Tag Archives: Simon Carswell

Irish correspondents in America, today & yesterday


The National Union of Journalist (Ireland & U.K.) has proposed technology firms should pay a 6 percent “windfall tax” towards a rescue package for the embattled media industry. Despite soaring online traffic, national and local media have been hit hard by declining advertising revenues since the start of coronavirus crisis. Many outlets have cut jobs or reduced pay. Lynch and O’Donovan raised these concerns in their conversation with IN-DC.


A New York Times profile of 41 foreign correspondents working in the United States included Suzanne Lynch of The Irish Times and Brian O’Donovan of RTÉ News. Two weeks after the story published in April, both reporters discussed their roles at an Irish Network-DC virtual meeting.

“In this tumultuous period of American politics, there are perhaps more foreign correspondents in Washington, D.C., than ever before,” the Times wrote in The Journalists. “What unites them is their fight against the threat of misinformation and their struggle to accurately inform their fellow citizens about what’s happening here — and how it might affect them.”

Notwithstanding such high-minded missions, Lynch, 41, and O’Donovan, 40, told IN-DC that “Trump is gold” for online clicks and viewer ratings back in Ireland. “He keeps on giving as a story,” O’Donovan said. Lynch added the U.S. president has become “so all-consuming” that he often cuts into other coverage.


In the Times piece, Lynch said she “was taken aback by how open the [political] system” is in America. “On Capitol Hill in particular, you can really walk around the halls of power, go into the offices of members of Congress and talk to them directly.”


O’Donovan told the paper that the four-year RTÉ posting in Washington is “one of the best jobs within the station,” and that he is very aware “this will be remembered as a unique time, and I’m privileged to be covering it and watching it firsthand.”

During the IN-DC discussion, both correspondents shared how they are now frustrated and challenged by the social distancing and travel restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Irish audiences love stories of the real America,” said Lynch, who nevertheless filed nearly 50 stories during April.

She also noted how the health crisis has distracted U.S. political attention (already waning in the Trump administration) from the restored power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland and the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland. RTÉ‘s Caitríona Perry, who preceded O’Donovan in Washington, last fall published a book from the opposite perspective, The Tribe: The Inside Story of Irish Power and Influence in US Politics.

Earlier correspondents


“Ireland has had a long established tradition of excellence in foreign news coverage,” Kevin Rafter, head of Dublin College University’s School of Communications, has written.1 He includes William Howard Russell, Francis McCullagh and Emile Joseph Dillon among a “very impressive group” of late 19th and early 20th century Irish foreign correspondents.


Another group, Irish immigrants in America who owned or wrote for U.S. newspapers, also influenced audiences back in the homeland. These include Jerome Collins, John Devoy, John F. Finerty, Patrick Ford, John Boyle O’Reilly, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, and Margaret Sullivan.2


A century ago, as Ruth Russell, Harry Guest, and other U.S. journalists filed dispatches from revolutionary Ireland, Irish papers included stories about American politics, business, society and events. Much of this reporting came from un-bylined and now forgotten correspondents; either Irish, British, or American writers, often working for wire services and other cooperative arrangements between papers.

I encourage readers to share the names of Irish correspondents who were on assignment in the United States during this period.

Dissecting the Irish banking and economic crisis

UPDATE: Couple of related editorials in The Irish Times within days of this post. Here, Vincent Browne poses “13 questions that have to be answered” about the banking crisis. And here, Ray Kinsella says that financial ethics are more important than regulation.


Could the Irish banking and economic crisis been prevented? Is a similar financial fiasco likely in the future?

The answers appear to be maybe and probably, according to former International Monetary Fund economist and Irish Fiscal Advisory Council member Donal Donovan. He fielded questions from Irish Times Washington correspondent Simon Carswell and audience members during a 5 May forum sponsored by Irish Network-DC.

Donovan has served on two panels investigating Ireland’s property bubble, which fueled the country’s banking and budget bust. He said there is “high risk of another crisis.”

Despite such government probes, courtroom dramas and media headlines of the past few years, “more national debate” is needed about the systemic issues at the heart of Ireland’s financial woes, Donovan said.

Those problems can not be simply set at the feet of a few greedy bankers and civil servants who looked the other way as their elected bosses focused on the next election, he said. The Irish people also enjoyed riding the Celtic Tiger, and even financial experts from the IMF missed signs of the pending disaster.

A suggested third investigative committee might provide a “cathartic exercise,” Donovan said. “Only if we do this are we going to be able to go on.”

Simon Carswell, standing left talking with woman, and Donal Donovan, seated in tan jacket, sign copies of their books.

Simon Carswell, standing left talking with woman, and Donal Donovan, seated in tan jacket, sign copies of their books.

Some other highlights of the evening:

  • Amazingly, there was no record made of the government’s 2008 guarantee to back the failing banks, Donovan said.
  • Most of Ireland’s crushing debt was related to its inflated national budget, not the bank’s bad loans. But all the problems were driven by the property bust.
  • 3 percent annual growth appears to be the best Ireland can hope for in the near future, gradually lowering unemployment and emigration. “Four to five percent is hard to see,” Donovan said, adding the country still has to cope with high cost of living.
  • One member of the audience suggested the influence of Roman Catholicism is at the heart of the financial crisis in Ireland and other South American and Southern European nations. The religion’s “lack of contrarianism” and group think “could have played a role,” Donovan agreed.
  • Another audience member said the roots of the problem date to Alan Greenspan’s decision to lower interest rates in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

Donovan is co-author of “The Fall of the Celtic Tiger: Ireland & the Euro Debt Crisis. Carswell is the author of “Anglo Republic: Inside the Bank That Broke Ireland.”