Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris (born 1943) is an Irish journalist, playwright, director, columnist and politician. He writes for the Sunday Independent newspaper. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern nominated him to Seanad Éireann in 2007, where he served until 2011.[2]

Eoghan Harris
Senator
In office
August 2007 – April 2011
ConstituencyNominated by the Taoiseach
Personal details
Born1942/1943 (age 77–78)[1]
Douglas, County Cork, Ireland
NationalityIrish
Political partyIndependent
Other political
affiliations
Workers' Party of Ireland
Fianna Fáil
Spouse(s)Gwendoline Halley
Anne Harris (div.)
Alma materUniversity College Cork

Harris has held posts in various and diverse political parties throughout his career. Previously a Marxist theoretician of the Workers' Party of Ireland and its predecessor, Official Sinn Féin, he has since stated that he abhors Marxism. He was a short-lived adviser to John Bruton, before he became Taoiseach;[3] an adviser to the Ulster Unionist Party;[4] and, more recently, a supporter of the Fianna Fáil-led government of Bertie Ahern. At one stage an Irish republican, Harris is now a bitter critic of modern-day Sinn Féin. His critics accuse him of demonstrating ideological malleability, hypocrisy, neoconservatism and inconsistency.[5]

Harris is also noted for his screenwriting work. He lectures at IADT (the Irish national film school) and teaches a screenwriting workshop.

Early lifeEdit

Harris was born in Douglas, County Cork, a village on the outskirts of Cork city, in 1943. He was educated at University College Cork (UCC), where he studied English and History.

CareerEdit

Media involvementEdit

Harris worked at Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), the Irish national television broadcaster, on current affairs programmes such as 7 Days and Féach. He also made a documentary on mental illness, entitled Darkness Visible.

It was reported[when?] in The Sunday Times (Irish edition) that Harris was at the centre of an internal investigation at the National Film School in Dún Laoghaire, where he lectures.[citation needed] Harris has also incorrectly, albeit accidentally, said he received a Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in his entry in 'Who's Who' in Ireland, for his documentary Darkness Visible. Harris insisted that he did win the award, saying that the Berlin Film Festival "mustn't keep proper records". The award he actually received is the Prix Futura, awarded at the Berlin Television Festival. He has since corrected the mistake.

Harris writes a column for the Sunday Independent.

In 2004, an angry RTÉ viewer, Kilmacud Crokes player Hugh Gannon, confronted Harris regarding the Sunday Independent's editorial. This happened after an episode of Questions & Answers, with Gannon implying Harris was a lackey for Tony O'Reilly. Harris reacted angrily to this, dismissed Gannon as a "Shinner" and presenter John Bowman had to step in to separate the two men. Bowman suggested that the men agree to disagree, but Gannon, a 1998 Leinster Minor Hurling Championship medallist and staunch Fine Gael supporter, suggested: "No. Let's agree that you agree with me."

Harris was featured on the front cover of the August 2007 edition of Village. Inside, Harris was the subject of a number of critical articles[6] written by Vincent Browne.[vague]

Harris has defended the Irish-language poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh, who admitted buying lavish gifts for and having sex with 16 to 18-year-old boys while on charitable visits to Nepal. Harris pointed out that Ó Searcaigh was not a paedophile but rather a paederast, a sexual preference which was common among the great philosophers of Ancient Greece, and that the age of consent in Nepal is 16. He also wrote that Nepal is a notoriously homophobic society, and that some of the accusers may have their own agendas.[7]

Harris has been strongly antagonistic towards the Croke Park Agreement, arguing that the levels of pay it guarantees to public sector workers are "choking social solidarity".[8]

Harris has written in the Sunday Independent about Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.[citation needed] He is a judge on the Irish language talent show Glas Vegas, on TG4.[citation needed]

RTÉEdit

Harris was for a time a central figure in shaping the current affairs output of Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ).[9] He pushed the organisation towards a perspective heavily critical of Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA. It was stated in the November 1997 issue of Magill magazine that he set up an RTÉ branch of the Workers' Party called the "Ned Stapleton Cumann", which gave the party considerable influence in RTÉ. Michael O'Leary, then leader of the Labour Party, commented that RTÉ current affairs coverage was "Stickie orientated", a reference to the Official IRA, from which the Provisional IRA had split in the 1970s. Those who supported Harris within RTÉ became known as "the brood of Harris".[10] The tensions within the organisation, between journalists such as Mary McAleese and Alex White on one side and the Workers' Party members on the other, led to major disagreements at the station and to criticism of what was perceived as its anti-republican political agenda. Harris recruited Charlie Bird (then a member of Official Sinn Féin) and Marian Finucane to RTÉ in the 1970s.[11]

