John Waters (columnist)

John Waters
Born (1955-05-28) 28 May 1955
Castlerea, County Roscommon, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Occupation Columnist
Years active 1981 – present
Known for Writing in The Irish Times,
Entering the Eurovision Song Contest
Children Róisín

John Waters (born 28 May 1955) is an Irish journalist. Waters's career began in 1981 with the Irish political-music magazine Hot Press.[1] He went on to write for the Sunday Tribune and later edited In Dublin magazine and Magill. Waters has written several books and, in 1998, he devised The Whoseday Book — which contains quotes, writings and pictures of 365 Irish writers and musicians – that raised some €3 million for the Irish Hospice Foundation.[2]

He wrote a weekly Friday column for The Irish Times. He was briefly fired during a dispute with the then editor, Geraldine Kennedy, but was shortly thereafter reinstated.[3][4][5] In March 2014, Waters left the Irish Times,[6][7] and shortly after started writing columns for the Sunday Independent and Irish Independent.


Politics and advocacy

Waters has referred to himself as a "neo-Luddite"[8] or later as a "luddite".[9] At one stage he refused to use e-mail and stated his concern that society ignores the negative aspects of the Internet.

In his articles titled Impose democracy on Iraq and Bush and Blair doing right thing, Waters explained his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a position based on his belief that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the West due to its possession of weapons of mass destruction.[10][11]

He wrote an article titled Two sides to domestic violence, which criticised the lack of gender balance in Amnesty International's campaign against domestic violence in Ireland. Waters cited the National Crime Council report, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute, which found approximate gender symmetry in most measures of domestic violence and he pointed out that despite these statistics, funding for women victims of domestic violence (€15 million) disproportionately outstrips funding for male victims.[12] Waters' article led to a response from the head of Amnesty International's Irish branch.[13]

Waters also devoted much of his column space in The Irish Times to discussing the role and importance of religion and faith in society. In an interview, he has described people of faith as "funnier, sharper and smarter" than atheists.[14] In a 2009 article titled "Another no to Lisbon might shock FF back to its senses" Waters voiced his opposition to gay marriage stating that it was "potentially destructive of the very fabric of Irish society".[15]

He is an active participant in the Catholic cultural movement Communion and Liberation.[16] He has given at least one talk to the Iona Institute.[17]

He was a member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland until he resigned in January 2014,[18] during time that he was a litigant seeking damages from the broadcaster RTÉ.[19][20]

In 2015, he became involved with First Families First in calling for a 'No' vote in the referendum for the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015.[21]

Non-fiction and drama

Waters has written a number of works of non-fiction as well as plays for radio and the stage. The title of his first non-fiction book, Jiving at the Crossroads, is a pun of Irish president Éamon de Valera's vision of a rural Ireland including "comely maidens dancing at the crossroads". In the book, Waters comments on modern Ireland. Another non-fiction work, Lapsed Agnostic, describes his "journey from belief to un-belief and back again."


Eurovision Song Contest

Waters has entered the Eurovision Song Contest on a number of occasions.

"They Can't Stop the Spring", the song he co-wrote with Tommy Moran, was shortlisted for Ireland's entry to Eurovision Song Contest 2007.[22] On 16 February 2007, "They Can't Stop the Spring" was selected on RTÉ's The Late Late Show to represent Ireland in that year's final in Helsinki. After a telephone vote of viewers, "They Can't Stop The Spring" won the selection. The song finished last in the European competition final, receiving only 5 points.

In 2010, RTÉ announced that Waters had sought to represent Ireland again at Eurovision, with the song "Does Heaven Need Much More?", co-written with Tommy Moran.[23] In the Irish National Final on 5 March 2010, the song was performed by Leanne Moore, the winner of You're a Star 2008, and finished in fourth place.[24]

Electric Picnic 2010

Waters attended the Electric Picnic music festival in 2010 and wrote that he felt a sense of dissatisfaction with the event, concluding that there was a lack of meaning underpinning events at the festival.[25] Sunday Tribune journalist Una Mullally replied that if John Waters felt disconnected or out of place at the Electric Picnic, that it was because the country had changed, and continued "perhaps this is the first Irish generation who have purposely opted out of tormenting themselves by searching for some unattainable greater meaning and who have chosen instead just to live".[26]


