Tag Archives: Fintan O’Toole

Anthony Coughlan

An open Letter to anti-Brexit Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole from Anthony Coughlan, director of the strongly Euroseptic National Platform EU Research and Information Centre.

Dear Fintan,

You conclude an article (Boris Johnson is the fool who would play the king, June  18) attacking Boris Johnson in the “Irish Times” by asking “Who better to speak for a reckless and decadent ruling class for whom everything is desperate but nothing is serious?”

This implies that you believe that the British “ruling class” backs Brexit, but is that really so? And are “reckless” and “decadent” really the apt adjectives?

I would have thought that the real situation is that what one might broadly term the British “ruling class” has up to now been predominantly supportive of “Remain”, but that the majority of UK citizens who voted to take back control of their law-making from Brussels by backing “Leave” in the 2016 referendum gave democratic legitimacy to the minority of the ruling class which favours Brexit.

It is this popular democratic vote that legitimises Brexit and it is presumably the reason why your own newspaper and many others who do not like Brexit want a second referendum in the hope that it will overturn the result of the first, as was done here with Nice Two in 2002 and Lisbon Two in 2009.

The economic side of the British ruling class – namely the City, the CBI, High Finance and Big Business generally – overwhelmingly backed “Remain” in the 2016 referendum and largely do that still.

The political side – namely Prime Minister David Cameron’s Government, most Tory Ministers and MPs at the time, plus their Blairite opposite numbers in the Labour Party, plus the senior British Civil Service, were also “Remainers” and many still are, although the more democratically minded among them realise now that, with the departure of Theresa May, they must accept and implement the referendum result or else see the electoral destruction of the Tory Party, the principal party of Britain’s “ruling class”.

Of course one might also say that Britain’s ruling class is to some extent divided on the EU and always has been.

When the UK first applied to join the then EEC in 1961 Labour’s Hugh Gaitskell criticized the Tory Harold Macmillan for proposing to abandon “a thousand years of history”.

Later, in the 1973-5 period, the Tory Enoch Powell and Labour’s Tony Benn opposed Edward Heath and Harold Wilson as they brought Britain into the EEC and kept it there.

I shared No-side platforms with the Tory Sir Richard Body and Labour’s Peter Shore and Tony Benn at various meetings in London during Harold Wilson’s referendum on staying in the then EEC in 1975 – the first ever UK referendum – when two-thirds of those voting voted to remain in the EEC.

At that time that there were only two major British journals backing the No side – the communist party “Morning Star” and the Tory weekly “Spectator”. The rest of the media, from “The Sun” to the “Financial Times”, strongly favoured staying in the EEC.

As I expect you know, it was the USA that originally fathered Eurofederalism. The first supranational community, the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, was pushed by the Americans as an economic underpinning of NATO in Europe and to reconcile France to German rearmament at the start of the Cold War.

The CIA financed the European Movement for years. Later John F. Kennedy pushed Harold Macmillan into applying to join the then EEC following the 1956 Suez debacle.

In so far as the British “ruling class” had independent ambitions at that time I would say that it hoped that by joining the EEC it would either divide France from Germany or else be co-opted by France and Germany into a triumvirate that would help run “Yurrup”, as Edward Heath used call it, together.

Disillusionment at the failure to achieve either of those objectives is surely one of the elements in Tory rejection of the supranational EU “project”.

May I respectfully suggest that “Irish Times” readers deserve a more sophisticated analysis of the reasons for the shift in British “ruling class” and popular attitudes between 1975 and 2016 than to ascribe that change to press columns by Boris Johnson.

And what is the Irish Government’s contribution to the current state of Anglo-Irish relations?

As Ray Bassett has pointed out, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s intransigence on the issue of a time-limit to the North-South ”backstop” in the hope that this could be used to scupper Brexit altogether, has helped to get rid of “Remainer” Prime Minister Theresa May and hand the leadership of the Tory Party to one of the Brexiteers., while damaging underlying Anglo-Irish relations for possibly a long time.

Can our own “ruling class” not give better leadership to the country than this?

