Kevin Myers was almost a national celebrity with a widely read and usually acclaimed column in The Irish Times as well as well as his own highbrow television programme; a general knowledge contest between the cream of the country’s university students.
He was also a special guest speaker at the annual remembrance Sunday ceremony in Dublin’s St Patrick Cathedral with President Michael D Higgins among the high-profile guests.
On top of that, he was a widely praised war correspondent risking his life during the horrific wars in Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia.
His book, Burning Heresies – A Memoir of a Life in Conflict, 1979-2020, captures in wrenching detail the savagery and human suffering of unrestrained civil strife. So what has gone wrong with a life that seemed so full of activity and public admiration? What has led to apparently a boycott and the marginalisation of such a talented individual? I read the book closely with a mixture of admiration and horror.
Admiration at the writing skill, the acute powers of observation and humour and the sheer bravery that shines through the unforgettable scenes of savage wars.
A controversial approach
It is his outspoken columns with a total disregard for political correctness for which he is best remembered in some quarters, in others it is fearless prodding of the national conscience into acknowledging and remembering the thousands of Irish men that had fought so valiantly during World War I. He was primarily responsible for the rehabilitation of their reputation and the reclamation of the magnificent memorial garden dedicated to their memory at Islandbridge – just beside Heuston Station. But the outspoken naivety expressed in some of his columns made people nervous of employing him or it seems from the book of even associating with him at official functions. It is clear from reading the book that he is deeply hurt by being excluded from the mainstream of Irish life and also it is clear financially, he is badly affected. It is certain in my view that his editors gave him too free a rein to express what many would regard as intemperate views. Those who employ talented creative people should always remember that “genius to madness is close allied and thin partitions doth their bounds divide”.
This book by Kevin Myers is a compulsive gripping read, published at his own expense. It holds an uncomfortable mirror to aspects of Irish society.
It is published by Merrion Press, 10 Georges Street, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Price €19.95