I knew John Charles McQuaid, Breda O’Brien

Breda O’Brien’s Irish Times piece on JFK (November 23, 2013) is lazy, sloppy and, frankly, lacks only for the Private Eye note “Ed – will this do?“.

Go on, read the whole thing yourself, if you have to. I’ll confine my criticism to just this part.

‘So many politicians have attempted to emulate Kennedy. Remember the famous put-down of Dan Quayle by Lloyd Bentsen? Quayle was attempting to deflect criticism of the fact that he had little political experience by saying he had as much congressional experience as Kennedy. Bentsen delivered his classic putdown, parodied ever since: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”’

‘Of course, the most successful parody was by Ronald Reagan, who was being harassed by Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter. Reagan successfully poked fun at his own age by declaring: “This fellow they’ve nominated claims he’s the new Thomas Jefferson. Well, let me tell you something. I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. And governor, you’re no Thomas Jefferson.”’

So Breda thinks that was the Gipper, in 1992, paraphrasing Lloyd Bentsen from 1988, to have a go at “Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter” who was last a Democratic candidate in 1980. Given the date of the article’s publication, was there a TARDIS involved? Or is even a cursory glance at Wikipedia considered an occasion of sin in the Iona Institute?

Now, you’re probably thinking, Oh Donal, you’re just being petty. You’re jumping on a small mistake that anyone could make because you despise the Iona Institute and all who travel in it as the latter-day version of those who opposed abortion and then, breath-takingly, opposed contraception and sex education too. You just don’t like the Iona Institute because it’s made up of creepy, sex-obsessed reactionaries intent on dragging Ireland back to the days when John Charles McQuaid ran a Catholic Church that turned Ireland into a paedophile’s paradise for the worst part of a century.

You think it was the likes of Iona who opposed “Stay Safe”, whispering that it was called “Safe Sex”, because God forbid that children might think their bodies are their own, just the same as they are even now insisting that women be forced to carry to full term non-viable pregnancies because, against all appeals to basic humanity, they cannot cede an inch on abortion, lest women get the notion into their pretty little heads that their bodies are actually their own too.

You think that those smirking professionally for the Iona Institute on the television all the goddamned time yearn for a return to an Ireland where well-fed men lectured us on morality even as they covered up the systematic rape of children, where the industrial schools destroyed the lives of generations of children, where the very best a woman might hope to be was a second-class citizen, where homosexuality was a crime, where contraception was illegal, where divorce was impossible, where girls died giving birth at grottoes and where young women were enslaved in laundries and their babies were sold to Americans.

Yeah, you’re right.

They are creepy, sex-obsessed reactionaries.

True, in the grand scheme of all the things that Breda O’Brien is wrong about, confusing Jimmy Carter with Bill Clinton is small potatoes. And true, anyone can make a mistake. But it’s actually not that easy to get Jimmy Carter mixed up with Bill Clinton, not if you’re considered educated enough, or aware enough, to be paid to write an Irish Times column on Carter and Clinton’s Democratic Party predecessor, and not if you’re a schoolteacher either.

Facts matter. They matter if you’re a journalist. They matter if you’re a teacher. They even matter if you’re a member of the Iona Institute.

Sorry for all the Wikipedia links. I hear they’re an occasion of sin.

Donal O’Keeffe

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