I was pleasantly disappointed to find that, instead of his usual hilarious output, he'd opted for some serious investigative journalism. I feel I've covered vaccine opposition, American influence and superstition prevalent in pro life groups in Ireland, but Fintan breaks fresh ground for this blog by exposing ties to the extreme far right.
Do enjoy, and don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
Hi, my name is Fintan O'Toolbox, some of you may know me as that annoyingly smug git who writes for Donegal Dollop and live-tweets the Bible most evenings. Geoff recently, very kindly, offered me the opportunity to write a guest post for his wonderful blog. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity, however, the original idea for my post ended up taking a few bizarre twists and turns so I hope you can bear with me...
One of my favourite topics for debate (trolling) on Twitter is the concept of morality and where it comes from. In my experience, I've often found Catholics strongly opposed to the idea of moral relativism — the notion that morality evolves in accordance with the shifting sands of social progress and that it reflects the general consensus of the masses when it comes to the concept of right and wrong. Instead, they seem to favour the idea that morality is objective and immutable — remaining the same eternally, regardless of whatever we mere mortals may decide among ourselves as a society. I've always considered this to be a strange position for a Catholic to take given that the Old Testament is action-packed with rape [1-4], genocide [5-8], slavery [9-10], and even abortion , and given that the catechism still considers this section of the Bible to be entirely valid and inerrant . Regardless of what side of the morality fence you sit on, the average Irish Catholic is, in my experience, generally quite content not to shove this core belief down your throat (it's certainly never become a bone of contention between me and my Catholic friends). However, there are certain groups on the religious right who argue (often very loudly) that moral relativism poses a grave threat to Irish society and must be opposed at every turn.
If morality is indeed objective and the most favourable path towards this morality is via a Catholic belief system, as these groups appear to claim, then surely the proof would be in the empirical pudding? Surely anyone who follows this kind of belief system (particularly someone who clings to it with zeal and wears these beliefs on their sleeve) will be a decent person who contributes positively to society? Failing that, you would at least assume that such a person couldn't possibly end up being a horrible individual who has nothing to offer but negativity. Well, with this assumption in mind, I always keep an eye out on Twitter for people who appear to be singing loudly from the same hymn sheet as the religious right, just to see what kind of people they are. Anyway, one day I came across a very interesting chap called Michael Quinn (no relation to David, as far as I know). Michael doesn't seem to like Jews or black people very much.
So, who is Michael Quinn? Michael Quinn first appeared on the public radar in the early 1990s when he ran as an independent candidate on a pro-life ticket polling over 1,700 first preference votes in the Dun Laoghaire 92 election . He ran again in 97 as a member of the National Party (NP) in Carlow/Kilkenny, presenting himself as a Christian option for the Dáil (he lost his deposit) . He later got involved with the Democratic Right Movement (DRM), a rightwing party with fascist tendencies, a fondness for Nazi-style insignia, and (apparently) links to Golden Dawn (the Greek neo-Nazi political group) . The DRM later morphed into the Irish National Brotherhood (INB) and it was through the INB Twitter account that he first appeared on my radar. Michael certainly appears to be a proud Catholic, the INB's logo is based on the St. Brigid's Cross (albeit with a clumsy nod and a wink to the Nazi swastika) and a cursory glance at his Twitter feed reveals that he has some very interesting things to say about three of the religious right’s favourite topics: euthanasia, same sex marriage, and abortion.
Michael is definitely onside with the religious right when it comes to the issue of euthanasia. He even takes it upon himself to personally attack the terminally ill Marie Fleming at times, as well as what he calls her "pro-death handlers", and anyone who supports what he refers to as the "anti-life agenda".
Same Sex Marriage
Michael also appears to be fully on message when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. His Twitter feed being peppered with tweets and retweets voicing approval of anti-SSM protests.
Okay, so far, so crazy. However, it was only when I turned my attention to the issue of abortion that things really started to get interesting. As expected, Michael is vehemently opposed to abortion and while at times he drifts into David Icke territory (accusing the IMF of demanding abortion in return for financial assistance, for example), generally his views are largely consistent with those of the Catholic Church, the Iona Institute, and organisations like Youth Defence.
However, a little Googling revealed that Mister Quinn also likes to get out from behind his computer from time to time to enjoy a bit of fresh air at Youth Defence rallies, having been snapped at the 'Rally for Life' in Dublin in 2011 and again at the 'Rally for Life' in Belfast in 2012. Now, I don't believe people or organisations should be judged guilty simply by association. Youth Defence organise large rallies (not quite as large as they believe themselves, but still quite large) and they can't be held accountable for every lunatic who turns up to support the cause. I was more than happy to give Youth Defence the benefit of the doubt and assume that Quinn was just a random neo-Nazi extremist who has nothing to do with Youth Defence in any official capacity…or at least I was until I came across an interesting album of photos on AFA Ireland's Facebook page  showing Quinn smiling arm in arm with a priest called Maurice Colgan.
