Category: Archive

Inside File Clash of the titans

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Vincent Browne is a pillar of Irish journalism. He’s a tough customer; mercurial, contrary, stubborn, opinionated. You don’t easily ignore the man. But he can easily ignore you, as Daily News columnist Jim Dwyer will testify. Browne threw himself into the Ed Moloney saga with a column in the Irish Times last week critical of Moloney’s refusal to hand over his notes of the William Stobie interview to the RUC. Browne had little time for Moloney’s position, that of various Irish newspapers and the "array of New York media celebrities supporting his stance."

One of the "celebrities" is Dwyer, the Pulitzer Prize winner who added his name to a letter on Moloney’s behalf recently signed by a posse of U.S. journalists including Pete Hamill and Sydney Schanberg. Dwyer was invited to discuss the Moloney case on Browne’s chat show on RTE Radio. "I’m not sure he even heard me. Indeed, given what happened, I’m not even sure the phone was working," Dwyer told "IF."

Dwyer apparently became Browne’s foil as he lashed into Moloney for being, well, stubborn and contrary. Said Dwyer: "There’s nothing the matter with debating this issue, but this was not a debate, it was a performance. Why did he call me in the first place?"

As for the media celebrity jibe, Dwyer rejects it. "This issue is not about an abstraction or chic stance. The media celebrity line is crap. Everybody who signed that letter is a working journalist." So’s Vincent Browne, but say nothin’.

No rest for the Big Fella

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Jack McCormack from West Chester, Pa., was recently touring Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. The cemetery is the last resting place of a who’s who of Irish history. De Valera is there, so is Daniel O’Connell and Parnell, Patrick Pearse, Maud Gonne, Countess Markievicz, Roger Casement. The list goes on. It goes on to include Michael Collins.

Given the recent surge in interest in Collins, it is hardly surprising that his gravesite is one of the more heavily visited. Not all the visitors, however, have come to pay respect or simply satisfy curiosity.

One recent arrival was intent on mischief. He scrawled the words "Patriot-Turned-Traitor" on the stone at the foot of the grave.

McCormack, who played a central role in the campaign to secure a monument to the fallen Irish Brigade soldiers at the Antietam Civil War site battle site in Maryland, was appalled. McCormack could not understand why anyone would do such a thing, even if the person harbored historical differences with Collins, or anyone else buried in Glasnevin.

Of course, Irish history does have something of a lingering effect and the Civil War is yet within living memory. By contrast, the American Civil War is beyond any of the living, so it’s indeed hard to imagine the same kind of spleen being vented on graves here. Hopefully, somebody in Glasnevin took a scrubbing brush and soap to the offending words in short order.

Storm in a brew

On a fine day in the Colorado Rockies you can see a long way. But not quite as far as Ireland. The Coors brewing company, which likes to broadcast commercials depicting flowing mountain streams, got into hotter water in recent days when it brought out a T-shirt featuring a map of Ireland, minus the wee North.

After some complaints, the Six Counties were added on a new T-shirt advertised on the Coors website — but in a paler shade of green than the rest of the auld sod. In stepped the American Irish Political Education Committee. PEC members called Coors demanding that the offending two-tone shirt be withdrawn.

The dreaded b-word, "boycott," was dropped, apparently with some effect. Coors is now planning a new version of the shirt with a simple depiction of Ireland as a monotone green landmass. The PEC’s Sandy Carlson welcomed the decision by Coors to scrap the T-shirt depicting what she described as a "partitioned Ireland."

The decision, she said, was a measure of "the continued importance of discussion about issues of culture and identity."

Irish Times at N.Y. Times

Boys, oh boys, Irish writers up the wazoo. We’ve had Frank McCourt and Roddy Doyle before, but last week it was both together up in lights in the New York Times. Doyle’s latest novel, "A Star Called Henry," was reviewed in both the Times and was the cover feature in the Times Book Review, while McCourt adorned the cover of the Sunday magazine.

McCourt also features on the cover of the September-October issue of Poets & Writers magazine. The issue includes a Pete Hamill interview.

The return of Frank McCourt is all to do with his follow up to "Angela’s Ashes," ‘Tis, which is being not so much released as unleashed this month. Frank kept his Irish up when Poets & Writers asked him to name those who most influenced him. Samuel Beckett is McCourt’s "ultimate writer." while the invisible inspiration in the room during the writing of "Angela’s Ashes" was Seamus Heaney. Poor old Jimmy Joyce. It was one of those quiet weeks.

Tom McPhail

Irish journalist Tom McPhail died recently, aged only 47. Irish journalism is the lesser for his passing. McPhail was one of those human forces who seem to move through each day a little faster than most of us. The first meeting was certainly fast.

"IF" well remembers McPhail arriving in the Irish Press newsroom as if out of the blue. He seemed to know just about everyone. He had worked there years before but had taken time outs with Granada Television in England and The Simon Community, which cares for the homeless in Dublin.

Some who wrote tributes to McPhail in the Irish papers referred to his habit of wearing a flying helmet in the 1970s. Apparently, his father, Frank, bought the headgear for Tom and his siblings for winter protection when the family was living in the Bronx. In Tom’s case, it was a good fit.

McPhail, along with three other journalists, founded and piloted the Ireland International News Agency in 1982. McPhail is credited with inventing a style of newspaper writing he called "broadloid." Roughly speaking, broadloid was the facts minus the hype. In another sense, it was reporting on Ireland without the kind of rubbish that turns an Irish story into an "Oirish" story. McPhail kept his course true. Others will follow, minus the flying helmet.

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