Back in 1992, Emily O’Reilly published a powerful little book called Masterminds of the Right in which she identified the ideologues who drove the assorted right-wing religious campaigns of the preceding decades.
Fintan O’Toole has listed these groups in the Irish Times as follows:
- The Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC)
- The Congress of Catholic Secondary School Parents’ Associations
- The Irish Catholic Doctors’ Guild
- The Guild of Catholic Nurses
- The Guild of Catholic Pharmacists
- The Catholic Young Men’s Society
- The St Thomas More Society
- The Irish Pro-Life Movement
- The National Association of the Ovulation Method
- The Council of Social Concern (COSC)
- The Irish Responsible Society
- The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
- The St Joseph’s Young Priests Society
- The Christian Brothers Schools Parents’ Federation
What wasn’t so obvious was that all these impressive-sounding guilds, associations and congresses were actually the same people using different titles, just as today we have spuriously impressive titles like the Iona Institute. What was even less obvious was the guiding mind behind the entire backward-looking campaign.
John O’Reilly was an engineer with Dublin Corporation, a man of considerable organisational ability who somehow found time out of his onerous local authority duties to run a huge campaign against everything from contraception to divorce and abortion, while continuing to stay in the background.
O’Reilly was the man who had his young daughters order contraceptives from the Irish Family Planning Association in order to secure a prosecution against that organisation in the mad old days when you needed a prescription to buy a balloon.
His hand was behind every right-wing movement in the Ireland of the 80s, but now it seems he has handed the reins to a new generation.
You see, John O’Reilly is a director of Beatha & Slainte Teoranta and interestingly, a fellow director is young barrister, Lorcán Price, impressively active at the age of 29, in lecturing grown Irish adults on family values.
John founded B&ST with Dr Berry Kiely of the Pro-Life Campaign, Mary Barrett, Marie Vernon of SPUC, Joe McCarroll, poor old bumbling drunken right-winger Desmond Hanafin, and Owen Doyle.
Lorcán, by pure coincidence, also happens to be a director of Catholic Comment, founded by none other than Senator Rónán Mullen, and a former chair of Ógra Fianna Fáil in Galway West, but we won’t hold that against him.
He’s also a director of VIE Limited, founded by John O’Reilly, Dr Berry Kiely, Marie Vernon, Des Hanafin and assorted other right-wingers.
They haven’t gone away you know.