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John Cooney and John Charles McQuaid (2) - Dodgy Evidence Beggars Belief

This is the HOSTILE review of John Cooney's biography of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. The other reviewers praised the book - with the exception of the child abuse allegations!

John Cooney is very upset because a solicitor for the Christian Brothers said that he is "not the most reputable journalist" and that he was responsible for a "salacious a scurrilous" story about the Archbishop. Perhaps Mr. Cooney will now produce some evidence to back up his paedophilia allegations.


Rory Connor
June 22, 2006

Dodgy Evidence Simply Beggars Belief
Irish Examiner 3 November 1999

........ Unfortunately the Sunday Times is unlikely to help the case of the press in this country with its latest story about Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, because highlighting sordid allegations without proper supporting evidence only antagonises people and undermines the credibility of journalism. John Cooney has been claiming that there is evidence that McQuaid was a homosexual with paedophile tendencies, but he did a very poor job of backing up his allegations in radio interviews earlier this week.

Cooney says his evidence was based on an essay entitled, A Virgin Island, by Noel Browne, who was supposedly told the story by a retired school inspector in 1988, some 30 years after an incident allegedly took place. McQuaid was not even identified.

The story was supposedly based on "the secret and sordid lifestyle" of a "John the Bishop" who was supposedly "revered, respected and above all feared." This bishop is supposed to have molested the son of a Dublin publican by putting his hand on the boy's knee in a private room upstairs in an unidentified bar on some date, possibly in the late 1950s.

At that point the boy fled and his father supposedly then ordered the offender out of his place. If you believe that molestation story, you could believe that Charlie Haughey was riding his horse upstairs in the same pub on the morning of his famous fall.

Cooney had the audacity to suggest his conclusions are based on scholarly research, even though he could not identify the boy, where the incident supposedly happened, or when it occurred. Not to identify the who, when or where of a story is weak journalism, and he continued in terms that raise serious questions about his understanding of scholarly research.

He characterised Noel Browne, for instance, as "a primary source." In scholarly terms, Browne would have been a primary source, if he had been molested by Archbishop McQuaid or personally witnessed the incident, but in this case he should not even be characterised as a secondary source, because the information was at least third hand. Moreover, Cooney went on to suggest that Browne, a trained psychiatrist, went on to suggest that the whole thing is "a classical story of a paranoid schizophrenic."

It would very difficult to think of anyone who would be less objective about McQuaid than Noel Browne. Even if he were a primary source, he would be a dodgy one in this instance, but to place such credence in vague, third hand information some 30 years after a supposed non event, just beggars belief.

Cooney's other information was based on interviews with two boys. One said the archbishop tried to get them to talk about "masturbation and masturbatory fantasies." The boys said that McQuaid was "getting very close at times to them, giving them advice, sometimes even a crucifix to ward off temptation," according to Cooney.

"From the witnesses I've interviewed, " he continued, "they concluded, in effect, he was sexually repressed and they, in later life, recognised that they were very close to very difficult situation, which they managed to avoid because they did not become unduly deferential towards him." In other words, he did not molest them, but they thought he might have tried to do so if they waited around.

If that was their evidence, then there are grounds for suspecting that the two witnesses were doing the fantasising, and one must question the reckless judgement of any author who would jump to such a conclusion on the basis of such weak testimony. Cooney's depiction over the airways of the archbishop as trying to get into somebody's pants with a crucifix sounds much more like a blasphemous fantasy than a piece of solid historical research.

Surely, if we have learned anything about paedophilia in recent years, it is that offenders repeatedly offend. Hence one would assume that if the story was true, there should be plenty of witnesses. Yet in this case no actual witness has been cited. If the archbishop was sexually repressed, then presumably he was not sexually active. Frankly, it would seem normal for a celibate to be sexually repressed, not the other way around!

Cooney says that people should read the book before judging him. There is a great need for a good biography of Archbishop McQuaid. Nobody is ever likely to accuse me of being an admirer of the archbishop, because, frankly, I would be prepared to believe just about anything about him, or anyone else, provided there was proper evidence.

John Cooney has not served himself well by seeking pre publicity in such a shoddy fashion. The Sunday Times is going to serialise the book, but that newspaper also hyped Emily O?Reilly's hatchet job on Veronica Guerin. That book did not stand up.

Cooney's behaviour in seeking such sordid publicity is regrettable, because he is bringing Irish journalism into disrepute