Current Affairs Journalism Politics

Eoghan Harris Axed By Sunday Independent Over Fake Twitter Account

Yesterday’s late breaking news that the controversial right-wing newspaper columnist and so-called “revisionist” author Eoghan Harris has been sacked by his bosses for collaborating with a “group of people” to run a fake Twitter account known as “Barbara J Pym” to promote the political opinions of the aging British apologist clique in the Irish press and academia has shocked a lot of people. For decades Harris seemed to be one of the untouchables of the domestic media, lauded by conservative and reactionary opinion, deplored by liberals and progressives. I long ago described him as a “neo-unionist”, as he himself noted in one of his regular Sunday Independent columns, and I believe it to be a fair summation of his contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of this island nation. The allegation that the social media sock-puppet account he co-founded had been targeting public figures aligned to Sinn Féin and other left-of-centre parties or those deemed insufficiently anti-republican in their opinions provides strong evidence for that label.

According to a statement released on the Independent website::

“Long-time Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris will no longer be writing for the paper, with immediate effect.

The decision to terminate Mr Harris’s contract was taken by editor Alan English this week, after the former Senator admitted being involved in the running of an anonymous Twitter account set up in February 2020.

Mr Harris has been a trenchant critic of Sinn Féin for many years and has written extensively on Northern Ireland, among many other subjects. His columns have also challenged readers to see the unionist perspective in relation to issues…

“However, his position as a columnist became untenable when Eoghan confirmed to us this week that he has had an involvement in the operation of a fake Twitter account.

“This account was set up in February 2020 under the name of Barbara J Pym, mostly posting tweets about aspects of Irish politics.

“Many of the views expressed – such as opposition to ‘Sinn Féin pressure for a united Ireland’ are in keeping with those articulated by Eoghan Harris in his Sunday Independent column.

“Eoghan has accepted that he was one of the founders of the account. He has also stated to me that he was ‘one of a group of people that contributed to a Barbara Pym entity’.

Since the publication of the statement above a number of individuals have come forward to describe the online abuse they suffered at the hands of the “Barbara J Pym” account, including the newspaper correspondent Aoife Moore of the Examiner.

The question now remains, who are the anonymous “group of people” that Eoghan Harris conspired with to manage the fake account? Are they also active in the media or in politics? And will they also be named and shamed?

Update: Twitter has now suspended nine accounts allegedly associated with the Harris group.

27 comments on “Eoghan Harris Axed By Sunday Independent Over Fake Twitter Account

  1. Now this has brightened my day no end.
    On the issue itself, it seems that old habits die hard. Wasn’t there an infiltration of Irish newspapers by a large number of undeclared Stickies back in the day (a la Stalinist/Mao tactics). It will be very interesting indeed to discover the identity of the others.

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    • Indeed so:

      “The penchant for secrecy and conspiracy alarmed Woodworth. “It was very creepy. I frankly found . . . the Harris faction a far more frightening phenomenon than the IRA itself,” he said. The branch was active within RTE, with Harris as its central figure. Secrecy was essential because in the 1960s, concerns within RTE about the left-wing tone of some of its programmes led the station’s director-general to introduce strict restrictions on political involvement by the station’s employees…

      …The day before the programme went out, Cronin found himself face to face in the RTE canteen with a number of men whom he knew to be members of the Official IRA. The group had obviously been invited to lunch by sympathisers among the station’s staff. The same day Cronin’s wife’s workplace received a bomb threat.”

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  2. John Kennedy

    Pity he didnt go years ago

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  3. I hope that Barbara Pym meets Ned Stapleton on Tinder and they live happily ever after. Wouldnt it be great if some of the great investigative journalists (legends in their own lunch time) stop quoting Eoghan Harris long enough to tell us who the others might be.
    I cant wait to see this action condemned in the right places.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Could it be true that his co-conspirator is *** ***** *******?

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  5. I know it’s easy to be wise with hindsight, but when reading some of the stuff that people have put up this morning from the Twitter account (which I confess I’d never heard of before) it seems obvious it was Harris. The pithy style of writing, the constant references to how brilliant his most recent column was etc.
    I suspect that eventually the Indo ran some of the Twitter stuff through a computer Stylometry program and up popped the baul Eoghan as a perfect match, so he didn’t have much option but confess.

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  6. Self praise is no recommendation.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Jim Monaghan

    In his fake Twitter account, he used the name Barbara J.Pym and often praised himself to the utmost. More seriously he viciously attacked Aoife Moore, a female journalist who dared to contest his views, and she has stated she sought psychiatric help because of the vitriolic attacks.