Harris continues to supply programme material to RTÉ through Praxis Films, the independent film company he runs with Gerry Gregg, formerly an RTÉ and Workers' Party associate. In 2012 RTÉ upheld a complaint against a Praxis documentary, An Tost Fada (The Long Silence), written and narrated by Harris, and produced and directed by Gregg.[12] The programme subject matter concerned Harris's controversial belief that some actions in the Irish War of Independence were sectarian, and involved the IRA targeting Protestants. Previously, in 2007, Harris participated in an equally controversial programme, Guns and Neighbours: The Killings at Coolacrease (Reel Story Productions), in which it was alleged that two Protestant farmers in County Offaly, killed by the IRA in June 1920, were killed for sectarian reasons.[13]

Poblacht ChríostúilEdit

In the Cork Mid by-election in March 1965[14] he campaigned for Sylvester Cotter, who was standing for Poblacht Chríostúil. At this time Harris met his future wife, UCC student Anne O'Sullivan. The aim of the party was "to base the social and economic policies of our country on Christian social reform, as elaborated by the last six Popes."[15]

Sinn Féin to Workers' PartyEdit

Harris was a leading Irish republican in Sinn Féin in the 1960s, and was an important influence in the party's move from Irish nationalism to Marxism, a political ideology which Harris later said he abhorred. During the 1970 split of the movement into Provisional Sinn Féin and Official Sinn Féin, he was close to leading Official Sinn Féin members Eamonn Smullen and Cathal Goulding, the latter of whom was at the time Chief of Staff of the paramilitary Official Irish Republican Army. Alongside Smullen, who had spent many years in British prisons for IRA activities, Harris worked in the Republican Industrial Development Division, an organisation set up in 1972 by Seamus Costello to co-ordinate trade union activities, along with John Caden, Des Geraghty and others.[16]

According to Henry Patterson in his book The Politics of Illusion, Harris's pamphlet Irish Industrial Revolution (1975) was influential in shifting the party away from republicanism. Harris continued to do media work for it as it became the Workers' Party of Ireland. However, in 1990 he published a pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Social Democracy in which he surmised that socialism would not survive the Revolutions of 1989. He called for a shift to social democracy and that the party should seek a historic compromise with the social democratic wings of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. The document was initially submitted by Eamonn Smullen on Harris's behalf for publication in the party's theoretical magazine Making Sense, but when this was refused, Harris and Smullen published it themselves as a publication of the party's Economic Affairs Department, of which Smullen was head. When the pamphlet began to circulate it was banned by the Workers' Party, and Smullen was suspended from his position on the committee. Harris resigned in protest and Smullen resigned subsequently, along with many of the members of the Research Section of the party. This was the prelude to a bigger split in 1992, when senior members alleged that the supposedly moribund Official IRA still existed and was implicated in criminality, and sought to move to some extent in the direction proposed earlier by Harris.

In 2006, during an RTÉ Television debate Harris stated that the leaders of the Easter Rising were "suicide bombers, I mean suicide terrorists".[17]

1990 presidential campaignEdit

The Labour Party and the Workers' Party jointly nominated former senator Mary Robinson to be their candidate for President of Ireland at the 1990 presidential election. While Harris's strategy proposal is thought, by some, to have been significant in the rebranding of Robinson, just how influential he was remains a matter of much controversy. Robinson and her campaign team blamed him for a near-fatal change in tactics: having previously been non-combative in dealing with the controversies that had engulfed the recently dismissed Tánaiste Brian Lenihan, Harris pressured Robinson into going on the offensive on a live debate on the current affairs programme Today Tonight. This action was generally seen to have backfired horribly. Harris made three election videos for the Robinson campaign, and claims to have been responsible for a memorable line from her acceptance speech: "the hand that rocked the cradle rocked the system." Robinson won the election, becoming Ireland's first female President.

1991 Fine Gael ArdfheisEdit

After the Robinson campaign, Harris was asked to work for Fine Gael by its leader, John Bruton. However, he received criticism from both within and outside the party in April 1991, when he wrote the script for a sketch for the Fine Gael Ardfheis in which a cleaner (played by the comedy actress Twink) interrupted the leader's speech. The sketch was criticised as being in bad taste and tacky, particularly in its references to a controversial incident that had made the news, wherein a female reporter from RTÉ had allegedly been groped by an inebriated Fianna Fáil TD. Its catchphrase Úna gan gúna ("Úna without her dress" in Irish) was deemed sexist and demeaning of a victim of alleged improper conduct.

