“What is Honour?” asked the rascal Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s most interesting characters.

The Late Arnold Goodman, Baron Goodman, was a Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and a Companion of Honour. So it seems to me that an examination of Honour might appropriately start with Goodman’s career and the friends he chose.

Among his many roles he was Chairman of The Arts Council, Chairman of British Lion Films, Chairman of The Observer Trust, Director of The Royal Opera House and Master of University College, Oxford.

A solicitor by profession he was famed for keeping the connection of the late Lord Boothby with the murderous Kray Brothers from the attention of the media, and being ready to slap a writ for libel at the drop of a hat. Mind you that is grist to a lawyer’s mill.

When Goodman died, a fellow peer, Lord Portman, one of his clients,  alleged that he had stolen funds worth £10,000,000 from Portman’s family trust funds over a thirty year period.

It’s Goodman’s connection with The Irish Times that I find fascinating. Because Goodman practised in London, was reputed to be Harold Wilson’s ablest “fixer” and because Dublin has never been short of able lawyers.

The connection arose because in 1969 Major Tom McDowell, then Chief Executive and a Director of The Irish Times met the British Ambassador, Andrew Gilchrist, for lunch and latter wrote to the Foreign office a SECRET AND PERSONAL letter.

“Your letter of Sept 24th – Major McDowell and No.10 Downing Street.

 I had McDowell to lunch today. It is all something he mentioned to me before, but now he is hotter under the collar about it.  McDowell is one of five (Protestant) owners of the Irish Times, and he and his associates are increasingly concerned the line the paper is taking under its present Protestant, Belfast-born Editor, Gageby, whom he described as a very fine journalist, an excellent man, but on Northern questions a renegade or white nigger. And apart from Gageby’s editorial influence, there is difficulty lower down, whereby unauthorised items appear, and authorised items are left out.

 So far, except for the last item , nothing new. But McDowell went on to say that he now felt that a certain degree of guidance, in respect of which lines were helpful, and which unhelpful, might be acceptable to himself and one or two of his friends on the Board; this was what he had in mind in telephoning N0.!0 

The upshot was the establishment, in 1974, by Baron Goodman of The Irish Times Trust, with Major McDowell as Governor for Life, and Chairman for Life. He remained Chairman of Irish Times Limited and Chief Executive of Irish Times Limited before he decided to resign those latter posts, in 1997 and 2011 respectively. In 2001 he was made President for Life of The Irish Times Group Limited.

Douglas Gageby was sidelined. Gageby and McDowell, both Belfast-born Protestants had both been Army Intelligence Officers. Gageby, in the Irish Army, and McDowell in the British.

Cecil King, owner of the Daily Mirror was an MI5 man and involved in plots to himself take power from Harold Wilson. In his memoirs he recalled meeting both McDowell and Gageby and reckoned Gageby brighter by a long shot,

The Irish Times has continued to function as Major McDowell  and his British advisors wanted it. It has quite rightly condemned abuses in the Catholic Church and suppressed news of exactly the same abuses in the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. It has denigrated the defenders of the citizens who overwhelmingly voted for Independence in 1918 and their institutions. While the paper, now mainly staffed by former Catholics, is more anti-Catholic than when its readership was almost totally the rump of the Protestant Ascendancy.

Its Assistant Editor, Fintan O’Toole, has, like Baron Goodman, been associated with the formerly National, Abbey Theatre, but not as a playwright, producer or actor. He has persuaded many whose only language is English, and whose knowledge of history is non-existent, that he is a latter day Erasmus.

I’d guess that he’d sneer at those unsophisticated folk, who, faced with a moral dilemma ask themselves – “What would Jesus do?”  Sophisticated people should ask “What would Fintan O’Toole do?” That is clear from a recent contribution of his on the question of abortion.  He describes the Catholic Church as “ a corrupt and abusive institution.”  Fintan, who would have us believe that he is the Way, the Truth and The Life?

Main source : The Irish Times: Past and Present by John Martin.Poblished by The Befast 
Historical and Educational Society.  2008.


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