Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Judging Ferriter

There’s nothing as entertaining as a scrap between historians, the ego usually being
the largest denomination note in the average academic historian’s wallet.

There’s a debate underway in the letter’s page of the Irish Times regarding Dermot Ferriter’s “Judging Dev”.

In summary, Anthony Jordan discovered that RTE had a financial interest in the success of “Judging Dev”, which they actively promoted through an associated programme. This profit-sharing deal with the publishers was never revealed by RTE or Ferriter.

Copies of the book were distributed to all schools by FF Education Minister Mary Hanafin. To counter charges that this was a blatantly partisan move on her part to communicate a more sympathetic portrait of her party’s founder, Minister Hanafin offered to also distribute a suitable book from the other side to schools. However, an offer by Mr Jordan to provide copies of his biography of W.T.Cosgrave was rejected by the Dept of Education on grounds of “cost” – which seems a bit far-fetched for a free book.

Tim Pat Coogan then rowed in to complain that he had participated in RTE’s “Judging Dev” programme without realising the level of the station’s financial interest in promoting the book.

Ferriter had not been attacked personally or professionally by either Jordan of Coogan, but he has now launched an attack on both in a letter to the Irish Times – particularly directed at Tim Pat. Not a wise move, I suspect!


Some Quotes from Ferriter’s letter:

“Both Mr Jordan and Mr Coogan’s complaints, I believe, are motivated by other factors. Mr Coogan wrote two critical reviews of the Judging Dev book which, in my view, were fuelled by his personal antipathy to de Valera and because my book dared to challenge the conclusions of his own biography of de Valera. Mr Jordan, as he states in his letter, offered his own biography of William Cosgrave to the Department of Education for distribution to schools and he is annoyed it was rejected.”

“In my view, Mr Coogan’s assertion that the Judging Dev project was one “with an obvious . . . beneficial knock-on effect for Fianna Fáil” makes it clear he is incapable of distinguishing between past and present. He should not assume the same is true of others who are interested in Irish history.”

However, the bit that annoys me and treats IT readers as naïve fools is the following:
“the Judging Dev book was deemed to be suitable for schools because of its inclusion of original documents, the study of which forms a part of the Leaving Certificate history curriculum. His biography of Cosgrave contains no such documents.”

Judging Dev was distributed to schools by a FF Minister SOLELY because it was a much more sympathetic portrait of Dev than any previously published. If Ferriter is deluding himself that there was any other reason, then it puts a serious question-mark over his judgement in “Judging Dev”.

When are FF distributing the free copies of “The Wind that Shook the Barley”?

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