Tag Archives: Fintan O’Toole

“I lived through this period in Ireland when there was fear of an island-wide civil war – which never actually happened – at the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the fear of civil war didn’t stop people from stepping back..[and saying] ‘oh we’d better be careful here (laughs) and not go there’. It went in the other direction, which is that for people inclined to violence…it gives the excuse then to say that we’d better start moving first. We better take the violent action before they get us and you get this kind of horrific circular logic where people who are in fact aggressors can see themselves as defenders. They can say that ‘we’re just taking action now to prevent the annihilation that’s coming from the other side’.

“We need to be very careful about talking about civil war and I think for America we need to be talking about what’s happening right now which is the issue of impunity. If you want to tackle the threats…you really have to start with the fact that there’s been an attempted coup, that there are a lot of court cases, a lot of minor people  perhaps being prosecuted but so far no real sense that it’s being called out for what it is, being seen as a crisis, an insurrection, which demands a response which actually criminalises that behaviour.”

Fintan O’Toole on the US January 6, 2021 Capitol Hill riot.


Previously: We Don’t Know Ourselves

Fintan O’Toole suggests giving every child in Ireland a medal for their resiliance during the rona


This morning.

Tough on the unjabbed.

Loves the chiselers.

Via Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times:

‘…it’s been hard for children. It has stayed hard for what is, from a child’s perspective, a very long time. And we adults don’t have a good answer to every kid’s question: are we there yet? We keep telling them that we nearly are and then the road becomes long and winding again.

There’s a word we adults like to use about kids because it makes us feel better: resilient. It keeps the wolf of anxiety from our own doors, stops us worrying too much about them.

It is true: kids are durable creatures. What choice do they have after all? And learning to be mentally tough is, in an often harsh world, a necessary survival skill.

But being resilient doesn’t mean not finding it hard going. Or not needing to be thanked and reassured and made much of.

I actually think, mad as it sounds, that the State should give every child in Ireland a medal. Just a token, a tangible gesture, a touchstone of collective recognition, a reminder to the rest of us that the experiences of children are too often left out of the narrative of these times..’

Which comes first, the medal or the jab?

Only you can decide

This Christmas we should focus on what children give us (Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times)

Previously: We Don’t Know Ourselves

Columnist Fintan O’Toole argues that “those who won’t get a shot in the arm” could “end up raising that arm in stiff salute”

This morning.

Via Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times:

There are, crudely, three kinds of “anti-vaxxers”. In ascending order of purposeful malignity, they are the egoists, the paranoiacs and the fascists.

Instead of treating them all as an undifferentiated mass of fools and knaves, it is better to think about their individual motivations.

The fascists can’t be argued with, not least because they don’t actually give a damn either way about vaccines. The issue exists for them merely as another anxiety to be exploited. The point, therefore, is to try to separate the other two groups from these malignant forces.

In dealing with the egotists, it is surely best to appeal to their egos. Telling them that they are stupid and wrong won’t work. Neither, obviously, does the plea to think about other people.

…As for the paranoiacs, the aim should be to work with, not against, their suspicion and mistrust. They won’t listen to official admonitions. But their friends and neighbours can ask them why they are so willing to trust online “influencers” and smooth-talking charlatans.

Try to get them to see that the spread of conspiracy theories is itself a real and well-funded conspiracy. People who take pride in “thinking for themselves” must be urged to actually do so.

Every week, it gets harder for a general public that overwhelmingly understands the need for vaccination to stay patient with those who don’t or won’t. People are dying, not just from Covid, but because the unvaccinated are taking up scarce capacity in our already overstretched hospitals.

But rage, however justified, is self-defeating. It merely drives misguided people towards those who want to turn a biological pandemic into a political plague. It adds to the chances that those who won’t get a shot in the arm end up raising that arm in stiff salute.’


Three anti-vaccine types: paranoiacs, egotists and fascists (Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times)

Pics: Wikipedia/European press Prize

Fintan O’Toole (left) and Kevin Myers

Via Kevin Myers [full article at link below]

…Seldom has Fintan O’Toole plumbed the depths that he did with his vilely dire column about Prince Philip, headlined “asylum-seeker and citizen of nowhere, but rich and white.”

This is typical of O’Toole’s habit of conflating intellectually unrelated issues, which on this occasion even referred to the genocide of the Jews.

In a survey of recent British history, he said: “In October 2016, high on the fumes of Brexit, the then prime minister…. Theresa May attacked those who “have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road”. She warned that “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”.

He re-interpreted her words as follows: “May was invoking a trope used against Jews by both the Nazis and by the Stalinist Soviet Union: the rootless cosmopolitan.”