So, who is Maurice Colgan? According to the AFA , Colgan is a founding member of Youth Defence who appears to have flirted with neo-Nazism himself in the past, allegedly sharing a flat with Anthony Barnes (lead singer of Dublin neo-Nazi bonehead band, ‘Celtic Dawn'). The AFA also claim that during the same period, Colgan was seen at at least one Youth Defence event wearing a Celtic Dawn T-shirt. Colgan was ordained as a Dominican brother in September 2011 at a ceremony presided over by the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin (one might have hoped that Colgan’s Catholic moral compass would have prevented him from mixing with such people).
|Colgan pictured on a Youth Defence rally|
|Colgan pictured with Archbishop Martin|
|Quinn at 'Rally for Life' Belfast|
|Quinn at 'Rally for Life' Dublin|
Now, I've already stated that I don't believe people should be judged guilty by association, and I stick to that. Maurice Colgan is a priest, Michael Quinn appears to be a die-hard Catholic, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they simply bumped into each other outside mass one day and posed for a photograph for some reason unknown to the casual observer. I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt…or at least I was until I came across an old Irish Independent article  detailing the arrest of eight Youth Defence activists involved in a 'mini-riot' outside Adelaide hospital in 1999. This is the now infamous Youth Defence incident in which pro-life protestors thought it would be a good idea to picket outside the rooms of terminally ill patients, despite pleas from relatives and doctors to stop; the same incident in which gardaí were assaulted with placard poles when they tried to intervene. And this brings us to our final coincidence, the arrest of a gentleman called Michael Quinn along with Maurice Colgan and six other Youth Defence protestors at this very incident. The Irish Independent article lists the Michael Quinn in question as being 35 year of age at the time of his arrest, which would make him 49 now (judging by Quinn’s most recent videos I would have personally assumed him to be somewhere in his late 40s).
In conclusion, I would like to offer Youth Defence the opportunity to deny that Michael Quinn has ever had anything to do with their organisation. Maybe it's just a coincidence that Michael Quinn is a vocal opponent of abortion who has ran for election on a pro-life ticket? Maybe it's just a coincidence that Michael Quinn has been attending Youth Defence rallies as recently as last year? Maybe it's just a coincidence that Michael Quinn has been photographed arm in arm with a Youth Defence founder member? Maybe it's just a coincidence that a man named Michael Quinn was arrested at a violent Youth Defence protest alongside the same founder member that Michael Quinn, the rightwing extremist, has been photographed with? Who knows? Perhaps Youth Defence could get in touch with Geoff or myself and clarify things?
Acknowledgments: Firstly, I would like to thank Geoff for letting me post on his wonderful blog. In addition, it is incumbent upon me to acknowledge several other bloggers and websites whose work I drew on in the writing of this article. Connor Farrell has written a very interesting blog post  on the violent past of Youth Defence and it was his article that first introduced me to the real side of this organisation. AFA Ireland  have also done a great job of documenting the shady history of Youth Defence, hosting many of the pictures I have used here on their Facebook page (please give them a 'Like’). The Irish Election Literature blog  is also a great repository of information on past electoral candidates. Finally, while combing through all of this information I discovered that I had inadvertently stumbled onto a path that had already been beaten by the Workers Solidarity Party  on their site, if you found my article in any way interesting I strongly suggest checking out theirs.
1. The Bible, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:23-25
2. The Bible, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:28-29
3. The Bible, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 28:30-31
4. The Bible, The Old Testament, Judges 21:15-23
5. The Bible, The Old Testament, 1 Samuel 15:3
6. The Bible, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 20:16-18
7. The Bible, The Old Testament, 1 Samuel 15:1-3
8. The Bible, The Old Testament, 1 Kings 15:20-31
9. The Bible, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 21:10-11
10. The Bible, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 20:10-16
11. The Bible, The Old Testament, Numbers 5:16-22
12. John Paul II, Pope. 'Catechism of The Catholic Church', Chapter Two: God Comes to Meet Man, Article 3, II. Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture, 107 (http://bit.ly/lFXtU)
13. Irish Election Literature. ‘Michael Quinn -’Independent For Life ‘-Dun Laoghaire 1992’ (http://bit.ly/qZSkqW)
14. Irish Election Literature. '1997 General Election – “Vote Christian” Leaflet' (http://bit.ly/dLKYTe)
15. Democratic Right Movement. ‘Democratic Right Movement, Leinster Branch Nationalist Gathering’ (http://bit.ly/17MoALp)
16. AFA Ireland, ‘Youth Defence – Dodgy Links’ (http://on.fb.me/15UnK8G)
17. Healy, Tim. 'Youth Defence unrepentant as eight convicted', The Irish Independent, 15th April 1999 (http://bit.ly/YDCSa6)
18. The Workers Solidarity Movement. 'Pro Life Pro Mass Murder? - Arrested For Protesting Fascist on 'Rally For Life' March' (http://bit.ly/RNNSNz)