In 2008, he took part in a television programme which researched his family's past.[27] Parish records revealed that his great-granduncle, also called John Waters, died of starvation during the Great Famine.[27]

In 2011 he sat for the painter Nick Miller (artist), the subject of a naked portrait for an Arts Lives RTÉ programme, called Naked.[28]


Blogging controversy

During a newspaper review on radio station, Newstalk 106, Waters declared blogs and bloggers to be "stupid".[29] He then repeated those claims[30] the following week, sparking controversy amongst Irish bloggers[31] who took exception to his views. In the same interview, Waters claimed that "sixty to seventy percent of the internet is pornography".[32]

Jailing over parking fine

In September 2013 he was jailed for around two hours in Wheatfield Prison over non-payment of a parking fine.[33] The case dated back to 2011 and Waters claimed that he returned to his car one minute over a 15-minute grace period.[33] He refused to pay the fine as a matter of principle.[34]

Homophobia accusations

On 11 January 2014, Waters was mentioned by Irish drag queen Panti (Rory O'Neill) on RTÉ's The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O'Connor while discussing homophobia. O'Neill said that Waters, among other Irish journalists, was homophobic.[35][36]

Waters and the others mentioned threatened RTÉ and O'Neill with legal action.[37] RTÉ subsequently removed that section of the interview from their online archive.[38] On 25 January episode of the Saturday Night Show, O'Connor issued a public apology those named on behalf of RTÉ for being mentioned in the interview held two weeks previously.[39] RTÉ paid monies to Waters and others mentioned.[40]

RTÉ received hundreds of complaints about the issue.[41] A rally against the payout and censorship drew 2000 people,[42] and the appropriateness of the payout was later discussed by members of the Oireachtas.[43][44][45][46] The issue was also discussed in the European Parliament.[47] RTÉ's head of television defended the €85,000 payout and blamed the decision mostly on Ireland's Anti-Defamation Laws.[48][49]

In February 2014[50] Waters' implicated fellow Irish Times journalist Patsy McGarry as the author of a handful of ad hominem Tweets, written anonymously by McGarry. In the piece, Waters' demonstrated an institutional bias within the Irish Times against Catholic social teaching. Despite this, in March 2014, it was announced that John Waters had decided to stop contributing to The Irish Times.[6][7] Reports stated that he had been unhappy at The Irish Times since the controversy.[6][7]

Comments on depression

In April 2014, Waters replied when asked if he had become depressed because of the reaction to his actions over RTÉ and Rory O'Neill: "There's no such thing. It's an invention. It's bullshit. It's a cop out."[51]

He was criticised by many, including Paul Kelly, founder of the suicide prevention charity Console, guidance councillor Eamon Keane, journalist Suzanne Harrington (whose late husband suffered from depression), gay rights activist Panti, charity campaigner Majella O'Donnell as well as online commenters.[52][53][54][55]

His former partner Sinéad O'Connor expressed concern for John Waters, saying that she thought he was suffering from depression and needed to admit it.[56]

Independent Newspapers

On 13 July 2014, he was published in the Sunday Independent in what the paper described as his first column for them.[57] He has since written regular columns for that paper and its sister the Irish Independent.[58]




Personal life

Waters was born in Castlerea, County Roscommon. He had a daughter in 1996 named Róisín with singer Sinéad O'Connor.[59] He suffered from an alcohol addiction until 1989 when he gave it up completely, a decision which he says has transformed his life.[60]


