To me, this was my first encounter with a sexual sub-culture…it appears the culture is attempting to become mainstream…

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