The Irish Times, the self-styled 'Ireland's quality daily' has been flying off my radar for a long time, mainly because I don't bother going near it online, as their pompously named Internet service ireland.com, charges €79 per year to use it. Not a huge amount I suppose but €79 more than many better newspapers charge for access to their online editions.
A friend currently visiting from Ireland, who has similar reservations about the 'Old Lady of d'Olier Street, has recently sparked me out of my slumber with news of its considerable rightward turn since the appointment of Geraldine Kennedy, former PD TD (it sounds suitably clinical that double acronym) as editor. Admittedly that is a few years back now, but he did report of hearing a source close to Kennedy recently boast of dispatching legendary do-gooding lefty Fintan O'Toole to a position abroad where his political views might be less troublesome. The Times, it appears, is learning to stop worrying and love the Iraq war. Other lefties have been claiming to feel the pinch too.
To balance all this, the middle-brow reactionary Kevin Myers, a man who has been earning good money off bizarre right-wing blogging since long before blogs existed, has moved to the Irish Independent, where his rants have got lost in the general anonymity of the mediocre Indo, surely the only large circulation daily in the Western world whose regular readers can hardly name one of the journalists they read every day. This has not deterred the Times from pathetically aping both the Indo's layout and typeface three years ago in an effort to stem their falling sales rate. The introduction of that €79 figure dates from the same time. The Times is still in serious debt following years of mismanagement.
Given that the pinko (though it was always a very pale hue of pink) version of the paper was always irritating enough for me in the past, with its uptight, schoolmasterly authorial voice, its idolatry of Bertie Ahern (always at least one promotional photo per week), its many shoddy writers, including one of the world's worst film critics, Michael Dwyer, who systematically whinges about the arthouse films at Cannes every year, its legions of syndicated articles that have already appeared the previous week in a British newspaper half the cover price, the putative new direction does not disturb me too much. At least my lookalike fellow-Connachtman mad John Waters is still there to liven things up (and be right 20% of the time, which is not a bad average for a Times opinion writer). But is there not something wrong with the world when one would sooner read the unspeakable Sunday Independant than 'Ireland's quality daily'? At least the Sindo has Gene Kerrigan, Declan Lynch and the rising star of GAA reporting Eamonn Sweeney.