Friday 21 July 2017

5 Reasons Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell's apology is not good enough

Clare Cullen

Clare Cullen

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal, Alan Farrell, has tweeted a link to a three-line apology after branding Sinead O'Connor "mad as a brush" on Twitter during her appearance on the Late Late Show to discuss Miley Cyrus' mocking of mental health.

To explain, I'll give you a small bit of background- Sinead O'Connor has been in the press a lot of late.

It began when Miley Cyrus compared the video for Sinead's hit 'Nothing Compares To You' to her own video for 'Wrecking Ball'. Sinead wrote an open letter on her website to the star, warning her of allowing herself to be "prostituted" by the music industry. Cyrus responded with a text, mocking O'Connor's past mental health issues, sparking outrage among Irish Twitter users. O'Connor responded with another open letter, asking for Cyrus to apologise for the slurs.  The third and final open letter came after Cyrus tweeted that she was "too busy" to meet with O'Connor.

O'Connor then appeared on the Late Late Show to talk about the exhanges. However, O'Connor didn't focus on the spat with Cyrus, instead lamenting the stigma attached to mental health. She discussed the fact that the term "crazy is used as an insult' and how hard it is to get work in the music industry "when people feel you are in an active phase of mental f**king illness."

O'Connor was clear, concise and eloquent on the show, prompting one Twitter user to comment that she held the interview "on her own terms".

The hashtag #TeamSinead was full of supportive tweets from Irish viewers, claiming O'Connor "spoke a lot of truth".

TD Alan Farrell  was one of the many viewers tweeting during the "snipit" (sic) of broadcast that he actually watched. 




He tweeted the above message and, when questioned, replied with “what is far more worthy of our concern is the willingness of our ‘national’ broadcaster to give such a person an airing”. He then followed up with "my opinion stands". The tweets appear to have been deleted as of today but are still widely available online.

Then, Farrell tweeted the below, which contained a link to his website and a three-line apology.



Farrell's apology is just not good enough. It reads "I would like to apologise to you for any hurt that I have caused you by my remark on twitter on Friday night. I should not have said it, I have deleted the tweet and I hope you will accept my apology. I agree completely with what you said about the exploitation of young women."


Here are 5 reasons why Fine Gael TD Alan Farell's apology is just not good enough.

1. Stigmatising mental health

By referring to Sinead as 'mad as a brush', he adds to the current stigma around mental health and helps prove her point that "crazy" is used as an insult. Not only is he referring to her in a very derogatory manner, by using the present tense he implies that she is in a period of active mental health issues. This perpetuates the incorrect idea that people never get better, that mental health issues are with you forever - despite medicine, therapy and other medical and non-medical treatments for the condition. These ideas and these insults are what ensures that young people are afraid to admit they have mental health problems for fear they will be treated like that for the rest of their lives. At a time when national organisations (Including are running campaigns to combat the stigma of mental health, such careless, thoughtless and downright ignorant tweeting is disgusting.

His apology does not acknowledge this.

2. Devaluing the opinions of people with past mental health issues.

Alan himself agreed with Sinead's point, saying "she's right on the point of the denigration of women". However, tweeting his agreement after the sentence "I think she's as mad as a brush" invalidates her opinion, invalidates the support of his agreement and devalues both O'Connor and the point she was making. Tweeting in this way also serves to prove Sinead's point about the term "crazy" and the denigration of women, but I wouldn't expect Farrell to understand irony.

His apology does not acknowledge this.

3. Dehumanising people with mental health conditions.

Tweeting about Sinead in this way dehumanises O'Connor, reduces her to nothing but her past issues. It ignores all the good she has done, all the good points she has made and everything else good about her. (And no, saying 'I agreed with her' doesn't counteract the damage you did to her in the first place with your first sentence.)

To attempt to validate his initial comment by questioning "the willingness of our ‘national’ broadcaster to give such a person an airing", calling it an issue for "concern", further inhumanises O'Connor and similar sufferers, outright stating that they and their opinions are not fit for broadcast.

His apology does not acknowledge this.

4. Refusing to back down

When Farrell was asked if his comments were "appropriate" for a public figure, he stood firm, insisting that his "opinion still stands". This refusal to back down gives off the air that he is right in what he says, and people reading these exchanges could believe he was right. This is so, so damaging to the fight against stigma.

Let's not forget that Farrell made a sweeping judgement about O'Connor despite only having watched a 'snipit' of her segment.

His apology does not acknowledge either the appropriateness of his comments as a public figure, or the fact that he didn't even watch the whole segment before judging her.

5. He is a public figure.

He should act like one. His 'apology' reads like a scolded schoolchild, writing what they are forced to as a punishment for being bold. Farrell clearly got rapped on the knuckles by the FG press officer and wrote an excuse for an apology to save face.

The apology does not address any of the underlying issues of his original comments discussed above, implying that Farrell does not understand the deeper issues of his tweets.

His apology also addresses none of Sinead's concerns and accusations from her open letter, available here- despite the fact that O'Connor asks, very clearly, for a detailed explanation.

Apologies for the simplistic language, but the most effective way to summarise the situation is to state very firmly that TD Alan Farrell needs to 'cop on'. is running a mental health campaign this week called #MindYourself. Please check out our mental health videos and articles at and tweet with the hashtag #MindYourself.

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