Kevin O'Sullivan, Editor of The Irish Times

Kevin O'Sullivan

ConanK.  So Kev, how’s things going down at The Irish Times?
Kevin O’S:  Not well, I’m afraid, not well at all.
CK:  Well I’m sorry to hear that, what seems to be the problem?
KO’S:  We’ve had an Annus Horribilus. In fact we’ve had several of them.
CK: Anni Horribili?
KO’S: Whatever. D’you know what. In recent times we lost our best people to the grim reaper, including our literary editor . And our top sports writer was brought up on sex charges, and just last year we also lost Seamus Heaney and Maeve Binchy. Not to mention Madiba.
CK: These things happen. But tell me, how do you mean we, as in we lost Seamus Heaney and Maeve Binchy? And Madiba?  Who is this we? Like they didn’t actually work for The Irish Times.
KO’S: They were part of our world view. It’s as if someone had built a block of flats in front of our window. Our view has changed for the worst.
CK: Hey that’s rather neat. You seem to have a flair for words. Do you ever think of taking on that  literary editor role yourself?
KO’S: Are you mad?
CK: Not in the conventional sense.
KO’S: Would you want to spend your days trying to avoid John Banville and Colm Toibin?
CK:I take your point. .
KO'S: Like they may be literary giants, but one man's literary giant is another's  poison dwarf. Annoying  little men. Open your emails every morning and there they are, pitching ideas for puff piece articles about themselves. It’s disheartening.
CK: So you don't want to be in charge of the literary end of things.
KO’S: Certainly not. I gave the job to Fintan O’Toole. He’s been annoying me. Still hankers after my job.
CK: Doesn’t he do other things in there?
KO’S: Well we’ve all got to muck in, our circulation is in free fall.
CK: The print media is in general decline.
KO'S:And that remark helps?
CK: Well I was being sympathetic.
KO'S: I don’t need your sympathy fella.
CK:Sorry. What do you need?
KO'S: I need people who can write.
CK: Well why do you have Roisin Ingle then?
KO'S: Good question. I’m not sure why we have Roisin Ingle at all, to be honest, I just inherited her. Much like the clock.
CK: The clock?
KO'S: The Irish Times clock. It’s a landmark. Every time we move offices we bring it with us.
CK:So every time you move office you bring Roisin Ingle with you too?
KO'S: Well we don’t really mean to. We move now and then to make a fresh start but the journalists get wind of it, Roisin Ingle and Frank O'Donnell and Miriam Lord and all that class of person, they find out where we’ve gone and hey presto, there we are in the nice new offices but with the same old crowd. It’s depressing.
CK: Well that explains them...but what explains Kitty Holland?
KO'S: She’s family.
CK: Oh so you’re related?
KO'S: Not me personally, I mean she’s Irish Times family. Her mother was Mary Holland.
CK: Isn’t that nepotism?
KO'S: Oh people are hired on their own merits, even if they are family.
CK: Wouldn’t that be the problem, hiring your people on their own merits? Like they’re not really much good, so wouldn’t it be better to hire them on someone else’s merits?
KO'S: I don’t quite...
CK:Like shouldn’t you apply the standards of The Guardian or the Dally Telegraph or the New York Times or the Washington Post? In all honesty, aren’t you more like The Lagos Loudspeaker?
KO'S: Is there a paper called The Lagos Loudspeaker?
CK: Could very well be, I’ll ask my next taxidriver.
KO’S: You can afford taxis?
CK: It's all about priorities, I don't heat my house.
KO'S: I see.
CK: Tell me now. You have this thing called a trust, which is more or less in charge of things, in there.
KO'S: We do. And it is.
CK Well I have to say that I took the trouble to look up the trust, and most of the members seemed to be internationlal bankers or EU funded academics and apparachiks. Plus a trade unionist and Tom Arnold. Who is Tom Arnold by the way?
KO’S: You have me there, I’m none too sure. He would’ve come along before my time. I suppose he’s just of these blokes who sound good on a board, or a trust. His name has that image.
CK: Is he anything to do with the park?
KO’S: The park?
CK: There’s a place called Arnold Park. In Sallynoggin. Though the people there describe it as being in Glenageary. Or Killiney. That sort of place. Border land. Which reminds’s your property section doing these days?
KO’S: Madeleine Lyons is doing a fine job.
CK:Who she?
KO’S: Special reports editor.
CK: What’s that got to do with property?
KO’S:Well she’s property editor too. We’ve all got to muck in you know.
CK: Well we’re more or less wrapping up now. Do you want to talk about John Waters?
KO'S: No.
CK: Ok. So tell me, what would you say was the essential problem of your newspaper?
KO'S: Well I’ve thought long and deep about this. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not really to do with the standards of our journalists. Or to do with our politically correct world view and our endless hammering on about the Catholic Church and the benefits of on demand abortion and sex abuse by priests  and the necessity of liberalising immigration and same sex marriage and the essential fine and noble qualities of our traveller community and the evils of Israel and the suffering of Palestinians and how its all America’s fault and......
CK: Sorry for interrupting, but you’re hammering on.
KO'S: Um, yes, maybe. What I mean to say it’s none of that. It’s a question of our readers.
CK: So you’re blaming your readers? Isn’t that rather like Minister Phil Hogan’s habit of blaming the citizens for the fact that’s he’s a big ignorant lummox who couldn’t run a tap?
KO'S: I’m not blaming them in that sense. It’s just a question of who they are.
CK: Who are they?
KO'S: Well, professional people, and middle class people, and intellectual and artistic people drawn from all social classes...
CK: And what’s wrong with them?
KO'S: Well they’re all in rackets. The law is a racket. The medical system is a racket. The creative industries are a racket. The top civil service is a racket. This country is essentially a series of interlocking rackets.
CK: Run by your readers?
KO’S: Yes, I’m afraid so.
CK: So you’re saying that your newspaper, which does its best to address the problems besetting Ireland, is read and supported by the very people causing those problems?
KO'S: Precisely.
CK: I see. Another sherry?
KO'S: A small one.
CK: So what’s going to happen to Irish rugby now that Brian O'Driscoll is gone?
KO'S: I have no idea, I told you, our top sports writer has left, he's up on sex charges.
CK: Bottoms up.
KO’S: Something like that..

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