Actor John Connors has issued a major apology for leading what he describes as a “homophobic crusade” against Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman.
Mr. Connors was the most prominent speaker at the so-called “hands off our kids” rally which attracted around a thousand people to Dublin last weekend in the aftermath of online reporting about the relationship between Minister O’Gorman and UK Gay Rights activist Peter Tatchell.
Speaking at the rally, Mr. Connors told a Gript reporter that he was “here in a very simple cause, to defend Irish children”:
A week later, he’s saying something very different:
Full statement and apology regarding recent event's involving Minister Roderic O'Gorman. pic.twitter.com/VDPAD5Omiy
— One love (@johnconnors1990) July 19, 2020
What is the reason for the u-turn? There are three possibilities you’d probably have to consider. The first, and most obvious, is that he’s completely sincere in his apology, and was completely sincere in the video above as well. Perhaps he felt that his genuine concern for the welfare of children was being used to advance a political cause of which he disapproves.
It’s notable, for one thing, that the apology, which is pretty grovelling, doesn’t mention Peter Tatchell once: There are lots of nice words for Minister O’Gorman, but none about Mr. Tatchell, the man about whom he was most concerned. That would fit nicely with a situation where his concerns were real, but in which he became troubled about the occasionally over the top attacks on O’Gorman.
Politics is a messy business, after all, and there’s always the possibility you’ll end up standing beside the wrong people and looking bad. Remember Trocaire last year, standing beside representatives of the people who shot Lyra McKee?
Indeed, Minister O’Gorman was in hot water in the first place for the crime of standing beside somebody with wholly undesirable views. Ironically, Connors may have repeated the very error that he was criticising the Minister for, and may feel as if his ability to discuss these issues – or any other – and retain credibility with middle Ireland requires him to strongly distance himself from the far-right.
The problem, with that, though, is that it’s such a complete u-turn as to be scarcely believable. He could just have said something like “while I am sincere in my views, and spoke at that event from the best of intentions, I want to make it clear that I abhor the political agenda of x, y, and z”.
But that probably wouldn’t have won him much credit from those who the apology was clearly targeted at.
Which is why the second possibility is that, to put it bluntly, he’s realised that speaking at that rally was a bad career move. Academia and journalism aside, there might be no more left-wing sector in Ireland than the arts. It’s not much use having a few thousand die-hard supporters when none of them can get you your next role, and all of the people who can think that you are a neo-Nazi unperson. Speaking at rallies doesn’t put bread on his table, acting does. A phonecall from his agent to point out that he was at a high risk of being cancelled might have made him re-consider his priorities somewhat.
The third possibility, of course, is also financial: That he made the apology under threat of legal action. That seems unlikely though. For one thing, there’s very little evidence that he said anything about O’Gorman that might be considered obviously defamatory – and even if he did, an apology for those specific comments would probably have sufficed to ward off the denizens of the four courts.
Which is it? Who knows, is the short answer.
Anyway, the Minister for Children himself is being very magnanimous, and well he might be:
— Roderic O’Gorman TD (@rodericogorman) July 20, 2020
This will probably draw a final line under the whole sorry O’Gorman/Tatchell affair, which has done significant damage to the reputation of Mr. Tatchell (centrist Irish politicians won’t be rushing to be photographed with him anytime soon) and put the Minister right at the heart of the emergent Irish culture war backlash.
It will also, let’s face it, leave Connors as severely damaged goods. The apology will be touted and publicly welcomed by his erstwhile enemies on the left, but they’re not going to be rushing to be seen with him anytime soon, while his former allies on the right will consider him little less than a turncoat.
One apology won’t be enough to rehabilitate him. If he wants to get back into the good graces of progressive Ireland, he’s going to have to renounce almost every unorthodox view he’s ever held, from this, to his opposition to repealing the eighth, to anything else he’s ever said, or done, that somebody somewhere might have been offended by.
Oh well. Maybe Actors and Singers and Sportsmen should just stick to the acting, the singing, and the sports, and leave the political controversies to those who enjoy them. They never come out of it with more fans than they had going in, no matter which side of an issue they take.