Brendan Kelly Palenque
Eoghan Harris took on the controversy that erupted last night after it was revealed that the former senator had admitted to running an anonymous Twitter account / p> He spoke to Sarah McInerney about Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1 tonight, and this is the full transcript of what he said.
Eoghan Harris: I was one of the founders of the website. Lately, just being healthy, I haven’t had the energy for it. I took a back seat and was more of a consultant. So, talk to a group of people, five or six people on this site.
EH: Right, you know I’m a weekly political columnist and my politics are well known, but I couldn’t get my readers to all of them every week to visit the things in Northern Ireland that I wanted to address. In particular, I was a close friend of David Ervine’s and Gusty Spence’s, and I have very strong views of the Protestant and loyalist working class and I felt that they were very alienated. And I wanted access to mostly loyalists and unionists to reassure them that many people in the republic had no agenda against them and no drafts on them and no malicious intentions about them. And I could do that on this page. By the way, Sarah, there is a long tradition of anonymous pamphleteering. The American Founding Fathers all did it, Edmund Burke did it. I had no problem admitting my involvement when asked about it. But others on the site have been a little reluctant to do so because they are just afraid of Sinn Féin. And of course that is the context of this whole thing, is my policy. And my strong beliefs. And I felt like I needed that outlet. And the website is available to everyone and I think if you go to that website you will see go back as far as you want and you will see consistent efforts to reassure trade unionists and working class loyalists. And lately they have had no choice but to accept the protocol, so to speak soak up it, and try to live with it. It was irresponsible.
SM: To be very clear, the people that are involved – actually, I could ask you who are the people that are involved in this site?
EH: I can’t if they insisted that their names should not be mentioned. I won’t give their names.
EH: But they would be historians and trade unionists, and many of them are of the older generation, like trade unionists and trade unionists. And business people actually.
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EH: No, there are no other journalists. I suppose there are quite an extraordinary number of business people involved in Northern Ireland, commercial business, etc. And they would contribute material from time to time.
SM: Sorry, I just want to know what you mean by extraordinary numbers. Sorry Eoghan, I just want to get this straight. They say an “extraordinary number”. I thought you said six people were involved?
EH: No, I mean an extraordinary number of business people are interested in the site, I mean. And of the six, two are business people you know? Who has working relationships with the North.
EH: They wouldn’t be, but they would be people with a lot of experience and knowledge of Northern Ireland. People who have been into it in one way or another for the past forty years, maybe fifty years.
SM: Okay. And do I understand you correctly when I say the reason for the anonymity was that you and the others were concerned about Sinn Féin and the reaction you would get from Sinn Féin. Is that your reason for being anonymous?
EH: Well, that’s your reason for being anonymous. I was anonymous because they were anonymous. But when asked about it, I had no problem admitting my involvement. I mean, no one has outdone me. I have outdone myself. When asked by my colleagues if I had access to the people on the site, I said, “I have”. And I had no problem admitting that. But the others in the group, they are nervous people, they would be nervous about Sinn Féin. They just didn’t want their names mentioned.
SM: Right. I’m not sure if someone who listens at home will understand why you had the need to set up an anonymous Twitter account which, in many cases, tweeted abusive tweets from journalists and others in public.
EH: First, as I told you, I couldn’t write about Northern Ireland every week in my column. Second, I always named journalists, I was never afraid of it. And that’s probably one of the reasons why, like this call from RTÉ, they so rarely participate. Basically, I am not a person in RTÉ terms. I have very few platforms and couldn’t turn Northern Irish stuff upside down every Sunday for my readers. So I needed a point of sale to reach people in Northern Ireland who I was feeling.
SM: Okay. So why not set up a Twitter account under the name Eoghan Harris to do this?
EH: Because I needed other people’s help. I just wanted others to help and help me.
SM: Wouldn’t it have been possible to set up a Twitter account under the name Eoghan Harris and accept their help anonymously without naming her?
EH: Well, I just didn’t notice that at the time. We just wanted to operate as a group under some kind of pseudonym. It just didn’t come about.
SM: And it’s possible that the reason you wanted to work under a pseudonym is because, as stated by Alan English, the editor of the Sunday Independent, many of the people on this report published views in a national newspaper could not be published. And he said, “Often went well beyond what I consider a fair and reasonable comment.” Was that the real reason for being anonymous?
EH: No, I mean, that’s his point of view, and he’s been a partisan on the matter since he terminated my contract. I don’t think a fair person going through this account would agree that it is anything but a benevolent account intended to reassure Northern Unionists and loyalists. There are very few rough passages in it, and they are all aimed at people who are good at defending themselves.