This is simply astounding. To have compared Theresa May – apparently “high on the fumes of Brexit” – which she had opposed – with the anti-Semites of the Third Reich and the USSR is an honour perhaps never before conferred upon a British prime minister.

You can argue that May was wrong (and I would not) in her observations of the “citizen of the world”. But she did not use the term “rootless cosmopolitan,” and you cannot intellectually or morally suggest that her opinions can in any way be linked to the murder-machines of Auschwitz and the Gulag archipelago.

To do so is worse than defamatory. It makes her a retrospective handmaiden of The Final Solution…

…Four years ago, he joined the (highly-successful) lynch-mob against me, inventively alleging that I had said that a successful woman must be a ‘monstrous harridan’, a term I have never used.

Of the pay-controversy in the BBC at that time, I wrote: ‘Of course, in their usual, pitifully imitative way, Irish tabloids have tried to create a similar controversy here. That’s impossible, because of the ubiquity of Miriam O’Callaghan and Claire Byrne across the airwaves.’

O’Toole’s version of this runs as follows: ‘Myers tells women to forget equality and man up – but then complains about the ubiquity of Miriam O’Callaghan and Claire Byrne on the airwaves.’

As you can see, a complete fabrication; a process he clearly understands thoroughly when we look at his next words about the late prince.

“So why is Prince Philip’s rootlessly cosmopolitan background of so little concern to the culture warriors of the right? The answer is in those baby blue eyes……”

There we are; a straightforward accusation of racism…

…Of Philip, O’Toole then sneered: “Even the extreme privilege he attained through his marriage is construed as a kind of martyrdom: he gave up everything for his adopted country.”

He arrived in England poverty-stricken, but then began a remarkable career in the largest navy in the world. He turned out to be an outstanding and courageous sea-officer during the war and would very probably have ended up as First Sea Lord, but that possibility vanished with his marriage to the Queen (an event which O’Toole seedily describes as: “this nomadic adventurer, this nowhere man, seduces the princess royal”).

He then buckled down to seven decades of wearisome public service. The only time I met him was at Buckingham Palace about eight years ago, when he was stoically enduring the horrors of yet another state reception, at eight in the evening shaking the hand of every single person present. He was then 91. [more at link below]

Sanctimonious O’Toole in the Gutter Again (Kevin Myers)

Fintan O’Toole: Prince Philip – asylum-seeker and citizen of nowhere, but rich and white (Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times)


Thanks Charger

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



This morning.

Fintan O’Toole repeats what many have been saying since March.

Only the words are bigger.

Fintan O’Toole: Absence of Covid defences at Dublin Airport is startling (Irish Times)


From top: members of The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC); Fintan O’Toole; Eamonn Kelly

Fintan O’Toole’s subscriber-only article in The Irish Times on Saturday (January 11) followed on from Fine Gael’s narrative that the protests against the RIC commemoration were directed squarely at the RIC, betraying immaturity on behalf of those who protested and implying a simple and antiquated anti-British bias.

He drew on Sebastian Barry’s play “The Steward of Christendom” as an example of a hope that, culturally, we had matured enough to forgive; seeming to take the general view, expressed by others in what Eamon Dunphy used to call “official Ireland”, that the protests were a result of ignorance and immaturity, and he concentrated his focus entirely on RIC casualties in the 1920s, underlining their Irishness.

There was no mention of Minister Flanagan fibbing about the role of the Expert Advisory Group in the decision to stage the commemoration – just another in a long line of Fine Gael people fibbing – or about the wider strategic political moves related to the Stormont reassembly as the Taoiseach apparently went for some kind of promised united Ireland home run in time for the pending election.

There was no mention of the lack of consultation with the public by government on the proposed RIC commemoration, and no acknowledgment that the reaction had as much to do with present-day anger at Fine Gael finding an outlet, similar to that which occurred with the water charges controversy, for the disasters in housing and health. And there was no mention of the Black and Tans as a factor.

The Good Priest Argument

Instead, the argument Fintan O’ Toole presented was similar in many ways to the “good priest” argument that defenders of the church brought forth in response to the abuse revelations of the 1990s. Similarly, now we have the “good RIC man” argument.

No one would deny that there were good RIC men, and yet this is precisely the argument that O’Toole chose to contest, as if this were the entire substance of the reaction to the RIC commemoration.

This from a writer whose subtlety revealed the forces driving Brexit but who now somehow can’t see that maybe the protests against the RIC commemoration were far more nuanced than simply the expression of an old nationalistic prejudice.