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Coughlan, Director, The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre




Luse writes:

This year’s Reith Lectures are by Jonathan Sumption. In the 4th and final lecture on constitution and whether or not the UK would be better off with a written constitution (He argues it wouldn’t, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish devolution would have been harder to implement.) he ends as with all the lectures with a question and answer section with the audience, resulting in the following piece of beauty. Page 9 at this link, in which Mark Reckless, yes the one and the same is put back in his box.Considering the scaremongering nonsense that was written to Fintan O’Toole, (above) I thought it might be an additional addendum…

Fintan O’Toole, in The Irish Times, writes:

At stake in the broadband scheme is what Robert Watt, secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure, has called in an official memo “the unprecedented risks associated with this project”.

When was the last time unprecedented risk turned into a disaster for the Irish taxpayer? A decade ago. Whose fingerprints were all over it?


And who devised the outrageous model at the heart of the NBP?


As of January, we have so far paid KPMG, one of the biggest consultancy and audit firms in the world, €11.33 million for work on the NBP.

This is the way public policy is formed in the State now.

Good times

Fintan O’Toole: KPMG hoovers up fees as politicians forget everything (The Irish Times)

Previously: The KPMG Connection

Pro-life group Love Both’s campaign to keep the Eighth Amendment


The claim that 90 per cent of babies diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome in Britain are aborted is not inaccurate but it is rather misleading.

What it leaves out is the very large number of women – between 30 and 40 per cent – who choose not to be screened for DS because they have already decided that even if the test were positive they would continue with the pregnancy anyway.

In Holland, only 35 per cent of women choose to be screened. Prof Eva Pajkrt, co-author of a Dutch study, told the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment:

“We asked women their reasons. One reason was that many women in the Netherlands felt that Down syndrome was not something we should screen for. I think that reflects our way of counselling women and giving them their own choice. Our healthcare is based on patient autonomy and what women want.”

Choice operates both ways – some women choose abortion, some choose to raise a child with DS.

…The choice to continue with a DS pregnancy is made, not in the abstract, but in real life. Anti-abortion campaigners claim that the Eighth Amendment has made Ireland a lovely place to have a DS child.

Love Both’s pamphlet says of DS that “we have a culture of equality and inclusion that we can be proud of”. Senator Rónán Mullen claims, “We have a tradition here in Ireland where children with Down syndrome are perhaps more cherished than in many other countries.”

That would be the DS children who wait two years for a wheelchair or three years for language therapy. That would be Ireland whose grand total of DS clinical nurse specialists is precisely one – and she’s paid by a charity, not by the State.

Fintan O’Toole in yesterday’s Irish Times

Child with Down syndrome will be face of anti-abortion campaign (Fintan O’Toole, irish Times)


Charlie Fien is a UK-based Down’s Syndrome activist.

From top: Irish Water meter

I am one of the eejits who paid the water charges, not because I was ever less than apoplectic at the antics of Irish Water’s superbly entitled bosses, but because I’m sick of living in a supposedly developed country where people have to boil tap water to make it drinkable and where raw sewage pours into the sea.

“And I don’t want my money back. I don’t want a cheque to frame as souvenir of my own eejitry.

…What I would like is that instead of being the last act in a long-running farce that made a mockery of our democracy, the money we paid be used for a decent democratic experiment. There’s €178 million in a pot and the Government has decided that it belongs to those who paid their water charges. So let us (and us alone) decide collectively how to spend it.

One of these options would, of course, be simply to pay the money back to the individual householders.

…But I suspect most people would be much happier to see their money used to achieve something.

Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times on July 25, 2017

Three of Ireland’s best-known charities have agreed to join forces and form a national campaign to ask the Irish public to consider donating their refunds from Irish Water to tackle the national homelessness crisis in Ireland.

Simon Community, Focus Ireland and Peter McVerry Trust are planning a major national fundraising campaign to coincide with the upcoming Irish Water national repayment scheme which will see €173 million handed back to almost one million account holders over the coming months.

