Dissing the famous: Kevin Myers
by Donal Kennedy
IT'S A moot point whether Kevin Myers is a canker in the body politick. It's beyond dispute that he is a 'something in the world of letters'. In politics he is an unreconstructed republican, but not of an Irish stripe. More of the American neo-con stars and stripes. Or, considering his views on race and immigration, of the stars and bars of Dixie.
He is highly favoured by the Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph and in the Irish Independent. He has published at least one novel.
Mention of the Irish Independent reminds me how, on a visit to Dublin, King Edward VII publicly offered to dub William Martin Murphy, hammer of the trade unions and owner of the Independent group, a Knight of the Realm, and how Murphy had sufficient Irish self-respect to rebuff him in public. James Plunkett's novel Strumpet City on the great Dublin lockout of 1913, recently reissued, recreates the scene.
If Queen Elizabeth succumbs to the strumpet-like importunity of some Irish journalists to visit Dublin there will be no need for the Indo's current owner, formerly known as Tony O'Reilly, to bow the knee, for he has already done so and got a knighthood. Her Majesty might want to reward mere scribblers for giving comfort and joy to her forces. I'd be surprised if Myers would not be happy with a knighthood, and a certain Tara Street-Walker might well expect to be called a Dame.
I first became aware of Kevin Myers many years ago when he wrote an Irishman's Diary in the Irish Times. As I worked in outer London then and the paper was always a day late his column was another reason I didn't bother to get it much.
When the Indo became available on the day of publication I didn't bother with it either. In my youth it had been more Catholic than the Pope and it was now overcompensating for its pietism. Its new gods did not appeal to me.
Anyhow, when, about ten years after the Indo began printing in London the Irish Times followed suit. I started buying it every day. Whereas the Indo was rotten through and through the Irish Times was, like the Curate's egg in the Punch cartoon, good in parts.
But not in those parts written by Kevin Myers. Irish republicans from Wolfe Tone on were the villains of history, trade unionists a plague, the Irish language, its speakers and enthusiasts unworthy of citizenship, and every blackguard, renegade and mercenary who ever did dirty work for British or other imperialism a certain candidate for canonisation.
He became the Laureate of Poppycock and Tommyrot and the inspiration for a small organisation of anti-national ex-servicemen whose influence depends on ignorance of history and a lack of principle and moral scruple.
Myers purports to be something of an authority on the First World War and does not find this incompatible with his Islamophobia. He believes there should be no place in France for North African Muslims.
I have myself seen places in France chock-full of North African Muslims. French military graveyards where headstones are embossed with the crescent of Islam and the legend "Mort Pour La France." Nearby, in German military graveyards I have seen gravestones of Kaiser Wilhelm's soldiers decorated with the Star of David. And in British graveyards the graves of Dublin and Inniskilling Fusiliers side by side. I wrote about that visit in the Irish Democrat July 1986 .
Until 1962, Algeria was held as part of Metropolitan France. As Mrs Thatcher could have put it "Algiers was as French as Calais." It follows that Algerians were entitled to settle in Calais and to raise families there, and as Muslims if that was their choice. When France surrendered to Hitler in 1940 and set up a collaborationist government, and the dissident General de Gaulle broadcast a call to arms from London it was North Africans who rallied to the Tricolour.
But Mr Myers, born in 1947 and holding a degree in history from the National University of Ireland, is apparently oblivious of modern history and French theatres of war from 1914 to his own teenage years.
But ignorance is bliss to Myers and no curb to his conceit.
He's written of his time in Belfast in the 1970s, boasting of his sexual conquests. A swashbuckling matinee idol, such as David Niven, can deal with such matters so with style. But anyone with the leaden humour of Kevin Myers would be better advised to buckle his trouserbelt and button his lip on such matters.
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Copyright © 2001 Connolly Publications Ltd