  1. "Is Hot Press still cool?". Marketing Magazine (Ireland). Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  2. Books Written By John Waters
  3. John Waters and The Irish Times Eamonn Fitzgeralds Rainy Day
  4. Irish Times fires columnist John Waters, RTÉ News, Sunday 23 November 2003
  5. Waters is reinstated at The Irish Times, RTÉ News, Monday 24 November 2003
  6. 1 2 3 Calnan, Denise (28 March 2014). "Columnist John Waters 'stops contributing' to the Irish Times". Irish Independent. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 "John Waters has officially stopped writing for the Irish Times". 28 March 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  8. The Irish Times
  9. The Irish Times
  10. Bush and Blair doing right thing Irish Times 24 March 2003.
  11. Impose democracy on Iraq Irish Times 24 March 2003.
  12. Garda Vetting & working with children 18 May 2005.
  13. The Irish Times
  14. Count Me Out (MP3 audio file)
  16. The Risk of Education by John Waters. Retrieved: 201104-15.
  17. O'Gorman, Tom (14 December 2012). "John Waters on 'Ireland and the Abolition of God'". Iona Institute. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  18. "John Waters resigns from broadcasting watchdog -". Irish Independent. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  19. "Ireland: Anti-gay marriage group win damages after drag queen calls them homophobes ·". Pink News. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  20. Laura Slattery (Feb 6, 2014). "RTÉ show generates 330 emails and letters to regulator". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  21. Sheridan, Kathy (1 May 2015). "Kathy Sheridan: First Families First take up fight for No side". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  23. Eurovision Song Contest
  24. All Kinds of Everything
  25. John Waters (10 September 2010). "Soul poison hides lack of meaning for Picnickers". Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  26. Una Mullally (12 September 2010). "If John Waters feels lost or disconnected from the new reality of Ireland, it's because this isn't his country anymore...". Archived from the original on 24 August 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  27. 1 2 Past comes back to haunt us, The Irish Times, 13 September 2008, retrieved 4 July 2009
  28. "Naked". RTÉ.
  29. John Waters on blogs Twenty Major Blog. 10 January 2008.
  30. More on John Waters and blogs Twenty Major Blog. 16 January 2008.
  31. No child of John Waters will ever marry a… blogger... The DOBlog 16 January 2008.
  32. Audio of Newstalk interview with Waters 10 January 2008
  33. 1 2 Lally, Conor (3 September 2013). "John Waters briefly jailed over non-payment of parking fine". The Irish Times. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  34. "Journalist Waters jailed for two hours after refusing to pay fine". Irish Independent. 4 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  35. College Tribune (9 August 2012). "Gay marriage is a product of this bunker mentality". College Tribune. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  36. "Panti's Back On". 16 January 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  37. Cahir O'Doherty (19 January 2014). "Columnist John Waters in a Panti twist over anti-gay claims". Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  38. Brian Byrne (16 January 2014). "RTÉ cuts part of show after legal complaint from Waters". Irish Independent. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  39. The Journal retrieved 26 January 2014
  40. "RTÉ paid out €85,000 in 'homophobe' row". Irish Independent. 2 February 2014.
  41. "RTÉ receive 847 complaints about Panti". The Journal. 6 February 2014.
  42. "Over 2000 attend protest over "silencing" of homophobia debate". RTÉ.ie. 6 February 2014.
  43. The Journal retrieved 30 January 2014
  44. Video on YouTube retrieved 30 January 2014
  45. The Journal retrieved 30 January 2014
  46. Clare Daly TD retrieved 31 January 2014
  47. European Parliament retrieved 4 February 2014.
  48. "RTÉ blames Irish defamation laws over €85,000 payout". Press Gazette. 6 February 2014.
  49. "Taoiseach dismisses call to make RTÉ answerable to the Dáil". The Irish Times. 5 February 2014.
  50. Waters, John (23 April 2014). "So, who's illeberal here?". Village Magazine.
  51. Horan, Niamh (13 April 2014). "'I've been put on trial over my beliefs'". Sunday Independent.
  52. Sheehy, Clodagh; Blake Knox, Kirsty (14 April 2014). "Anger over John Waters' depression comments". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  53. Harrington, Suzanne (21 April 2014). "My rage at John Waters' dated rhetoric and old-school ignorance". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  54. "Remarks about depression sparked huge online debate". Sunday Independent. 20 April 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  55. Finn, Melanie (14 April 2014). "John is depressed but he won't admit it, claims O'Connor". Evening Herald. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  56. Waters, John (13 July 2013). "Searching for the soul of the 'true' Ireland ...". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  57. "Search". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
  58. 1 2 3 Biography
  59. John Waters (2014-07-30). "The alternative to drink is freedom from a substance that was the point of my life". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
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