SM: Well, one of them – the account has been deleted, so much of the messages can no longer be seen – but I’m sure you know that Aoife Grace Moore, a journalist for Irish examiners, tweeted that the account she sent, and I quote, “sexualized messages about whether Mary Lou McDonald” turned me on ” , the size of my ass and called me a terrorist from the month I started at the auditor. Since then, “she tweeted,” I’ve had to go to counseling and the guards. “It doesn’t sound like she has had a good experience with the account.
EH: Well there were two posts, one of which said that even though she was hiding, you could still see her bum. You could say that you see the bum of every male politician who hides his politics. This is not gender specific.
SM: This tweet you are referring to, for listeners only, I have the text here. It says: “Moore thinks she’s safely cutting out from behind derry hedges, but she’s actually flicking off an ROI hedge in the examiner and her Sinn Féin bum sticks out in the air.”
EH: You can do that too say about every male politician. Nothing is sexualized. There is nothing sexually offensive about it. It’s robust and more humorous than anything.
EH: No, I haven’t. Can we move on to the other thing that she finds offensive? Just because I said she was “turned on” by Mary Lou McDonald’s speech, she finds it sexually offensive. But one could certainly say about me that Micheál Martin’s speech turned on me and nobody would think of it. It’s a saying.
SM: If you don’t mind Eoghan, let’s move on from Aoife Grace Moore. How many times would you have personally tweeted from the account?
EH: I’ve been tweeting most of the time effectively on the log. I kind of do all the heavy lifting about protocols, Good Friday agreements and all that. I do all that stuff.
EH: No, I wouldn’t. I would see some of them and not others. I might see them all until a year ago, but for health reasons there was only a lot I could do. There wasn’t much I could do.
SM: Were you the person who tweeted on the Barbara Pym account how an Irish auditor journalist liked a tweet related to a Sinn Féin TD and the comment out the Barbara Pym account read: “There was a fool like an Irish Examiner Hack. No, for once it wasn’t Aoife Moore. “
EH: I don’t remember it and I can’t remember it. And I don’t remember doing it. I certainly didn’t do it myself, I have no knowledge of it.
EH: You are very well informed. You dug a lot. It’s a shame that you wouldn’t be rummaging through Sinn Féin’s Abú account like that. RTÉ did not deal with the situation in Abú at all until it became a big story. It’s amazing how much you dig with Sinn Fein’s only political opponent. Because I’m almost alone in Ireland to warn of the danger of Sinn Féin fascism. And RTÉ, which never invites me to sit down, and you dig a lot with your researchers, and yet you never research Sinn Fein’s hand luggage. It’s a bunch.
SM: Okay. Do you think this is a benign tweet? Calling an Irish examiner a “fool” and then mentioning that for once it wasn’t Aoife Moore?
EH: It depends on what the journalist did or wrote. If they had written some of the things that many Irish journalists do that make Sinn Féin possible and help Sinn Féin in its campaign, then it would probably be justified. But I need to know the context because you’re shy.
EH: I heard the tweet. But I have to know the context and the name of the journalist and what the journalist wrote before I say anything about it.
SM: Okay, so there is a context in which it is fine, from an anonymous one Tweet an account someone sent you?
EH: Hey, I put names on my column every Sunday. I’m not shy about giving names. This is all kind of Dúirt Bean Liom Go Ndúirt Bean Leí stuff. Conclusion: I am one of the few journalists in Ireland who tackles Sinn Féin at the hard end. I opened a new account to deal with them in Northern Ireland. Yes, if I made mistakes, it was not out of malice, but because of my genuine, deep belief that Sinn Féin is an evil force on this island.
SM: Do you think, Eoghan, that anything in the tweets, sent from the Barbara Pym account was abusive, hurtful, misogynistic – any of that?
EH: Sarah, not me. I think it was robust political tweets aimed at very tough, political people.
SM: Okay. And the reason you sent them anonymously is because it never crossed your mind that you could use your own name and seek advice from other people.
EH: It certainly crosses my mind come to use my own name but just felt when I was in a group of people that I just didn’t want to sit there and have to consult with them all the time. It was a lot easier to do that way. But I am not afraid. In my opinion, anonymity is not a problem. Anonymity has been the basis of polemical polemics for centuries.