That what may really have happened was that maybe ordinary Irish people said No to the establishment. And with their voices now amplified by social media, the establishment heard that voice and not only did they not like it; they clearly didn’t understand it.

And worse, appeared to believe that Irish people do not have the right to hold power to account, the very principle under-pinning any healthily functioning republic.

Ireland’s establishment seems not used to being questioned. Rather, it pronounces and expects obedience, a habit inculcated by colonialism and by the church.

At its heart this seems based on a fundamental disrespect for ordinary people. Fine Gael don’t bother consulting people about anything.

They bully stuff through. They do as they please and denigrate the public when the public speaks out. This attitude was best exemplified in recent times by the photo of Dara Murphy and his spouse grinning out of their car in a can’t-touch-me kind of way after the double-jobbing scandal.

Even after the RIC debacle the Taoiseach said, almost like a parent-scolding children, that the Irish public, by speaking out, may have jeopardised the hoped-for united Ireland.

How? By speaking out against a careless, condescending government as free citizens of a republic?

The Managerial Class

You often hear it said that problems in the health service, or housing, or insurance, or any other area you care to name that isn’t functioning to its fullest potential, are “systemic”.

On closer scrutiny it often seems that the systemic problems identified are due to management being favoured over the actual practitioners. Health funding seems to go mainly to managers; arts funding to administrators, and so on.

What if each area hampered by so-called systemic problems, was only a fractal of an overriding systemic problem? Namely a problem where managers and administrators are rewarded at the expense of practitioners, at a national level.

In other words, a system where a cultural elite does the managing and commands all the levers of power and derives the most from the system it essentially owns, allowing also the control of the narrative of events.

Just as Fintan O’Toole was controlling the narrative of the RIC controversy, characterising opponents of the RIC commemoration as being mistaken in their understanding of the proposed event. Or as being intellectually unable to manage the subtleties at play; or as simply anti-British. Or worse, as little more than abusive social media trolls.

Fintan O’Toole’s article reinforces prejudicial ideas that serve the managerial class, leaving the reader with the inevitable conclusion of, Oh I see, the whole RIC debacle is the people’s fault, is it – for being too thick?

A Maturing Republic

But the reaction to Fine Gael’s RIC proposal might equally be framed as the emergence of a people mature enough to speak back to power and hold it to account.

The ideal at the heart of any republic is that all are equal, entitled to equal say, and that all ideally participate in building the republic by being unafraid to speak truth to power,

The public reaction to Fine Gael’s mishandling of the RIC commemoration idea would suggest the emergence, not of an ignorant rabble, as characterised by the elite and its spokespersons, but rather the emergence of a young republic finally beginning to come to maturity.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance Writer and Playwright.

Previously: Eamonn Kelly on Broadsheet


Gay Byrne (1934-2019)

Following the death yesterday of broadcasting legend Gay Byrne.

Via Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times:

He was everyone and no one. Everyone in the sense that his personal story mirrored the country’s.

He was a microcosm of Catholic Ireland from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. Inculcated with the values of the Christian Brothers (June Levine, who worked with him as a researcher on the Late Late, wrote of him as at times being “like a Christian Brother of the nasty type Irish men have described to me, merciless, unreasonable, relentless in his attack on anyone who fell short”).

Emigrating along with everyone else in the 1950s. Returning to the burgeoning boomtime of the 1960s. Getting richer as the country got richer.

Suffering financial calamity in the 1980s when his accountant stole his money and publicly contemplating emigration again.

Working all the time in the gap between what the nation said it was and what it knew itself to be.

But also, crucially, no one.

Fintan O’Toole: Gay Byrne held the key to the nation’s locked room of secrets (Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times)



Via Pat Stacey in The Irish Independent:

….of all the tributes and assessments you’ll read in the coming days, the one aspect of his career that’s most often overlooked is his brilliance as a straightforward entertainment show host.

It’s captured best in a classic black-and-white ‘Late Late’ from 1970, which you can probably find on YouTube, featuring a glittering line-up of guests including Peter Sellers, Trevor Howard, Matt Busby and Eamonn Andrews.

This was the showbiz Byrne, the Byrne who delighted in comedy, in his element, doing what he loved – interviewing funny, talented, exceptional stars

Pat Stacey: ‘Gay Byrne was as good as anyone in showbiz, like him or loathe him, we were incredibly lucky to have him’ (Independent.ie)


Will Hanafin, of RTÉ, tweetz:

At the end of his last ever Late Late Show season, Gay Byrne had had these crystal owls made by Waterford Crystal for us on his team – and he simply put – It Happened – at the base, to sum up 37 years of The Late Late Show.

Yesterday: To Whom It Concerns

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…