Writer hits out at former friend McGarry over his role as 'phantom tweeter'
RESPECTED: Religious affairs correspondent Patsy McGarry. Photo: Eamonn Farrell
IRISH Times religious affairs correspondent Patsy McGarry has found himself at the heart of a rather unseemly controversy involving his former "friend and colleague" John Waters.
McGarry is in the spotlight, having been revealed as the author of a controversial Twitter account which was critical of Waters and members of the Iona Institute for their decision to sue RTE.
They took legal action after they had been branded "homophobic" by drag queen Rory O'Neill/Panti Bliss on Brendan O'Connor's Saturday Night Show.
The Sunday Independent can confirm that the account in question was operated by Patsy McGarry.
A respected journalist and author, McGarry last Thursday found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of hostile tweets from Waters' former partner, singer Sinead O'Connor, who warned him: "Remember... There's dirt on everyone. Be careful I don't find out yours."
The outspoken singer also told him: "You need to get a girlfriend and a life."
From her Twitter account on Thursday night, the singer added: "Why go to John Waters' mother's funeral and send him all nice emails after and then hide behind a fake twitter account?"
In a seven-page opus in the latest edition of Village Magazine, John Waters lashed out at "cowardly Irish Times journalists" who "sought to avail of a baseless charge of homophobia" to bury him.
In the article, Waters severely criticised editor Kevin O'Sullivan, deputy editor Denis Staunton, columnist Una Mullally, but saved his most pointed savagery for McGarry, whom he singled out for a considerable kicking.
The Village article, in which significant amounts of internal Irish Times laundry was aired publically, accused McGarry of being a "phantom tweeter" who engaged in "dishonest activity" in order to damage his reputation.
Waters claimed McGarry, using the Twitter handle @Thomas59, "either carelessly or naively" allowed his true identity to be known and revealed classified information about the columnist suing his own paper over a column written by Una Mullally, in which he felt he was defamed.
Waters wrote: "My internet sleuths followed Thomas59's tweets back to the point when he initiated his Twitter account. Every time he tweeted, he revealed his precise location – sometimes his flat in southside Dublin, sometimes his local public house, and sometimes the offices of the Irish Times on Tara Street, Dublin."
But the basis of describing this account as "phantom" doesn't appear to hold true.
It is clear from previous tweets that the @Thomas59 account, dating back to last May and captured and reproduced on websites like Broadsheet.ie, belongs to Patsy McGarry.
In one tweet, McGarry messages his colleague, Paddy Agnew, asking him was his earlier message "intended for a portly religious correspondent".
In two others, dated May 28, McGarry messaged his now deceased colleague, Irish Times Education Editor Sean Flynn, who was battling cancer. "Sean, great to see you on here. All the McGarrys say hello. Patsy."
Some of these messages have since been removed. McGarry, who hails from Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, was certainly harsh on his colleague, but whether he acted in an underhand way is arguable.
Regardless, it appears McGarry did contravene the Irish Times social media policy in criticising his colleagues.
A respected correspondent on religious affairs, Patsy McGarry is known for his strong opinions, particularly on the Catholic Church's cover-up of the institutional abuse of children.
He has previously worked for the Sunday Independent, the Irish Press, Magill and RTE.
He is the author of three books, the most recent a biography of former President Mary McAleese, published in 2008.
Despite the ongoing controversy, McGarry was at work last week and appeared on TV3's Midweek programme.