(Editorial from Church & State Magazine, No. 73, Summer 2003)

A War-Fevered Anglophile's Diary

Throughout the Iraq War Kevin Myers, a member of liberal advanced guard, used his position as the main author of the An Irishman’s Diary column in the Irish Times to deliver a series of diatribes defending the US and British forces. Myers is regarded as one the best known writers currently on the staff of the Irish Times. He is also a champion of the Liberal Agenda in Ireland.

Here’s a representative extract from his column of April 11th, the day after the symbolic pulling down of the statue of Saddam in the centre of Baghdad:

“So where are you all now, you Not In My Names? Freedom is spreading across Iraq, and what have you NIMNs to say? Will you write contrite letters to this newspaper admitting that you were wrong, and that you apologise? Or will you find some excuse, yet again, to rail at the US, which is what you NIMNs do the entire time?…

“Michael D. Higgins’s condemnations of the IRA disqualify him from full membership of NIMNdom: but his recent tones have been steeped in NIMNery at its sickliest. I can see him now, finger in the air, in the Dail shrieking Not In My Name, Not In My Name, NOT IN MY NAME, NOT IN MY NAME. And his mirror image in the Seanad, David Norris, has been NIMNing away to beat the band….

“NIMNs are pathetic people, about a pathetic purpose, one that survives in Ireland because of the extraordinary numbers of NIMNs and NWFOs [No War for Oil, DA] in the Irish media. They were wrong on the first Gulf War, wrong on Afghanistan, wrong on this war. They’ll be wrong on the next one. You see [sic].”

Taken Seriously!

This rant is undoubtedly colourful but it contains no serious thought. In passing it might be noted that Michael D. Higgins made some very useful contributions to the debate for the simple reason that he was well informed about Iraq (he hammered home that most telling point that the weapons inspectors withdrew from Iraq in 1998 in response to US rather than Iraqi pressure). And he single-handedly forced the Labour Party leadership to adopt a position in which the Party opposed the war whether or not it was sanctioned by the UN. This point apart, the column is hardly worth commenting on. What is noteworthy about it and other similar pieces however, is the number of contributors to the Irish Times letters page who clearly consider them to be worthy of serious consideration.

And readers of the Irish Times are not the only ones taking Kevin Myers seriously. The April 11th edition of the The Phoenix devotes two articles to him, one of which is a two-page profile under the Pillars of Society heading. The main opposition party, Fine Gael, has also had reason to publicly reject his criticisms of its principled support of the UN. In media terms Myers had a very good war (in other words he received a lot of public attention), and he didn’t have to put his neck on the line like Lara Marlowe who made a valiant attempt to cut through the war propaganda of both sides.

More Than A Maverick

The author of the Myers profile in The Phoenix is afraid to face the fact that his subject is a popular and influential opinion maker. He states:

“Like Eamon Dunphy, Myers is aware that much of his audience is composed of readers who despise his opinions, and he is a journalist that republicans, feminists and socialists love to hate.

“But Myers is more than a controversialist—he writes out of real conviction. He favours social and economic liberalism: the stances he takes on issues over the full spectrum of social commentary are all New Right stances. New Right influence in contemporary Ireland is not a negligible quantity that can be so easily dismissed. On the contrary, at the least it can be measured by the influence enjoyed by the Progressive Democrats which, despite their unpopularity at the polls, is extensive; arguably it is the predominant influence in the present Government.”

It is a cop-out on the part of the nationalist-leaning Phoenix to portray Myers as an isolated maverick. In the Sunday Independent Eoghan Harris blazed a trail of hawkish support for the US, and in the aftermath of the war a number of his fellow hacks trumpeted how Harris had got it right while the dire predictions of journalists like Vincent Browne had been disproved by events. Likewise on RTE Radio’s talk-in programme, Liveline, there was a clear majority of callers favouring the US/UK position. Myers and Harris are representative of a changing climate of opinion in the Republic. While they may not represent the core of the society they have given encouragement to a latent, long-dormant element in the body politic which identifies with the Anglo-Saxon worldview. The French are not far wrong in describing the contemporary Irish as ‘Catholic Anglo-Saxons’.


