For anyone to become an opinion writer for the ‘paper of record’, the Irish Times, requires considerable ability. But does a particular viewpoint give an aspiring columnist a distinct advantage?
It is said that if you’re not a socialist in your twenties you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative in your forties, you have no brain. Given the increasing centre-right consensus across Irish media, including the Irish Times, anyone aspiring to be a journalist there might do well to accelerate that learning curve. There are, of course, true conservative believers from the outset.
Once such appears to be the precocious Finn McRedmond, who in recent months has become a fixture op-ed writer for the Irish Times. The daughter of David McRedmond, former chief executive of independent commercial television station, TV3, and currently chief executive of semi-state An Post, Finn McRedmond attended Rathdown Secondary School, and completed a Classics degree in Cambridge University, graduating c.2015.
In a series of waspish recent articles for the Irish Times, she has attacked the Brexit movement,[i] lauded the statesmanship of Leo Varadkar,[ii] while heaping scorn on both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.[iii] These contributions situate her politics on the centre-right – liberal-conservative and Remainer – an ideological slant very much ascendant in the Irish Times.
This outlook has generally been evident in the paper’s coverage of the forthcoming U.K. election. Along with condemnation of Populists, especially Nigel Farage, the U.K. Labour leader is a recurring bête noire,[iv] albeit full-time U.K. correspondent Denis Staunton has generally remained impartial.
The cartoon drawn by Martin Turner on December 3rd provides a good example. It features Corbyn alongside Boris Johnson with a list of some of the calumnies we have seen during the election. The point seems to be: these are two extremists – one as bad as the other.
Even apparently centre-left Fintan O’Toole was given to describe Corbyn before the 2017 election as: ‘a highly problematic leader, not least in his inability to think about how to create a majority in England for this radical social democratic vision.’[v] Curiously, O’Toole has not expressed views in any articles on the Orwellian campaign of online distortion characterising U.K. election 2019.[vi]
In her latest opinion piece, McRedmond laments the loss of Ken Clarke, Nicholas Soames, Nick Boles and Philip Hammond from Conservative ranks, and reventilates paper-thin allegations of anti-Semitism[vii] orchestrated to discredit Corbyn, concluding: ‘there is no good choice, and no obvious way through this election.’[viii]
While still a student, McRedmond revealed she gave her vote (presumably enjoying that right as an Irish citizen) to in the 2015 General Election to David Cameron’s Conservatives, who won an overall majority for the first time in nearly two decades. Published in the The Cambridge Tab just after the election – with austerity in full swing as over a million people relied on food banks[ix] – the headline read: ‘Being a Tory does not make you a bad person.’
McRedmond supported David Cameron over the then moderate Labour leader Ed Milliband. Perhaps in response to university peers whose “hearts” may have ruled their “heads,” she protested:
I’m not a bad person because I voted Conservative. I voted to decrease the deficit. I voted to raise the basic state pension by 2.5% a year. I voted to increase the health budget by £8bn by 2020.
I didn’t vote for closing the NHS, I didn’t vote for free champagne for all FTSE 100 CEO’s, I didn’t vote to “literally kill vulnerable people”. I didn’t actually vote for Satan. I voted for the party that I think this country needs.
I didn’t vote Conservative for low taxes so I can keep my mansion while everyone else can live in a slum. I don’t even have a mansion. It’s a townhouse.
No party is perfect. No party will be the indisputable moral saviour of Britain. The bedroom tax is odious. Cutting benefits is sad and maybe not the best way forward. The country isn’t going to be absolved of all moral transgressions with Labour or LibDem or Greens in power. In the same way that Conservatives aren’t going to do that either. But I am sick of people occupying the moral high ground because for some convoluted and laboured reason they see their party ridding Britain of all immorality and filling it with biscuits. God Ed Miliband loves biscuits.[x]
It is noteworthy that McRedmond attended Peterhouse College while at Cambridge, among the oldest and most traditional institutions in the University. In the 1980s it became association with Conservative, Thatcherite politics, counting Michael Portillo and Michael Howard as alumni.
Since graduating McRedmond has been writing – alongside Irish Times work – for British commentary and news magazine Reaction. Its editor-in-chief Iain Martin was previously head of comment for the Telegraph group, while Chairman of the board, Lord Salisbury, was once Conservative Leader in the House of Lords, opposing the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, and offering freelance services to the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.[xi]
Its advisory panel includes luminaries such as Lord Hill, a former European Commissioner and advisor to John Major, as well as Adam Boulton, Editor at Large for Sky News.
