A solicitor for the Christian Brothers said at a meeting of the Child Abuse Commission on 19 June that John Cooney was "not the most reputable journalist" and that he was responsible for a "salacious and scurrilous story" which he had written in his book "John Charles McQuaid, Ruler of Catholic Ireland". Cooney claimed that Archbishop McQuaid was a paedophile. He is now threatening to take legal action for "gross defamation and character assassination". Well he would be an expert on those issues.
I have a small archive on John Cooney. The attached are extracts from reviews by historians WHO GENERALLY SUPPORT JOHN COONEY AND PRAISE HIS BOOK. However they strongly object to his allegations about paedophilia.
June 22, 2006
(1) DERMOT KEOGH, Professor of History, University College Cork
from Studies magazine, Summer 2000.....
The impact on the reader of the original research and content of this book is often weakened by the aggressiveness of the editorial packaging. The author's decision to allow his work to be serialised in an English Sunday newspaper further sharpened the perception of the aggressive manner in which the book was written. In thirty years of working in archives on a range of twentieth century topics - most especially Church-State relations - I have never seen any documentary evidence, nor heard so much as a whisper, that would cast a negative light on Archbishop McQuaid's relationship with boys in his charge as an educator or as a prelate. Mr Cooney's use of the Noel Browne source in this volume is wholly unconvincing by the professional canons of a journalist, an historian or a jurist. It simply showed lamentable judgment in the use of both "evidence" and "archives" and the author ought to revise his views if for no other reason than to moderate the unwarranted hurt caused to the many friends and family of the late archbishop. It is unfortunate that wholly unnecessary controversy should damage a volume which has been the product of many years of research and hard work.
(2) JOHN A. MURPHY, Emeritus Professor of Irish History, University College Cork
Sunday Independent November 21st 1999
John A Murphy hails a vivid biography and says the silly bits should be disregarded ........
What a pity then that its publication was preceded by a tawdry controversy about the archbishop's alleged paedophiliac proclivities. The author was badly served by this as it diverted attention from the substance of a serious biographical study. The dustjacket does not even mention the sex allegations which in the text account for only four pages or so out of more than five hundred. Cooney was unwise to let himself be mixed in these media discussions, doggedly insisting that the allegations would be substantiated when the book appeared.
Well, a close scrutiny of the controversial pages and their accompanying references, confirms beyond doubt that there is no firm evidence the archbishop was ever involved in any paedophiliac activity. The whole thing is a bottle of smoke. The `documentation' is nothing more than third-hand stuff, anonymous opinions, subjective impressions, hearsay, duirt se - duirt si [Gaelic for "he said - she said].The notion that Noel Browne's semi-fictional essay `A Virgin Ireland' is a primary source is just plain silly. Browne's notorious bias makes him an unreliable witness, and his description of McQuaid as a `pederast' (a man who indulges in sexual activity with a boy) is outrageous defamation. In short, it was an error of judgement on John Cooney's part ever to have dragged this grotesquely sleazy stuff into an important book.
(3) RONAN FANNING , Professor of History, University College Dublin
Sunday Independent December 5th 1999
His iconic stature as a great hate-figure distorts a proper understanding of Archbishop JC McQuaid, says.
JOHN A MURPHY'S review two weeks ago in the Sunday Independent warmly commended John Cooney's biography of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid with an injunction to disregard the silliness and grotesque sleaze of the few pages dealing with Noel Browne's unsubstantiated allegations that the archbishop was a paedophile. With that qualified commendation I can only agree, as I likewise agree with Professor Murphy's judgement that this is an important book which should be read by all those interested in the history of independent Ireland.
(4) JOHN HORGAN (biographer of Doctor Noel Browne)
Extract from article in Commonweal 10 March 2000
The allegation, made in a new biography of John Charles McQuaid, archbishop of Dublin from 1940 to 1972, that this most powerful prelate in twentieth-century Ireland was a pedophile, has poured salt into an open wound in the Catholic church in Ireland. That wound was opened only in the past couple of years, but as yet it shows no sign of healing. THE ALLEGATION IS NOT WELL DOCUMENTED,*** but it is a measure of the controversy that swirled around McQuaid during his life that even an anonymous accusation (which, in effect, this is) has introduced a wide new seam of debate. Many well-known liberals, who engaged in fierce critiques of McQuaid while he was alive, have attacked the biographer's use of anonymous sources.
*** well John Horgan should know. He wrote the only biography of Doctor Noel Browne that is ever likely to be written.