Diplomatic letter

Irish envoy who criticised UK publication's 'anti-Irish' article has Tipperary roots

Adrian O'Neill's mother hailed from outside Thurles

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Irish envoy who criticised UK publication's 'anti-Irish' article has Tipperary roots

Ireland's Ambassador to the UK Adrian O'Neill: in the news over his letter to The Spectator magazine

The Irish Ambassador to the UK, Adrian O'Neill, who last week accused a British publication of anti-Irish bias has Tipperary links.

Mr O'Neill had claimed that the weekly magazine, The Spectator, was publishing “snide and hostile” articles about Ireland.

Mr O'Neill's late mother, Breda (nee Bourke), hailed from The Milestone outside Thurles.

Breda left the Premier County in the 1940s for Dublin, where she married Longford man Tom O'Neill.

Ambassador O'Neill's first cousins from the Ryan clan live throughout Tipperary in The Milestone, Hollyford, Curreeny, Annacarty, Drom and Inch, and Holycross.

Mr O'Neill's cousin, Dr Michael Ryan, lectures in LIT-Thurles, and his cousin Liam Ryan, is owner of the Lower Deck pub in Portobello, Dublin.

Ambassador O'Neill is also first cousin to author and poet Ann Haverty, originally of Holycross and Castlemeadows, Thurles.

Adrian's grandparents, Dan and Mary Bourke, are buried in Ballycahill cemetery, as his grandfather was originally from Clareen, Ballycahill.

Mr O'Neill told the Tipperary Star when he was appointed ambassador that he tried to get back to Tipperary as often as he can and visited his cousins ahead of taking up his role in London.

In an open letter to the magazine’s editor Fraser Nelson, he said that the “prevailing tone and tenor” of articles about Ireland and Brexit have been “with the occasional exception” anti-Irish.

His letter followed on from an article in The Spectator by the Daily Mail’s royal correspondent, Robert Hardman, which criticised Ireland’s decision to join the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the French Commonwealth.

Mr O’Neill wrote that Mr Hardman’s article was a particularly “egregious example” of The Spectator’s anti-Irish bias.

He pointed out that 17 EU member states were either members or observers of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, but “only Ireland’s affiliation incurs his scorn”.

Mr O’Neill said he was not “unduly thin-skinned”, but he noticed an increasing “anti-Irish sentiment which we all hoped had been consigned to the past” which had resurrected itself over Brexit.

Responding to Mr O’Neill’s complaints, Mr Nelson said: “The Spectator loves Ireland - but critiquing the Varadkar government is hardly the same as criticism of Ireland. If the UK ambassador wrote to The Irish Times every time Fintan O’Toole went for Theresa May’s government, the postage bill would be considerable.”

Mr O'Neill decision to write the letter was defended by Mr Varadkar, who described him as "an extremely professional ambassador.  If he made a judgment to write to The Spectator I doubt that he did that without having carefully considered it and knowing the facts.”