McRedmond’s association with the publication perhaps came about through Deputy Editor Alastair Benn, whose Linkedin profile reveals he too graduated from Cambridge in 2015, also with a Classics degree, and with whom McRedmond has collaborated on a number of podcasts.[xii]
Finn McRedmond clearly has no taste for the Populism that has overtaken the Conservative Party, and being Irish, no truck with English nationalism or Brexit either. But anti-left bias might be detected in a recent somewhat snide Irish Times article she wrote entitled: ‘Are Sally Rooney’s heroines too skinny?’
McRedmond opines: ‘Rooney speaks the language of the so-called Woke Left. She is interested in political activism. And she has made her career writing about young people sensitively.’ But, she warns: ‘Her frequent references to thinness feels unconscious. A writer who is so careful and precise in her descriptions of people and their relationships has, like us, a culturally produced blind spot.’
‘This recurrent theme,’ McRedmond warns, ‘that women who are thin are more interesting than those who are not, and that women who are thin are the only ones worth writing about – is potentially dangerous.’ She counsels that ‘we should be sceptical of novels that propagate ideas most harmful to those supposed to find them most relatable.’
McRedmond is certainly a capable writer, and displayed refreshing candour in revealing her political choice. There is no reason to believe she is a bad person, but given the current orientation of media, her rapid progression to become a regular opinion columnist for the Irish Times – the national paper of record – while still in her twenties, is surely connected to the political ‘maturity’ she has displayed.
[i] Finn McRedmond: ‘Getting Brexit done is last thing Farage wants,’ Irish Times, November 9th, 2019. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/finn-mcredmond-getting-brexit-done-is-last-thing-farage-wants-1.4076850?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Ffinn-mcredmond-getting-brexit-done-is-last-thing-farage-wants-1.4076850
[ii] Finn McRedmond, ‘Neither rogue nor wily fixer, Varadkar confounds British’, Irish Times, August 17th, 2019, https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/neither-rogue-nor-wily-fixer-varadkar-confounds-british-1.3988483?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fneither-rogue-nor-wily-fixer-varadkar-confounds-british-1.3988483
[iii] Finn McRedmond, ‘ British voters trapped between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson’, Irish Times, November 28th, 2019,
[iv] For example: Chris Johns: Who would I vote for in the UK? Anyone who would defeat the Tory candidate, Irish Times, December 2nd, 2019. https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/chris-johns-who-would-i-vote-for-in-the-uk-anyone-who-would-defeat-the-tory-candidate-1.4100958?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fbusiness%2Feconomy%2Fchris-johns-who-would-i-vote-for-in-the-uk-anyone-who-would-defeat-the-tory-candidate-1.4100958
[v] Fintan O’Toole, ‘Fintan O’Toole: Corbyn’s nostalgia less of a fantasy than May’s’, Irish Times, June 6th, 2017, https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/fintan-o-toole-corbyn-s-nostalgia-less-of-a-fantasy-than-may-s-1.3108284?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Ffintan-o-toole-corbyn-s-nostalgia-less-of-a-fantasy-than-may-s-1.3108284
[vi] Frances Perrauden, ‘Twitter accuses Tories of misleading public with ‘factcheck’ foray’, The Guardian, November 20th, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/nov/20/twitter-accuses-tories-of-misleading-public-in-factcheck-row
[vii] Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alan Maddison, ‘Smoke Without Fire: The Myth of a ‘Labour Antisemitism Crisis’’, Jewish Voice for Labour, November 26th, 2019, https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/smoke-without-fire-the-myth-of-a-labour-antisemitism-crisis/
[viii] Finn McRedmond, ‘ British voters trapped between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson’, Irish Times, November 28th, 2019, https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/british-voters-trapped-between-jeremy-corbyn-and-boris-johnson-1.4097084?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fopinion%2Fbritish-voters-trapped-between-jeremy-corbyn-and-boris-johnson-1.4097084
[ix] Patrick Butler, ‘Food bank use tops million mark over the past year’, The Guardian, 22nd April, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/22/food-bank-users-uk-low-paid-workers-poverty
[x] Finn McRedmond, ‘Being a Tory does not make you a bad person,’ The Cambridge Tab, (more than five years ago), https://thetab.com/uk/cambridge/2015/05/11/tory-not-make-bad-person-52498
[xi] Anthony Seldon, ‘The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood,’ The Independent, November 21st, 1998, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/the-saturday-profile-viscount-cranborne-conservative-peer-the-last-true-blue-blood-1186204.html
[xii] Alastair Benn and Finn McRedmond, ‘Deconstructing “I’m literally a communist, you idiot”’, Reaction, July 25th, 2018, https://reaction.life/deconstructing-im-literally-a-communist-you-idiot/