John Cooney is currently Religious Affairs correspondent for the Irish Independent, having held a similar position in the Irish Times during the 1970s. He is best known for his1999 biography of John Charles McQuaid who was Archbishop of Dublin from 1940 to 1972 and was Ireland's best known Catholic prelate since independence. In the book "John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland", Cooney depicts him as a homesexual paedophile. The allegation is rejected by all historians and almost all other journalists (with Irish Times jounalist Fintan O'Toole being a partial exception.) Even historians who praise the remainder of the book, say that the child abuse allegations are nonsense and that Cooney should have omitted them. However the controversy did not prevent Cooney's appointment to the Religious Affairs post in the Independent in early 2006.
A solicitor for the Christian Brothers said at a meeting of the Child Abuse Commission on 19 June 2006 that John Cooney was "not the most reputable journalist" and that he was responsible for a "salacious and scurrilous story" which he had written in his book "John Charles McQuaid, Ruler of Catholic Ireland". Cooney claimed that Archbishop McQuaid was a paedophile. He threatened to take legal action for "gross defamation and character assassination". Well he would be an expert on those issues!
I have a small archive on John Cooney. The attached are extracts from reviews by historians who generally support John Cooney and praise his book. However they strongly object to his allegations about paedophilia.
(1) DERMOT KEOGH, Professor of History, University College Cork
from Studies magazine, Summer 2000.....
"The impact on the reader of the original research and content of this book is often weakened by the aggressiveness of the editorial packaging. The author's decision to allow his work to be serialised in an English Sunday newspaper further sharpened the perception of the aggressive manner in which the book was written. In thirty years of working in archives on a range of twentieth century topics - most especially Church-State relations - I have never seen any documentary evidence, nor heard so much as a whisper, that would cast a negative light on Archbishop McQuaid's relationship with boys in his charge as an educator or as a prelate. Mr Cooney's use of the Noel Browne source in this volume is wholly unconvincing by the professional canons of a journalist, an historian or a jurist. It simply showed lamentable judgment in the use of both "evidence" and "archives" and the author ought to revise his views if for no other reason than to moderate the unwarranted hurt caused to the many friends and family of the late archbishop. It is unfortunate that wholly unnecessary controversy should damage a volume which has been the product of many years of research and hard work."
(2) JOHN A. MURPHY, Emeritus Professor of Irish History, University College Cork
Sunday Independent November 21st 1999
John A Murphy hails a vivid biography and says the silly bits should be disregarded ........
"What a pity then that its publication was preceded by a tawdry controversy about the archbishop's alleged paedophiliac proclivities. The author was badly served by this as it diverted attention from the substance of a serious biographical study. The dustjacket does not even mention the sex allegations which in the text account for only four pages or so out of more than five hundred. Cooney was unwise to let himself be mixed in these media discussions, doggedly insisting that the allegations would be substantiated when the book appeared.
"Well, a close scrutiny of the controversial pages and their accompanying references, confirms beyond doubt that there is no firm evidence the archbishop was ever involved in any paedophiliac activity. The whole thing is a bottle of smoke. The `documentation' is nothing more than third-hand stuff, anonymous opinions, subjective impressions, hearsay, duirt se - duirt si [Gaelic for "he said - she said].The notion that Noel Browne's semi-fictional essay `A Virgin Ireland' is a primary source is just plain silly. Browne's notorious bias makes him an unreliable witness, and his description of McQuaid as a `pederast' (a man who indulges in sexual activity with a boy) is outrageous defamation. In short, it was an error of judgement on John Cooney's part ever to have dragged this grotesquely sleazy stuff into an important book."
(3) RONAN FANNING , Professor of History, University College Dublin
Sunday Independent December 5th 1999
His iconic stature as a great hate-figure distorts a proper understanding of Archbishop JC McQuaid, says Ronan Fanning.
"JOHN A MURPHY'S review two weeks ago in the Sunday Independent warmly commended John Cooney's biography of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid with an injunction to disregard the silliness and grotesque sleaze of the few pages dealing with Noel Browne's unsubstantiated allegations that the archbishop was a paedophile. With that qualified commendation I can only agree, as I likewise agree with Professor Murphy's judgement that this is an important book which should be read by all those interested in the history of independent Ireland."
(4) JOHN HORGAN (biographer of Doctor Noel Browne)
Extract from article in Commonweal 10 March 2000
"The allegation, made in a new biography of John Charles McQuaid, archbishop of Dublin from 1940 to 1972, that this most powerful prelate in twentieth-century Ireland was a pedophile, has poured salt into an open wound in the Catholic church in Ireland. That wound was opened only in the past couple of years, but as yet it shows no sign of healing. THE ALLEGATION IS NOT WELL DOCUMENTED,*** but it is a measure of the controversy that swirled around McQuaid during his life that even an anonymous accusation (which, in effect, this is) has introduced a wide new seam of debate. Many well-known liberals, who engaged in fierce critiques of McQuaid while he was alive, have attacked the biographer's use of anonymous sources."
*** well John Horgan should know. He wrote the only biography of Doctor Noel Browne that is ever likely to be written. [My Comment]
Cooney vs McQuaid: Round 2 (as per Phoenix magazine)
According to an article in Phoenix magazine (30 July - 12 August 2010):
" Last Friday [23rd July 2010], the Daniel Corkery Summer School heard Cooney deliver a thundering peroration of his allegations against McQuaid with what he said is additional evidence and the promise of further revealations to come in his forthcoming book, The Curse Of McQuaid. His book, Cooney claims, 'will provide numerous sordid details of McQuaid's dark secret.'
Cooney's speech last week also referred to what he claimed was further evidence of McQuaid's sexual activity. These, the journalist said, were advances made, not to children but to a young priest and 2 clerical students resulting in 2 Garda investigations into these allegations made in the the 1960's and early '70's. Cooney told his audience that the investigations cleared McQuaid - unsurprisingly, given the period - but he also claimed that the files have gone missing. Cooney also referred to other evidence he says he has unearthed in recent years which provide similar evidence against McQuaid.
Expect more fireworks at Cooney's own summer school, the General Humbert Summer School beginning 17 August.
The Brandsma Review for July/August 2010 gives a detailed review of Cooney's address and quotes the following extract:
Ladies and gentlemen, John Charles McQuaid was "a pederast, really". Of this I have no doubt. Nor did Simon Elwes have any doubt in his 1970 National Gallery portrait of Archbishop McQuaid which adorned the front cover of my hardback edition. My critics failed to see its symbolic significance. The clue stares us all in our faces. Look closely at McQuaid's hands fondling his biretta. The tassel is his bush. The spine of the biretta is his penis. Inescapably, the horrific crimes catalogued in the shocking Ferns, Ryan and Murphy Reports only become comprehensible when the scales fall off the eyes to see that McQuaid is their ultimate enabling cause. The Irish people need to wake up to this McQuaidean nightmare of which today's churchmen are still in denial.
Media reports of the 2010 General Humbert Summer School made no reference to any further allegations by Cooney. Either the media - once again - failed to report Cooney's claims or he decided not to repeat them. Moreover there seems to be no news of his promised new book The Curse of McQuaid. Did he find it impossible to get a publisher? If so it certainly wasn't due to any Church conspiracy. I think that at this stage, John Cooney is an embarrasment to his anti-clerical colleagues!
9 April 2011