    This account sent me sexualised messages about whether Mary Lou McDonald “turned me on”, the size of my arse and called me a terrorist from the month I started at the Examiner. Since then, I’ve had to go to counselling and the guards. https://t.co/aueLtHkg80

    — aoife moore. (@aoifegracemoore) May 6, 2021
    The major question in Dublin now is who else was involved with Harris and their other false Twitter accounts. https://www.irishcentral.com/news/eoghan-harris-fired-fake-twitter-account Elsewhere I saw something similar vuis a vis a UCD history lecturer.

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    • Some of the sheer lack of self-awareness in the tweets was remarkable, stuff that was sock-puppeting and praising our hero while dissing others for being deceitful. The Aoife Moore tweets attacking her were grim. And another point is just how overtly neo-NI Unionist (and I’d completely agree with your characterisation of that term ASF) the attitudes on display were but how punches were pulled in the newspaper columns in that respect. Now I’ve no problem whatsoever with people holding that or any political view as long as they are open about it, but that’s the key – as long as they’re open about it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • “Some of the sheer lack of self-awareness in the tweets was remarkable, stuff that was sock-puppeting and praising our hero while dissing others for being deceitful.”

        Yeah, this is what gets me about it. For a self-styled intellectual, he didn’t even have the wit, or more likely couldn’t force himself, to include an odd tweet along the lines of, “While I normally agree with Eoghan Harris, I have to disagree with him on his contention that …blah, blah, blah”.
        Ah well, you know what they say about common-sense: the problem is it isn’t very common.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Diarmuid Breatnach

    I despise the man and have done so for most of his career — a manipulator of people and opinion who was given much more than a fair shake by interests in the media and politics here in this neo-colonial part of the country. “Neo-unionist” is an apt enough description, as would be “neo-colonolist”.

    But nasty and despicable as all that he was done and said has been, doing so while hiding with others behind a fake social media account is the most despicable of all. So many others on the Right and Far-Right in Ireland are doing so, sometimes in conjunction with the Far-Right of the USA, Trumpists etc.

    It is understandable that some political activists may have to use a fake account from time to time, because of political repression or because of unreasonable closing down of their sites by FB without right of appeal (e.g for criticising Israel or in supporting Irish Republicanism). But Harris has no such excuse — quite the contrary, he was promoted by the political-media class.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. reposted on Rebel Breeze, grma

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  10. terence patrick hewett

    Cancellation for a spoof account by the thought police is nothing of which to be proud. What Ireland desperately needs is another Brian O’Nolan: another Hugh Leonard and another Brendan and Dominic Behan. They would roast the political establishment alive over a slow fire.

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  11. I remember posting on here that Harris would likely be heaping praise on Trump in his column, except even he would realise that it would maybe be a step too far. Does anyone know if this fake Twitter account praised Trump, or did it only concentrate on Ireland?

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  12. terence patrick hewett

    Who’s an Irish man? Who’s Irish man? WB Yeats? Dean Swift? And the Irish RM isn’t Irish?

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  13. It’s interesting that he attacks some people not normally thought of as threatening. It will be interesting to see how some of his admirers react.
    Those who defended him will have credibility problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What’s the betting it’ll turn out to have been a “social discourse experiment in DIALECTICS in the modern era”? 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was a joke, by the way.
        It’s a long time since I read his column, but when I did he seemed to be obsessed with the word “dialectics”. It was shoehorned into every column, in a smart-arse, look what I know, sort of way.

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    • The account, and the several people behind it, gave the impression of “policing” opinions on Twitter, lavishly praising those it agreed with, viciously attacking those it disagreed with.

      Interestingly, Harris tied himself up in knots when describing the numbers of people behind the account on RTÉ radio. 5 or 6 individuals was the initial reports, his interview left one with the impression of a much larger organized network.

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  14. I Remember a certain blogger taking him to the cleaners over a bet at the West Belfast Festival. Something about how many TD’s that SF would have after have after the next General Election. To be fair to him he did pay up.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I read the transcript of last week’s RTE interview with Harris. Doubtless any number of media and journalism lecturers have saved it for the next time one of their students asks for an example of a car-crash interview.
    And this, on the Dolly White Twitter account during his chat with the Sunday Indo editor, as a perfect example of “throwing someone under the bus”: “Dolly White, he [Harris] said, was “definitely not me”. He claimed ‘Dolly’ was a former student of his, a woman in her 40s who had the ability to get inside his head and know what he was thinking.”
    Now I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but even I…etc. 🤔

    Like

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