Falsehistory.ie is a website created by historian and author Eugene Jordan. The mission of the site is to highlight instances of poor quality history and falsehoods which masquerade as and are often presented as truth, but contain little or none.
It is important to raise public awareness of the issues, vilification and the discrimination which results from untruthful reporting, not least because it has its genesis in the time-honoured tradition of Irish self-loathing which begrudges each other’s intelligence.
Irish history and in particular Irish academic history is in a very bad place. Critical thinking skills are almost absent from many university departments and it is evident to such an extent that pseudo-history is taught to students. Equally, poor standards are evident across the full gamut of academic disciplines, which has led multinational companies to blacklist certain Irish third-level institutions when hiring graduates.
The drop in educational standards has led to some of the most ridiculous historical scandals in history.
Ireland has created for itself a unique place in the history of the world, Ireland remains the only country to have apologised to their armed forces deserters during WWII. Its current political leaders believe that in the past, it was a misogynistic nation where women starved women. Women murdered babies. Women abused children. Women abused babies. Women imprisoned women. Women trafficked babies. Women kidnapped women. Women covered up abuse. Women perpetrated a holocaust against babies. These allegations are entirely reliant on the notion that Irish women are particularly faulty human beings, as altruistic women in other nations, and for the best part of two thousand years, do not stand so accused.
All these allegations are of course falsehoods but continue to be believed by many people in Ireland and beyond, despite the existence of a comprehensive body of contradictory evidence. In most societies, university historians would stand as the guardians of quality history, but the low standard of education and the lack of quality control methods has left the Irish academic system broken, seemingly beyond repair. Not only were they asleep on the job but have let substandard work into the public domain lending credibility to many falsehoods through association.
Dishonesty in politics is nothing new; but the manner in which some politicians now lie, and the havoc they may wreak by doing so, is troubling. We live in a post-truth era in the western world which is defined as:
‘relating to or existing in an environment in which facts are viewed as irrelevant, or less important than personal beliefs and opinions, and emotional appeals are used to influence public opinion’.
Irish journalism is also in a very sorry state. Honesty and integrity are not key values and sensationalism — even in publications that were previously considered quality — has come to dominate reporting. Traditional publishing is struggling to survive in the information age and so the broadsheets have turned to tabloid sensationalism and the cult of celebrity. However, there is more to the race to the bottom than meets the eye. Journalists and politicians are no longer equipped to be able to defend against fake news, weaponised pseudo-history, notoriety seekers and the full gamut of fakery, which would have in a previous era would have attracted labels from gullible or innocent to a fool or a clown. Why should this be?
How Ireland dumbed down
On the sixth of March 2012, the Irish Times carried an article with the above title revealing that in the previous December, some of the top executives from the three multinational companies headquartered in Dublin met with the minister of education, Bat O’Keefe. The executives from Google, Intel and Hewlett Packard complained to him about the drop in Irish educational standards and demanded he and the government take action. Together with the Institutes of Technology (IT), the universities entered an arms race handing out higher and higher grades to students to create the illusion of high performance. The resultant ‘grade inflation’ was at that time being highlighted by the Irish Times for more than a decade. Six months prior, Intel’s former boss Craig Barrett, addressed a summit on Ireland’s economic future. His message was summarised by one of the attendees thus: ‘drop all that guff about a world-class education system and face the truth: Ireland is average on education, and average is no longer good enough.’ Ireland has been deluding itself into believing that it had a world-class educational system and a well-educated population, but the people in the market employing graduates were not as easily fooled as the public and the politicians. The teachers’ unions attributed the rise in the number of higher grades to better teaching, while the colleges claimed that it was due to their improving standards. However, all argued for and received higher salaries; they lined their own pockets at the taxpayers’ expense and gave nothing in return. The blame lies fully with the Irish government who have allowed the third level institutions to effectively govern themselves, devolving oversight to the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB) and the Higher Education Training and Awards Council (Hetac). All of Ireland’s university presidents or their nominees sit on the IUQB board, while four senior IT figures sit on the Hetac board. If the world university awarded a degree for a person’s ability to pull the wool over gullible politicians’ eyes, it would be a prerequisite for Irish university governance jobs.
The article’s author concluded that the minister was on ‘a personal mission to modify the system, protect the economy and, in the process, leave a lasting legacy. But the task of turning around Irish education, with its high level of self-regard, its culture of secrecy and its evaluation deficit, is formidable.’ So formidable was the challenge that the government had made no progress on it ten years later.
About the Author
Eugene Jordan is an expert in the field of historical medicine and science. He holds honours degrees in science, psychology, history and a master’s degree in information technology. His social media pages on the subject of Irish History have over 240,000 followers. Over the years, he has published many articles, including lessons for historians in the Tuam Mother and Baby Homes Scandal, published by the Federation of Local History Societies in 2018. He is the Vice-Chair of Moycullen Heritage, past president of one of Ireland’s oldest academic heritage societies, Galway Archaeological and Historical Society and former chair of the city’s Civic Trust. He continues to give public lectures on diverse topics, from the science behind Formula One Racing to the meaning of Irish place-names.