Sensational tales of the `archbigot' of Dublin

City Life DUBLIN

HE WAS the stern guardian of Ireland's soul with such power over the nation's conscience that he had only to lift the episcopal phone for books to be banned or seized, films withdrawn, shows cancelled and political careers torpedoed.

But John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin from 1940 to 1973, has become the object of a much fiercer controversy in death than he created in life. A book on sale in Dublin tomorrow depicts the puritanical prince of the church, the man who almost collapsed at the sight of a naked mannequin in the window of a Dublin department store, as a homosexual voyeur with strong paedophilic tendencies.

The raunchier extracts of John Charles McQuaid, Ruler of Catholic Ireland have hit the Irish newspapers, drawing predictable letters from outraged lay Catholics and church leaders. Many see the book as another poisoned dart from the chattering classes of Dublin 4 - the south city postcode which conjures up much the same image in Ireland as Hampstead Socialist in Britain - who will not rest until they have dynamited every pillar propping up the traditional Catholic state.

The church is already nettled over John Cornwell's new book Hitler's Pope, which portrays the Second World War pontiff Pius XII as an anti- Semite with Nazi sympathies. But Cornwell is English, a point much belaboured by the Catholic press here, as if to suggest nothing better could be expected from that den of iniquity.

What hurts is that the man who would bury McQuaid's reputation, John Cooney, is one of their own, a good Catholic from Glasgow who has lived in Ireland for years. Much of the book's content, though not the murky account of the archbishop's alleged fumbling with a schoolboy in the upper room of a Dublin pub, may seem more tragi-comic than terrifying. The archbishop in his eyrie on the cliffs, with his eye trained through a telescope on the couples frolicking on Killiney beach, seems more of a sad case than a monster.

Even the story of the archbishop telephoning the head of programmes on Radio Eireann to complain about the words of a Cole Porter song, which appeared to condone "conditional love", has a quaint, otherworldly air about it (even if the presenter was hauled over the coals for allowing it to go on the air and offending such an important listener).

There is more than a whiff of Father Ted about the archbishop - or the archbigot of Dublin, as one wit dubbed him - who was so obsessed with underwear and genitalia that his trainee priests came to dread the inevitable one-to-one discussion on masturbation and what soap they used to clean their private parts.

But Dubliners do not seem to find it funny. When the book came up for discussion on television's Questions and Answers, Ireland's answer to Question Time, the entire panel, including the newly elected Dublin Labour MP Mary Upton, was reduced to embarrassed silence.

No one wanted to comment, and that discussion stopped stone dead in the water. Partly that is because the Irish genuinely despise the "what the butler saw" mentality of the British media and its seeming obsession with bedroom farce.

"There is no real public demand here for intrusive reporting on the private lives of public figures," said a journalist. "There is a demand for outing and punishing those involved in financial scandals."

But the reticence about Archbishop McQuaid touches a deeper chord in the national psyche, and not just because the urban sophisticates of Dublin think the correct way to respond to reports of their leaders' sexual peccadillos is with a Gallic shrug.

McQuaid is the pre-eminent symbol of an old Ireland which a newer generation, especially in Dublin, wants to forget. To them, he was the eminence grise of a darker land, fearful and sordid as well as holy, which flocked to mass on Sundays and sent its teenage daughters to Britain for abortions.

The new Dubliners are self-consciously "modern" and European in a way their British counterparts are not, or do not feel the need to be. To the Dubliners the memory of how their parents' lives were tied to the girdles of the clergy is, at the least, uncomfortable.

The added and entirely unwelcome revelation that the man over whom Irish presidents and prime ministers fawned was the prisoner of such unsavoury fantasies is a source of shame. The youngsters can afford the Gallic shrug. To many over 40, the world of John Charles McQuaid is too recent to evoke laughter.

A retired school teacher in Dublin had an unmarried nanny for her children in the early Sixties who became pregnant. The parish priest told her she would have to send the nanny away to avoid scandal.

With much regret, she did. "To this day, my children say it was monstrous. `How could you have done such an awful thing?' they say. They don't realise it was really another time, another world."

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices