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Fintan O’Toole

Fintan O’Toole is assistant editor of the Irish Times. His most recent book is White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America.

Diary: The Case of Darren Graham

Fintan O’Toole, 6 September 2007

Few people outside his own area had heard of Darren Graham or indeed of Lisnaskea Emmets, one of hundreds of parish clubs with amateur players. But the GAA is a big deal. Of all the institutions that emerged from the Irish nationalist cultural revival of the 19th century, it is the only one still unequivocally in rude good health. It embodies a sense of Irish identity that is tangible, local and pleasurable. It also embodies the unspoken tension within that identity, for though it is officially non-political and non-sectarian, the GAA is overwhelmingly Catholic. Particularly in Northern Ireland, it is identified almost exclusively with the Catholic and nationalist side of the great divide.

A Singular Territory

Fintan O’Toole, 3 July 1997

In 1925, Sir Cecil Clementi, the British Governor of Hong Kong, wrote a rapturous ode to the colony at night, evoking the illumined streets, the ships glimmering in the harbour, the threads of light circling the Peak that looms above the city, ‘ending where the roadways touch the mountain-crest’. As soon as he had written the word ‘ending’, however, its utter absurdity struck him:

You can’t put it down

Fintan O’Toole, 18 July 1996

Lay aside for a moment your self-esteem and imagine that you are Jeffrey Archer. You are now a model citizen of the Post-Modern state of hyper-reality, a figure in whom actuality and invention, public fact and private fantasy, the business of government and the spinning of yarns have become utterly indistinguishable. You have made up key aspects of your own biography and seen them reported as fact in the newspapers. You have seen how a man of limited intelligence but breathtaking cheek can be transported, thanks to a handful of dreary novels, into the realms of high politics, as deputy chairman of the ruling party of a major European state. And you have been, most unjustly, at the receiving end of the News of the World and the Star, who published libellous stories about your contacts with a prostitute.

The Intrusive Apostrophe

Fintan O’Toole, 23 June 1994

When, in 1941, Sean O’Faolain wrote to the Irish Times to protest about the ‘miserable fees’ paid by Irish radio for talks by Irish writers, he inadvertently set in train the most nightmarishly savage satire in that paper’s history. O’Faolain’s letter, and the response to it from the impoverished rump that constituted the Irish intelligentsia, led to the foundation by him of WAAMA, the Writers Artists Actors Musicians Association, a short-lived trade union for workers whose services were not exactly regarded as essential. WAAMA inspired the Times columnist Myles naGopaleen (the novelist Flann O’Brien) to an extended fantasy that raised the dilemma of the artist in post-Independence Ireland to Swiftian heights of terror and disgust.

That Bastard Shaw

Terry Eagleton, 21 June 2018

It is​ no surprise that Irish studies has become something of a heavy industry in academia. Ireland is a small nation – ‘an afterthought of Europe’, as James Joyce put it...

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Chief Much Business

John Demos, 9 February 2006

Throughout the summer of 1763, a succession of Indian chiefs journeyed through the forest west of the British colonial town of Albany, New York, all heading for a single destination. Tuscaroras,...

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Fintan O’Toole’s publishers announce that Richard Brinsley Sheridan has been generally ill-served by biographers, ‘who rehash the familiar outlines of his story every decade or...

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Green Hearts

Anne Enright, 3 August 1995

I bumped into my brother in the street and we talked about Fintan O’Toole’s book on the beef tribunal. I told him to read it immediately. I myself had stopped both reading about the...

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