Northern Ireland peace processEdit

Harris, along with fellow Sunday Independent columnist Eamon Dunphy, became an outspoken critic of Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume over Hume's decision to hold talks with Sinn Féin prior to an IRA ceasefire. Harris urged the Irish government, at the time led by his friend John Bruton, to end all support for Hume's peace efforts. He wrote, "If we persist with the peace process it will end with sectarian slaughter in the North, with bombs in Dublin, Cork and Galway, and with the ruthless reign by provisional gangs over the ghettos of Dublin. The only way to avoid this abyss is to cut the cord to John Hume".[18] Hume argued that he was seeking to convince republicans to abandon violence. Harris praised the resulting Good Friday Agreement. Hume and David Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for their efforts. Harris became an advisor in the late 1990s to Trimble, the then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. He wrote some of Trimble's speeches, one of which included the line that Northern Ireland had been "a cold house for Catholics." He was invited to address the UUP annual conference in 1999, where he described the Belfast Agreement as "an Amazing Grace" and urged the UUP to make a leap of faith in Sinn Féin. They eventually did so, forming a power-sharing executive, although it was later suspended on the issue of the failure of the IRA to decommission its arms.

Iraq WarEdit

Harris strongly supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and is unrepentant about its morality, writing in the Sunday Independent that "hindsight history has no moral status". In May 2003, he wrote "Already, as I predicted in the lead up to the war, the neoconservative hawks have done much better than the liberals in getting down to the dynamics of opening up the gulf to democracy. Already, and this I predicted too, there is substantial hope for an Israeli–Palestinian settlement now that Saddam no longer scowls at Israel". Commenting in November 2003 about the English journalist Robert Fisk, he wrote: "Far from wanting to pour venom on Fisk, I think he does us a favour by being so forthright. For my money his analysis of Middle East politics is a first cousin to believing that aliens take away people in flying saucers."[19]

Harris gave media training to Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi in advance of the invasion of Iraq, and wrote in the Irish Independent that:

I first met Chalabi in Washington in March 2001, in the company of Richard Perle, a few months after George W Bush had been elected, and met later in London where I gave him some media training. We bonded from the start, and the basis of the bond was his instinctive feel for Ireland.[20]

Chalabi was one of the sources for the false intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.[21]

Relationship with Fianna FáilEdit

In 1997, Harris denounced Fianna Fáil presidential candidate Mary McAleese, calling her a "tribal time bomb" and writing "if she wins not on a technicality but because so many people gave her their number one, then I am living in a country I no longer understand." McAleese won, and Harris later expressed regret for his sentiments and praised her presidency.[22]

Harris in the mid 2000s (decade) began endorsing the centrist, populist Fianna Fáil, which was in a coalition government with the neo-liberal Progressive Democrats. Harris was one of a minority of journalists to support Bertie Ahern during the "Bertiegate I" crisis, during which questions were raised over Ahern's financial propriety. Harris heavily supported Ahern and Fianna Fáil in the 2007 general election. Some alleged that the Sunday Independent's editorial stance prior to the election amounted to a U-turn from previous criticism of the government, but Harris explicitly denied there had been any U-turn or that the attitude of journalists at the paper was influenced by an alleged meeting between the deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, Brian Cowen and the owner of Independent News & Media, Tony O'Reilly.

Shortly before the election, Harris appeared on The Late Late Show on RTÉ, in which he praised Ahern and poured scorn on those criticising him over his personal finances. Harris's Late Late Show appearance coincided with a rise in support for the Government.[23] Harris also claimed that other newspapers, namely The Irish Times and The Irish Daily Mail waged an anti-Ahern campaign.[24] All other news outlets dismissed the claim, with most accusing Harris and the Sunday Independent of doing its own U-turn following a Cowen-O'Reilly meeting. (The paper had previously been highly critical of Ahern's failure to reform stamp duty, but after the meeting this criticism stopped. Soon thereafter Fianna Fáil promised to carry such reform, if re-elected. This is what later transpired.)

In February 2008, Director-General of RTÉ Cathal Goan and RTÉ director of news Ed Mulhall appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Communications. Both men stated that they were "uncomfortable" about Harris's appearance on The Late Late Show as it took place so soon before the election.[25]

During a live radio debate on Today FM's The Last Word with Matt Cooper (an election special, on 26 May 2007), when Fintan O'Toole denied Harris's claims of a campaign by The Irish Times (the newspaper for which O'Toole was a columnist) against Ahern, and accused the Sunday Independent of having its own political agenda, Harris left of the studio mid-debate. During the debate Harris said that the decision[by whom?] to support the Government was taken because "we got what we wanted on stamp duty".[26]

