Are patrons of the Iona Institute Homophobic Bullies or Just Bullies?


There is a debate currently raging in Ireland regarding members of the Catholic lobby group – the Iona Institute, and whether or not they are homophobes. Okay, so what is a homophobe? It should be noted that there are varying Gay marraigedefinitions of the word homophobia. The first Google definition defines homophobia as ‘prejudiced against homosexual people’. The Iona institute is well-known in Ireland for its stance against gay marriage, among other things, so does voicing this questionable doctrine equate to a form of homophobia? I’d say it absolutely does! As far as I can tell, none of the Iona members were born gay, so we can’t say whether they would have been happy with a religious group telling them who they may or may not marry. The absolute devastation which opinions such as this can cause to non-hetrosexuals can be viewed above in a speech by the man at the centre of this argument, Rory O’Neill.

This debate started with the Rory’s appearance on an Irish TV talkshow – Rory’s a drag artist whose alter ego happens to be a woman named Panti Bliss. While speaking on the subject of homophobia he said “The only place that you see it’s ok to be really horrible and mean about gays is on the internet in the comments and people who make a living writing opinion pieces for newspapers”. He was asked which writers he was referring to, to which he replied “Breda O’Brien and John Waters, as well as the Iona Institute”. He subsequently received 4 solicitors letters from Iona members: Breda O’Brien, David Quinn, Patricia Casey, and John Murray. Our National broadcaster RTE paid substantial damages of approximately €85,000 which went to John Waters and five members of the Iona Institute. RTE has been widely condemned for this payout as a threat to free speech in Ireland. The broadcaster has defended its decision to pay damages, despite the available defences of truth and honest opinion to any defamation action – here.

Shockingly, homosexuality was once thought to be a ‘disorder’, which could be treated, and was only entirely removed from the DSM (Psychiatric manual) in 1986.

Definition of Bullying

Bullying has been defined as “an aggressive, intentional act or behaviour that is carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself” (Olweus, 1993).

My son’s death is well documented. He killed himself and an innocent young man after 17 days on Citalopram. The jury at my son’s inquest rejected a suicide verdict on account of expert testimony by Professor David Healy who said that what happened was caused by this drug – which along with all SSRIs double the risk of suicide and violence upon starting these type of antidepressant drugs.

At the time of my son’s death there were 5 patrons of the Iona Institute. 3 of them involved themself in the media circus by speaking publicly, one way or another, on my son, his actions and ours. The first one who involved himself was Father Fergus O’Donoghue, a jesuit priest, who was quoted in the media on the day of my son’s funeral. Fr O’Donoghue, said that he was sick of the “psycho-babble” tributes that has marked the ‘killer’s’ (Shane) passing and that his actions were ‘pure evil’.

A few weeks later fellow Iona patron Breda O’Brien put pen to paper and gave her tuppence worth. She wrote an article which questioned our appearance on TV, referring to the occurrence of copycat suicide. She wrote “One of the worst moments of the interview with Shane Clancy’s parents came when his mother was asked: ‘What happened that night?’ In the most graphic possible terms, his mother described exactly how her son had killed himself. It breached every known media guideline on suicide.” She then went on to say, it wasn’t his mother’s (my) fault – ‘The fault lay with having her there, and asking the question in the first place.’ 

Professor Patricia Casey, an Iona patron and psychiatrist, involved herself before, during and after Shane’s inquest. On the day of the inquest (and following the jury’s rejection of a suicide verdict) she spoke on our national broadcaster stating that there were “aspects of the evidence which the college took issue with and it would elaborate further on the details in the coming days”. While attempting to undermine the jury’s verdict, she neglected to disclose her links to Lundbeck, the pharmaceutical company who made the implicated drug, Citalopram.

Professor Casey is no stranger to sending out solicitor’s letters, indeed I have had a couple of ‘Casey Correspondences’ in the last few years. A colleague of mine has also been on the receiving end along with a number of journalists I know. She has previously sued the Irish Times over a comment that was left on one of Breda O’Brien’s articles – here. One ex-Newstalk journalist yesterday tweeted that she was very happy to be out of Newstalk as they had ‘made groveling apology to Patricia Casey over issue on my programme! Never agreed with it’. She also said ‘People like her have way too much power’. I assume she’s talking about this apology here. Professor Casey also sued the lovely Dr Michael Corry and RTE for libel in 2005, a case again settled by the broadcaster, details here.