The 3 charities intend to launch “The Refund Project” – a national advertising and public information campaign asking people who can afford to donate, to consider the plight of Ireland’s over 8000 people who are homeless, more than 3000 of which are children. The new group say that even a fraction of the total repayments could help make an enormous difference in the delivery of much needed housing.

Irish Times, today

Fintan O’Toole: Spend my water charges on reversing austerity (The Irish Times)

Charities Join Forces in Public Appeal to Donate Water Refunds to Tackle Homelessness, (Peter McVerry Trust)

Related: ‘Donate water refunds to homeless’ (Noel Baker, The Irish Examiner)

Kitty Holland, of The Irish Times; Denis O’Brien, owner of Communicorp

Last night.

At the Gate Theatre, Dublin.

Further to Denis O’Brien-owned Communicorp – which includes Newstalk and Today FM – banning all Irish Times journalists from the group’s radio stations…

…Following the newspaper’s columnist Fintan O’Toole saying he would no longer go on Newstalk in the wake of George Hook’s comments about rape…

… Kitty Holland, who is the Social Affairs Correspondent at The Irish Times, “confronted” Mr O’Brien about the ban…

Fair play. In fairness.

Thanks Sandra


Further to yesterday’s publication of the Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland – commissioned by Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan – and advance copies being given to the Sunday newspapers at the weekend…

Fintan O’Toole, in The Irish Times, writes:

Yesterday’s Irish Independent carried no word of the media ownership report. The Sunday Independent did deal with it, but by way of comment rather than reportage. Liam Collins opened his Zozimus column on page 12 with a reference to “Yet another tiresome blog on the ‘worrying lack of plurality’ in the Irish media from that paragon of British liberalism, Roy Greenslade.”

Greenslade, who is professor of journalism at City University London, had posted a piece on his Guardian blog drawing attention to the report.

It is, of course, entirely legitimate for Collins to find Greenslade’s writing on the subject tiresome – that’s a matter of opinion.

What’s striking, though, is that the only account of the report that readers of the Independent titles received on Sunday and Monday was through an attack on another reporter whose views were discounted in advance because he is, of all despicable things, a paragon of British liberalism.

Those readers would have no idea what the report actually says. The substance of Collins’s take on it, indeed, is that no one should bother reading it.

… The essential point, however, is that the sum total of the information presented on this event in the Independent papers on Sunday and Monday was to the effect that Shinners, Brits, liberals and socialists (a range of targets for contempt to suit every taste) have produced a tiresome document that you, the reader, don’t need to know about.

Fintan O’Toole: Why some papers are ignoring a report on Irish media (The Irish Times)

Previously: High Concentration

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Fine Gael TD and junior minister Damien English launching the party’s Investing in the Early Years Plan in the CHQ Building, Dublin before the election in February

I was somewhat surprised to learn that Fintan O’Toole takes his policy views from US talk radio (I would have thought he was more a Guardian reader myself) but that probably explains why his view on foreign direct investment and Ireland’s industrial policy is so out of touch with reality.

The taxation of multinationals is based on the source principle. Countries tax the profits from operations located in their countries. Although some of the world’s largest companies have operations in Ireland, we can only tax them on the profit they generate from their activities in Ireland. This we do.

The issue being debated in the US at the moment, however, relates to a loophole in the US tax code which allows “deferral” of corporate income taxes, and allows US multinationals to delay certain tax payments until the profits are transferred to US-incorporated entities in their corporate structure.

Some companies (not surprisingly) are trying to defer payment for ever. We aren’t the problem. The US tax code is.

Indeed, the US treasury secretary has written to the European Commission stating that while the US does not collect the tax until repatriation, the US system of deferral “does not give EU member states the legal right to tax this income”.

Ireland’s 12½ per cent corporation tax rate is a key part of our offering to multinationals but it is not the only reason they come here.

We offer access to EU markets, a well-educated and a highly skilled workforce. Winning the war for talent is critical to our future success.

That is why my work as Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation was focused on making sure we continued to foster and develop Ireland’s talent pool through a new innovation strategy and a new skills strategy.

I look forward to hearing Fintan explain the real facts of the matter to Rush Limbaugh or the good folks who listen to the News from Lake Wobegon.