On the RTÉ Radio 1 programme News at One on 3 December 2007, Harris strongly defended Bertie Ahern, saying that the Irish Daily Mail was a 'lying newspaper', which practised 'sensationalist, sick journalism' and which had a 'record of fascist appeasement in the 1930s'. He also said that the Mahon Tribunal should be shut down because "there is no natural justice available", and that in ten years time "people will look back and say that the Tribunal time was scoundrel time". The Irish Daily Mail denied his allegations.[27] In a debate with Fintan O'Toole on the RTÉ TV Primetime programme on 4 December 2007, Harris further alleged that "the entire (Mahon) Tribunal is a fantasy of [Tom] Gilmartin".[28]

During an interview with Ursula Halligan on the TV3 programme The Political Party broadcast on 9 December 2007, Harris threatened to walk out because he did not wish to further discuss Bertie Ahern's appearances at the Mahon Tribunal. He then changed his mind and asked that the programme be re-recorded, but Halligan informed him that this not possible.[29] The show was recorded live and therefore could not have been stopped.

Ahern nominated Harris to Seanad Éireann on 3 August 2007, where he served until April 2011.[30]

Personal lifeEdit

Harris's ex-wife, Anne, was deputy editor and subsequently editor of the Sunday Independent. In December 2007, Harris married Gwendoline Halley, from Waterford in southeast Ireland.

HealthEdit

Harris has had cancer. Writing in the 3 May 2020 edition of the Sunday Independent, Harris - aged 77 - stated that his cancer had returned.[1] Harris had written his previous column from an emergency department in a Dublin hospital.[31] Sworn enemies wished him well, with Fergus Finlay writing in the Irish Examiner: "Eoghan Harris’s self-aggrandisement might drive me nuts at times, but contrary as he is, his would be a voice that we would all miss if it was forced to be quiet for too long".[32]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Harris, Eoghan (3 May 2020). "My cancer is back but it wouldn't be right to protect my life at any cost to young people". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 3 May 2020. Last week, I got the grim news that my dormant prostate cancer had woken, red in tooth and claw, and was roaming around other areas - which meant a return to hospital. Accordingly, at 77 years of age, and with a serious illness...
  2. ^ "Eoghan Harris". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  3. ^ Harris continues his dramatic political evolution[permanent dead link]Sunday Business Post article, 5 August 2007.
  4. ^ https://www.tribune.ie/article/2007/aug/05/tally-ho-bertie/[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ [1] Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Village Magazine". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2007. [subscription required]
  7. ^ Eoghan Harris (10 February 2008). "Fairytale ending so sad and predictable". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012.
  8. ^ Harris, Eoghan (11 December 2011). "Critics of the Croke Park Deal will not be muzzled". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  9. ^ "The story of the revolutionaries working inside RTE - Times Online". Archived from the original on 1 March 2011.
  10. ^ Political Chameleon is bound to give Upper House some colour
  11. ^ Expect to find me smiling in a serene and Senatorial way
  12. ^ RTE upholds complaint against Eoghan Harris programme on War of independence
  13. ^ Hidden History or hidden agenda – the real story
  14. ^ Mid-Cork By Election 1965
  15. ^ Party's basic Positions, The Irish Times, 29 March 1965.
  16. ^ Hanley, Brian; Millar, Scott (2009). The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. p. 244. ISBN 978-1-84488-120-8.
  17. ^ Logged in as click here to log out (13 April 2006). "Rising folly | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk". London: Commentisfree.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  18. ^ http://www.phoblacht.net/CC0905067g.html
  19. ^ Airkissing the Terrorists call it Luvvies actually
  20. ^ Spring days (23 October 2005). "Thank you Chalabi, thank you Persia – Analysis, Opinion". Independent.ie. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  21. ^ "The Truth About Ahmed Chalabi: Why the US Turned Against Their Former Golden Boy—He Was Preparing a Coup". Democracy Now!. 21 May 2004.
  22. ^ See First Citizen: Mary McAleese and the Irish Presidency by Patsy McGarry, The O'Brien Press, 2008.
  23. ^ http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2007/08/05 Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ https://www.webcitation.org/5QeHq8qPT?url=http://www.villagemagazine.ie/article.asp?sid=1. Archived from the original on 27 July 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2006. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ TV Bosses uneasy at Harris on Late Late Show
  26. ^ http://audio.todayfm.com
  27. ^ RTÉ News https://web.archive.org/web/20110301232805/http://dynamic.rte.ie/av/news1pm/2314548.smil. Archived from the original on 1 March 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "RTÉ News: Prime Time". RTÉ.ie. Archived from the original on 19 December 2007. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  29. ^ "Eoghan Harris has enough on TV3's The Political Party". YouTube. 9 December 2007. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  30. ^ "Eoghan Harris". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  31. ^ Harris, Eoghan (26 April 2020). "Stereotyping can be funny but only if there's no malign agenda". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  32. ^ Finlay, Fergus (5 May 2020). "The people will have the final word on pandemic". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 5 May 2020.

SourcesEdit

External linksEdit