Fintan O'Toole (born 1958) is an Irish columnist, literary editor and drama critic for The Irish Times, for which he has written since 1988. O'Toole was drama critic for the New York Daily News from 1997 to 2001 and is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. He is an author, literary critic, historical writer and political commentator, with generally left-wing views. His recent books have focused on the rise, fall and aftermath of Ireland's Celtic Tiger. He has been a strong critic of political corruption in Ireland throughout his career.
O'Toole was born in Dublin, grew up in a working-class family, and was educated at University College Dublin. In 2011, he was named by The Observer as one of "Britain's top 300 intellectuals", although he does not live in the UK and was one of five on the list who would not claim to be British. In 2012 and 2013 O'Toole was a Visiting Lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University, and contributed to the Fund for Irish Studies Series.
Early life and career
O'Toole was born in Dublin on 16 February 1958 and educated at Scoil Íosagáin and Coláiste Chaoimhín in Crumlin (both run by the Christian Brothers) and at University College Dublin, where he studied English and Philosophy.
Soon after graduation, he became drama critic of In Dublin magazine in 1980. He joined the Sunday Tribune on its relaunch by Vincent Browne in 1983, and worked as its drama critic, literary editor, arts editor and feature writer. From 1986 to 1987 he edited Magill magazine.
He joined The Irish Times as a columnist in 1988 and his columns have appeared twice-weekly ever since. He took a sabbatical in 1990-1991 to work as Literary Adviser to the Abbey Theatre. In 1994 he was one of the presenters for the last season of BBC TV's The Late Show. From 1997 to 2001 he was drama critic of the Daily News in New York. In 2011 he was appointed as literary editor of The Irish Times. He also has published articles regularly in the New York Review of Books.
O'Toole has criticised what he sees as negative attitudes towards immigration in Ireland, the state of Ireland's public services, growing inequality during Ireland's economic boom, the Iraq War and, the US military's use of Shannon Airport, among many other issues. In 2006, he spent six months reporting for The Irish Times in China.
His former editor, Geraldine Kennedy, was paid more than the editor of the UK's top non-tabloid newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which has a circulation about nine times that of The Irish Times. Later, O'Toole told a rival Irish paper, the Sunday Independent:
We as a paper are not shy of preaching about corporate pay and fat cats but with this there is a sense of excess. Some of the sums mentioned are disturbing. This is not an attack on Ms Kennedy, it is an attack on the executive level of pay. There is double standard of seeking more job cuts while paying these vast salaries.
In June 2012, O'Toole compared the Irish Constitutional Convention to the American Citizens Union, a reformist political organisation which the New York City political machine Tammany Hall did not bother suppressing so long as it did not threaten its hegemony.
In August 2019, after the selection of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, O'Toole proposed to get Parliament to back an alternative Cabinet who would push back the October deadline for Brexit to allow a trade deal to be negotiated. The proposal required seven Sinn Féin MPs in Northern Irish border constituencies to resign in favor of a pact between the four largest anti-Brexit parties in Ireland, thereby triggering by-elections at a certain date in mid-September. O’Toole believed they would result in a more hardline anti-Brexit parliamentary faction that would make a stronger case for a no-confidence vote in Johnson. The proposal received sharp criticism from Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who claimed the existing anti-Brexit factions in Parliament were strong enough without the party making too many policy concessions.
- The Politics of Magic: The Work and Times of Tom Murphy, 1987;
- A Mass for Jesse James: A Journey Through 1980s Ireland, 1990;
- Black Hole, Green Card: The Disappearance of Ireland, 1994
- Meanwhile Back at the Ranch: The Politics of Irish Beef, 1994;
- Macbeth & Hamlet, 1995;
- A Traitor’s Kiss: The Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1997;
- The Ex-Isle of Ireland: Images of a Global Ireland, 1997;
- The Lie of the Land, 1998;
- The Irish Times Book of the Century, 1999;
- Shakespeare is Hard But So is Life, 2002;
- Contributor, Granta 77: What We Think of America, 2002;
- "Jubilee", Granta 79: Celebrity, 2002;
- After The Ball, 2003;
- Post Washington: Why America Can't Rule the World, 2005 (with Tony Kinsella);
- White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America, 2005
- The Irish Times Book of The 1916 Rising, 2006 (with Shane Hegarty)
- Ship Of Fools, How Stupidity And Corruption Sank The Celtic Tiger, 2009.
- Enough is Enough: How to Build a New Republic, 2010.
- Up the Republic!: Towards a New Ireland (editor), 2012
- A History of Ireland in 100 Objects, 2013
- Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks, 2016
- Judging Shaw, 2017
- Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain, 2018
- 1993 AT Cross Award for Supreme Contribution to Irish Journalism
- 1994 Justice Award of the Incorporated Law Society
- 2000 Millennium Social Inclusion Award
- 2012 TV3 Tonight Show Journalist of the Year
- 2013 Irish Book Awards (Best Irish Published Book of the Year), A History of Ireland in 100 Objects
- 2014 GALA Journalist/Broadcaster Award
- 2017 European Press Prize (Commentator Award)
- 2017 Orwell Prize for Journalism
- 2017 NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards Broadsheet Columnist of the Year
- 2018 NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards Broadsheet Columnist of the Year
- "Fintan O'Toole - Personally Speaking Bureau". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
- O'Doherty, Cahir. "Who sank the Celtic Tiger?". irishcentral.com. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- McCarthy, John-Paul. "2003 interview with Fintan O'Toole". The Science and Art of Communications. Penhire. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Naughton, John. "Britain's top 300 intellectuals". 8 May 2011. The Observer.
- "Fintan O'Toole, Lewis Center for the Arts". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
- Princeton.edu News "Theater critic O'Toole to give Robert Fagles Memorial Lecture" Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine accessed November 2012
- The Irish Times - Tuesday, 3 August 2010, "Inequity the bedrock of McDowell's 'Republic' "
- "The Corporate Media - Part 1, interview with Fintan O'Toole,". mediabite.org/. Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved Nov 2012. Check date values in:
- "Irish Times staff revolt at editor and directors' 'indefensible' salaries", Irish Independent, 7 August 2005
- O'Toole, Fintan (26 June 2012). "Tammany Hall lives on in feeble reforms". The Irish Times. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- O'Toole, Fintan (2 August 2019). "Ireland can stop a no-deal Brexit. Here's how". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
- McDonald, Mary Lou (6 August 2019). "Fintan O'Toole wrong to say SF can block hard Brexit". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
- Roddy Doyle’s ‘The Guts’ named novel of the year Irish Times, 2013-11-27.
- "Winners European Press Prize 2017 - European Press Prize". European Press Prize. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.