Damien English TD
Minister of State for Skills,
Research and Innovation,
Leinster House, Dublin 2.

Ireland, taxation and multinationals (Irish Times letters page)

Related: Fintan O’Toole: US taxpayers growing tired of Ireland’s one big idea (Irish Times)

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

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Anne-Marie McNally, of the Social Democrats, writes:

“This is a come-along event, no tickets required, all welcome on the evening. We’ll be talking about how we can and should do things differently – how do we make politics serve the people rather than the golden circle of the same faces and names that keep cropping up; and how do we develop and implement proper transparency with real accountability in a way that allows people to trust the system? I’ll open up, Catherine Murphy will speak, followed by Fintan O’Toole, then I’ll close.”

Previously: Someday My Prints Will Come

Policy Night


From top: David McWilliams; Fintan O’Toole; Julien Mercille

Budget 2016 either betrayed the coalition’s ignorance or its cunning.

Only you can decide.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

Fintan O’Toole is associated with the left and David McWilliams likes the market. Both have made important contributions to our understanding of Irish politics and economics. They each have their cohort of fans, while driving some of their opponents nuts.

They both wrote on Budget 2016 and I want to highlight one important issue in this respect on which I think O’Toole is incorrect, whereas McWilliams is more on target.

Fintan O’Toole seems to think that the government is rather incompetent, irrational, and has no clue what it’s doing.

For example, last week, he wrote a piece entitled “The Minister for Finance and his know-nothing Budget”. He argued that “one of the things the system chooses not to know is how the budget really works”. Michael Noonan, the Minister for Finance, “is like a plumber turning on a stop cock without knowing where the pipes are”, because he will not produce an analysis showing if the Budget is progressive or regressive. In other words, “this is government by willful ignorance”.

This interpretation sometimes reappears in O’Toole’s writings, for instance, in his book “Ship of Fools”, whose title reiterates the idea.

This type of commentary is also often heard in the media and in conversations. In fact, it’s the mainstream criticism of government: politicians are ignorant, incapable and ridiculous.

However, it’s time to stop taking politicians for irrational idiots. Politicians are rational and usually quite competent. The thing to understand is that they govern following the interests of elites, and the policies they enact reflect those interests (we can debate whether such policies are good or bad, but that’s a separate issue).

Indeed, Social Justice Ireland produced an excellent report on Budget 2016  (there is also an analysis of the cumulative impact of Budgets 2009 to 2015 here).

The report shows the following about Budget 2016:

It is the fifth regressive budget in a row, meaning that they have favoured the better off more than the poor.

– It widens the rich-poor gap by €506 a year.

While single unemployed people gain €95 a year, single people earning €75,000 gain almost ten times as much, or €902.

It is “extremely generous” toward multinational companies. The “Knowledge Development Box” plan means that such companies will now be able to avail of an even lower tax rate of 6.25% (as opposed to the regular 12.5% tax rate) for part of their operations.

In general, the Budget’s tax changes favour those who earn more.

It fails to deliver any significant increase in social welfare payments.

The question to ask is: does this reveal a government that doesn’t know what it’s doing, throwing darts in the dark? If policy was so foolish and the government so irrational, one would expect a relatively even distribution of the tax and spending benefits, but this isn’t what we see.

And for those on the right who think that’s just another left-wing conspiracy, no, you don’t need to be on the left to say something like that—you just need to understand how the system works.

For example, David McWilliams writes that this is a budget “aimed at convincing the middle classes that this is the government you can trust”. In particular, the Capital Gains Tax is reduced from 33% to 20% and this means that “the State is siding with those people who own capital. These are mainly the already rich”. To reiterate, “it’s clear that the big winners are the already rich”.

And the important point is this: “This is not the unintended consequence of policy. It is policy”.

This strikes me as a more accurate description of how the system works.

Picturing politicians as clownish and irrational leads to the following natural solution: if we could only find better ones, things would be fine.

However, in fact, to make things better, it is the system as a whole that needs to be modified so as to make it more egalitarian.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at UCD. His book Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis: Europe’s Treasure Ireland is out. Twitter: @JulienMercille