EH: This question was asked by Alan English. Sinn Féin regularly accuses me of being involved in a number of accounts. If I had really done it, and if really and if I could really curate all of the accounts they blocked on Twitter, that they are investigating – most of them will be fine in my opinion – I’d love to be a Superman / p> EH: The answer is no. What I am adding to this is that not only am I not associated, but Sinn Féin trolls and main Sinn Féin characters regularly accuse me of being associated with other accounts and if they were right I would be a superman. p> EH: No. I would have to find a point of sale to deal with Northern Ireland one way or another. It’s my life. All my life people say I am inconsistent. I have consistently thought all my life that Sinn Féin is an evil force that will eventually draw us into some kind of civil war if you don’t fight it. And most Irish journalists don’t object. And the reason I’m here on the end of a phone today is for the first time in a long time that RTÉ asked me to talk about anything.
EH: And that bothers me. A year ago? A year ago, yes? The first time my column was mentioned in the papers was when I was in trouble. It was the standard joke when I was on Sean O’Rourke that I was in trouble when he called me. That’s the only RTÉ that calls me when I’m in trouble.
SM: Okay. The Irish Times has only been reporting in the past few minutes that Twitter has suspended nine accounts associated with you.
EH: No, they are not associated with me. They banned nine Twitter accounts that supported the political line at different times or retweeted my stuff. They clearly did it in response to great pressure, and I suspect the pressure is from Sinn Féin. I think hundreds of Sinn Féin-led agents have
EH: Please let me finish here. I believe they banned nine Twitter accounts. They just make these wild chargers associated with me. All these reports have ever done was retweet political tweets from Barbara Pym’s accounts to support my line. Just to support an anti-sense Féin line, it is enough to block a Twitter account.
SM: But that’s not all these accounts have ever done. I had personal experience with the Barbara Pym account that I had to mute because of the tweets they sent regarding me and me.
SM: They were personalized, which is why I muted the accounts. Because they were personalized and abusive. I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and have only muted 15 accounts in that time. The Irish Times also unearthed a quote from you in Hot Press in 2008, quoting you as such: “I have strong views on the abuse of internet boards like politik.ie by political nerds who need anonymity to function. I’ve always seen them as “and there is a statement relating to people there,” in a room and hiding behind the computer while they write nasty pieces. “What would you tell people that this is a bit hypocritical?
EH: I would say that was then and that is now. That was before Sinn Féin cast that big vote in the elections. That was before we found out about Sinn Féin’s media campaign.
SM: Apologize to the huge amount of people on social media who have said in the past 24 hours that they found tweets on this account hurtful and abusive ?
SM: You know, I suppose this is Eoghan. Most people would agree that you have the right to freedom of expression about your views on Sinn Féin, which are obviously very strong You had the right to express these views in a very large Sunday newspaper every week. You had the right to blog post if you wanted to continue writing about it during the week. You had the right to create a named Twitter account, whom n you wanted to continue writing about it. You had the right to set up a podcast if you wanted to keep talking about it. There were many different ways you could get your views across without reestablishing an anonymous account that regularly tweeted abusive tweets to journalists and other public figures.
EH: You say that. I would deny it tweeted abusive tweets. I believe anyone who goes on this account – let them go on this account – I believe any fair person would view this account as a generally harmless account that does not tweet abuse against people. And when it comes to tweeting criticism of people, they deserve it because they’re usually Sinn Féin enablers, henchmen, or farmers.
SM: Especially then, along with the various other tweets we’ve discussed, the Barbara Pym account regularly tweets about how great you are and how good you are at your job. I’ll give you a few examples. “Harris gave us a wonderful lecture on Wellington and O’Connell in Kilkenny. He sang and made good jokes. He has the character of a happy warrior.” “Harris is a tonic,” said another. “Mary Lou McWaffle is, as Eoghan Harris described the Sinn Féin guide in his article in the Sunday Independent today. McWaffle. I love it! ” Did you write these tweets?
EH: No, I didn’t. But I have colleagues who think my Kilkenny speech was pretty good – and so does Ronan McGreevy of the Irish Times. And since I don’t have a platform because your organization forbids me – and it does – because I have so few platforms, my colleagues probably wanted to take care of me. I have so little profile, I get so little support from monoliths like RTÉ, which keeps me out of the air because they know that when I get in, I’ll damage Sinn Féin. That’s why you don’t have me on, it’s that simple. Every time I was up, I hurt Sinn Féin.
SM: Do you advise Micheál Martin on issues relating to the north? There was speculation about it. I don’t know if that’s true.
EH: I’m definitely not. I had harsh words with Micheál Martin recently about his comments on Alan Rusbridger, so I’m not doing that.
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