Saturday 3 December 2016

How Myers tackled the single mothers 'issue' and became a national hate figure

Maeve Sheehan
Jim Cusak

Published 13/02/2005 | 00:11

LAST Monday, Kevin Myers pressed the send button on his laptop computer and unwittingly set himself up as a national hate figure. The topic he chose for the Irishman's Diary was characteristically provocative: how state benefits encourage young girls to have babies outside of marriage.

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LAST Monday, Kevin Myers pressed the send button on his laptop computer and unwittingly set himself up as a national hate figure. The topic he chose for the Irishman's Diary was characteristically provocative: how state benefits encourage young girls to have babies outside of marriage. The week before, Dr Ed Walsh, president emeritus of the University of Limerick, caused a stir when he said state aid may "actively encourage" the formation of lone parent families. This was nothing to the storm Mr Myers was about to unleash.

One of his roles as a columnist for the Irish Times is to challenge orthodoxies, his editor said. So in his office, at home in Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare, Mr Myers had pondered on how he might present the topic of cash-fed single mothers in a new and provocative light. He took the trouble to check the etymology of the word "bastard". It derived from an old French word, "bast", meaning pack-saddle, a metaphor for a child born out of wedlock. It is also a term of abuse, described as "often offensive" or perjorative in dictionaries.

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