So what is adult bullying? According to Mental Health Support UK –

“In the simplest terms, bullying means one person, or group of persons, being deliberately cruel to another person or group, for any reason. Although childhood bullies are usually quite easy to spot, adult bullies can be sly, subtle, and difficult to expose. A life-long bully has had years of practice. Some have learned to be very cunning indeed. Some hide behind masks of authority, superior knowledge, money or other type of power. Some are good at finding plausible excuses to justify their cruelty. But all bullies have one thing in common: they want to hurt someone.”

So were the 3 members being deliberately cruel? At best, they could be described as uncaring to the consequences of their actions. I don’t know whether the 3 Iona members involvement was a deliberate act to hurt, or not. If so, the desired effect was achieved but thankfully my son Shane wasn’t here to see or feel it! I certainly feel I was bullied by the Iona institute but you can make up your own mind. I suppose it could have been a lot worse, I could have been a lesbian too!

Freedom of speech definition (Oxford Dictionary) – The right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint. (Unless you’re in Ireland)

Fergus O’Donoghue comments – It’s shocking to find a murder story on your doorstep

Breda O’Brien Article – Television And Radio Are No Place For The Recently Bereaved

Patricia Casey comments – Open Verdict in Shane Clancy Inquest

5 thoughts on “Are patrons of the Iona Institute Homophobic Bullies or Just Bullies?”

  1. Brilliant speech by Panti (Rory O’Neil)..

    According to some people the Iona folk are both homophobic and homophobic bullies (and i’ve heard people call them much worse too)

    Great to see the spotlight on these creeps…


  2. The more I read about Casey, the more I want to projectile vomit. This is the woman who claims that antidepressants do not cause suicide…yet she can produce no scientific evidence to her claims…well none that hasn’t been funded by Pharmafia.

    Is she going to sue everyone who has an opinion about her?

    Here’s mine – Hey Casey, I don’t like you, I don’t like your stance on using psychiatric medication on children either. I don’t like the way you invited yourself to Shane’s inquest when you had no reason to attend. I also think you are not easy on the eye and are well overdue a date with the Irish fashion police.

    Hey, I’m just calling it as I see it. Deep down you are probably a really nice woman with great morals…

    Must dash… a pig just flew past my window… must mean it’s time for my Seroxat.


  3. The Iona Institute claim they are justified in suppressing free speech on the basis of the right to uphold their good name. They may wish to consider the centuries of abuse and defamation the Catholic church have heaped upon suicide victims who cannot issue solicitors letters to protect their good names.


  4. Great piece Leonie! Many people don’t realise that, particularly in Ireland, civil law tends to be weighted in favour of those with the financial means or support of an institution behind it to pursue remedies, so that it in fact does the opposite of what it is intended to do. The payout by RTE was not only a waste of tax payers money, it sent the message that privately funded interest groups are above public scrutiny.

    On a lighter note seems incredibly ironic that Ms. Casey’s intials are PC.


  5. It’s regretful that the Jesuit Priest described Shane’s actions in such a reactionary way, as ‘pure evil’. Good and evil are social constructs. Nobody is born evil. What we become is the sum of all of our experiences in life. That is to say, as monstrous act does not make a monster. And in Shane’s case, the monster here were the drugs he should never have been given. Institutions like Iona, and people like Patricia Casey are not really bad people. They are simply the product of their environment. They don’t know any better, and I’m sure most of them fervently believe the often hateful and hurtful propaganda that comes out of their mouths/arses. People like Leonie, and David Healy, and Panti are kicking out the stones which have built their foundations, and being deeply conservative, change is the anti christ. So, rightly or wrongly, they will cling to their beliefs, and fiercely attack anyone who challenges their views. The reason for this, in my experience, is that they are deeply insecure about those beliefs, and the bullying and judgements they lay down on others is them questioning and judging themselves, and says more about them than it can ever do about those who they attack. Because they do not want to understand where those people are coming from, because it makes them more insecure. If we attack them, or even in the nicest way possible, present constructive criticisms of their opinions, they will not listen. They will go on the offensive, and they will probably never give in, despite the harm it does to everyone. So I believe Panti’s wonderful speech was a very elegant way about trying to explain people that we might call bigots, that we are not acting from spite, or hate, or insecurity, or ego. We are merely looking for a more just world. Racism is also a social construct, as in the end, we are all one race, human beings. If you suggested that someone could not marry because they were black, you would be labelled a racist. So I don’t see they difference in saying that someone can not marry because of their sexual orientation. It’s homophobic. Nelson Mandela said that people are not born hating someone because of the colour of their skin, or their religion, or sexual orientation. They learn this behaviour. And if they can learn to hate, then they can be taught how to love.


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