But what is unique about Myers’s columns is his unbridled Anglophilia. Several months ago he devoted a column to vilifying Louis XIV of France. The monarch who supported James II at the Battle of the Boyne and who fashioned France into a modern state is described by Myers as one of the great tyrants of history. This is surely too Anglocentric even for the British. When Jacques Chirac opposed the US/British push for war at the UN, the French were excoriated in An Irishman’s Diary as miserable ‘worms’ with their ‘reptilian intrigues’.

It is notable that Myers is pro-American only when the British establishment is pro-American. When the British Government was having doubts about US plans for invading Iraq, Myers ruminated over whether Bush’s judgement had been nobbled by ‘fevered war toxins’, and then, when the British realised that the Americans were unshakable in their determination to invade, and when they dutifully rowed into line, Myers equally dutifully demanded, Send In The Tanks (31.1.03).

It was not surprising that a troubled Irish Times reader recently admitted with reference to Myers that she was having difficulty overcoming a prejudice, acquired in childhood, of viewing the Irish Times as an agency of the British Secret Service!

A British Spy?

In a dreadful novel published two years ago called, Banks Of Green Willow, Myers gave us an insight into his core values. The mother of his heroine’s lover works for British Intelligence and his father is an SAS member of the Royal Ulster Rifles. Both these individuals are portrayed heroically while the Irish Catholic characters are invariably stage Irish.

Kevin Myers certainly acts as though he is a British agent but it is extremely unlikely that he is. For a start his rants are too fulsome. MI6 would probably view him as a loose canon. Secondly, despite being educated at an English public school, he is not actually English. Eoghan Harris revealed some years ago that Myers’s father was a member of the old IRA. In the early part of his career as a journalist Myers was reputed to have republican sympathies. The awful truth about Kevin Myers is that he is a reformed Irish leftie who once had republican sympathies! He has travelled a well-worn path of disillusionment with Irish Catholic-nationalism and like many other intrepid wayfarers on the good ship Irish Times, he has lost his bearings. Unable to come up with a vision for Ireland he has gone over to the other side. His solace now is to fantasise about working for British Intelligence.

At the end of the day, however, once you know where Myers is coming from, An Irishman’s Diary is hardly worth reading. If we need to know the British slant on specific developments we can access the British media; if we need to know what the New Right are thinking on certain issues, there are calmer and more thoughtful sources to check out (The Economist, Newsweek, the Sunday Business Post, the Sunday Independent, etc etc). Being charitable, I am inclined to say that his column has a certain entertainment value if you like that sort of thing.

The Liberal Agenda

Over the last thirty years the Irish Times has opposed political corruption, championed artistic freedom, countered narrow sectarianism with pluralism, fervently espoused women’s rights, exposed the exploitation of the Third World, railed against social exclusion at home, and generally encouraged a greater openness and questioning in Irish society. But the pursuit of these worthy causes, sometimes summarised for convenience as the Liberal Agenda, has been more apparent than real.

If we take just one area—‘countering sectarianism with pluralism’—the producers of Church & State know better than most how the Irish Times actively hindered efforts to break the social stranglehold of the Catholic Church, e.g. the attempt by Irish Times staff to suppress Annie Murphy’s story about her relationship with Bishop Eamon Casey until Murphy out-foxed them (see Forbidden Fruit by Annie Murphy).

The Irish Times has been good at making a show of virtue. The advocacy of apparently radical causes has been a façade and behind the façade a less edifying agenda has been followed whenever opportunities have arisen. I am referring to the erosion of the national tradition. It is no accident that the effective owner of the Irish Times, Major Thomas McDowell, is a retired British Officer with unreconstructed pro-British loyalties. And it is no accident that Irish society has moved inexorably towards assimilation into Ameranglia while the Irish Times has been its most influential public media.

Undermine the national tradition by discrediting nationally-minded politicians; promote the economic doctrines favoured by the New Right in Anglo-Saxon countries; cultivate associations with Western international bodies that will help to break down Irish ‘insularity’; bring Irish practices into line with Anglo-American cultural norms. It is not difficult to map out the hidden agenda that has underlain the Liberal Agenda, but it is difficult to substantiate.

Without hard evidence how can I be sure that the Irish Times has used the Liberal Agenda to inveigle Ireland into the camp of the Anglo Saxon war mongers and globalisers? Because of the effect that Agenda has wrought on the mind of its most faithful correspondent—Kevin Myers.


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