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The Sunday Times,
35-38 St Stephen's Green,
FAX: 00 353 1 602 8816
June 20th, 1999.
In his article 'IRISH CLAN CHIEF'S REIGN MAY BE OVER' (Sunday Times, June 20th, 1999) the journalist, Mr John Burns, made several inaccurate statements which I trust you will allow me to address.
I have never styled myself as 'Royal Higness' this form of address being unknown in Gaelic Ireland. Indeed I have, on many occasions, rebuked people addressing me in this fashion. The Niadh Nask is not, and has never claimed to be an 'Order of Chivalry'.
The late Mr Samuel Trant McCarthy (d. 1927) proclaimed himself 'MacCarthy Mór' in 1921. His title was not recognised by the Ulster King of Arms, nor any other competent Heraldic Officer. By his OWN ADMISSION his claim to the title was not based on primogeniture, and thus Mr Barry Trant McCarthy's claim to the Chiefship on that basis is entirely illogical.
My pedigree was registered in 1979 by the late Gerard Slevin, Chief Herald of Ireland, confirmed by his successor, Donal Begley, and ratified in 1991 by Fergus Gillespie, the current Deputy Chief Herald. It has also been registered by the Castile & Leon King of Arms, Spain, and by two ltalian Courts. I should also point out that my grandfather's descent from the House of MacCarthy Mór was confirmed in writing in 1905 by the late Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King of Arms.
At no time have I received any request from Mr Sean Murphy, or Mr George Way of Plean, to examine my family's papers.
It is true that my grandfather, Thomas Donal McCarthy was, at times, a 'labourer'. But he was also, variously, a soldier in the 18th Hussars (receiving the Kings and Queens South Africa Medals, with clasps, and the 1914 - 1918 trio and mentioned in dispatches), sailor, and fireman. His father, James McCarthy, was a Marine Broker. He died before his son's sixth birthday and the family's fortunes went into decline. Having stated these facts I cannot see that the occupations of my ancestors has any bearing on their ancestry. Two members of the House of Lords are drawing unemployment benefits, whilst another is a green grocer!
My elder brother was murdered in 1987 during an INLA feud. He was a passenger in a car which was attacked by gunmen. Whilst my brother was a Republican and Nationalist the Coroner rejected any suggestion that he was a member sf any illegal organisation and sent his condolences to my family on the murder of an "entirely innocent man". Had my brother been a member of the I.R.A. I should be no more embarassed in admitting the fact than, I presume, Ms Sila DeValera , Minister of Culture and the Chief Herald's superior, would in admitting that her grandfather was an 'I.R.A. terrorist'!
My grandfather and father were known as MacCarthy Mór and many affidavits to that effect were deposited with the Chief Herald.
I have granted several feudal titles. I did so having obtained the written consent of Mr Donal F. Begley, the then Chief Herald of Ireland. Mr Begley subsequently confirmed this right in a letter to the director of Burke's Peerage, London. Two Italian Courts have upheld this right. My actions therefore have not only been in accordance with law, but were approved by and known to the Genealogical Office. Mr Begley recorded one such title in the official records of his Office. At no time have I ever been informed by the Office that it has 'changed its mind'!
In recognising me in 1991 (after a process lasting 6 years) Mr Begley, the then Chief Herald, was aware of the two 'scandals' Mr Burns refers to. He did not see how either event had any bearing on my claim to be MacCarthy Mór. Nor do they, saving by way of muck raking.
The Irish Constitution, Article 40/2/1 forbids the State from creating titles. The title of MacCarthy Mór has always descended by tanistry. If the Chief Herald asserts that my title must descend by primogeniture he would in effect be creating a new and distinct title. This is Ultra Vires of his authority.
My application for formal recognition as MacCarthy Mór was prompted by the then Chief Herald Mr Donal F. Begley. He knew that I did not claim the Chiefship by primogeniture. That he accorded me recognition in 1991, knowing that my father was still living, and that I had four nephews, the children of my desceased elder brother, clearly demonstrates this fact. Having sought and received recognition as MacCarthy Mór by tanistry I am now being told that I am not MacCarthy Mór by primogeniture, a claim which I have never asserted! Having been recognised as a pint of milk I am now being told I'm not a pound of butter!
It is totally incorrect to state that the Office "uses only the system of primogeniture" in recognising Gaelic Chiefships. The O'Long of Garranelongy and the Maguire of Fermanagh are not Chiefs of their Name by primogeniture, whilst the current O'Donoghue of the Glens has settled his succession on a younger son.
For twenty years I have discharged the obligations of Chiefship, lectured and published (ten major works), and acted as Patron of many cultural societies. I have done all that I could to uphold the dignity of the title. I am only sorry that Mr Barry Trant McCarthy did not see fit to make his claim known to me personally, so that we might have discussed the matter in private. It is also a matter of regret that several people, presumably without his consent, have seen fit to subject me, and my family, to public ridicule, opening old wounds and reviving forgotten scandals. Wilde was right when he wrote "In olden days men had the rack, now we have the press."
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