Mary Ellen Synon

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Mary Ellen Synon (born 1951) is an American journalist.[1] She is a columnist with the Mail on Sunday and a contributor to the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom and the Irish Daily Mail, as well as the Irish weekly, The Sunday Business Post. She is a frequent contributor to Irish radio current affairs programmes.[2] Through her career, Synon has been an outspoken critic of the European Union and an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism.[2]


Synon was born in Virginia.[2] Synon is the daughter of John J. Synon, (d.1972) an American journalist who worked with Goodwin J. Knight and George Wallace.[3][4] Synon met George Wallace as a young woman.[5] Synon's paternal ancestors came from the area near Doneraile, County Cork.[4] After studying at Trinity College, Dublin, she worked briefly for the Daily News in Durban, South Africa, and for publications in New York before joining the staff of The Daily Telegraph in London as a reporter.[4] While she was at the Telegraph, she was a member of the Institute of Journalists, and served as a trade union official and negotiator. She was also awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship which allowed her to be based in Paris for nine months to study the European Economic Community. Synon then worked at the London bureau of the American television current affairs programme, 60 Minutes, working first as a researcher and then as an associate producer for correspondent Morley Safer and producer John Tiffin. She worked on 60 Minutes programmes in various countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Ireland, France, Denmark, Germany and the UK. Synon subsequently worked as Dublin correspondent, then Europe correspondent, and finally British correspondent for The Economist.[4] She has also been a columnist in Ireland for the Sunday Business Post,[4] the Sunday Tribune, the Sunday Independent, and has contributed to The Irish Times, the Irish Independent and the Irish edition of the Sunday Times.

When Irish journalist Susan O'Keeffe was brought before the Beef Tribunal for refusing to name her sources, an article Synon wrote about O'Keeffe caused a public outcry: "Just before the appearance, Ms. Synon wrote in the Sunday Tribune that she would be happy to see Ms. O'Keeffe in handcuffs, a remark Ms. O'Keeffe's counsel complained about in court".[2]

In 1995 Synon made headlines in the British and Irish press over her affair with Rupert Pennant-Rea, the deputy governor of the Bank of England. Pennant-Rea subsequently resigned.[6][7] Synon went to the press when he called time on the dalliance, with contradictory statements. According to the Sunday Tribune, she said: 'Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him.'[8] She told The Guardian: 'I hate the bugger.'[9] 'If you're going to dump, don't dump a financial journalist when you're Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. That's dumb.'[10] She was nicknamed 'the Bonk of England' by tabloid newspapers after she disclosed that she and Pennant-Rea had had sex on the governor's dressing room floor at the Bank.[11] The then governor Sir Eddie George allegedly had the carpet cut up.[12] In the 1990s, Synon became a regular freelance columnist for the Dublin-based Sunday Independent, and was noted for her opinions on asylum seekers, travellers, and education.[citation needed]


Economist article on Ireland[edit]

In January 1988, Synon and Frances Cairncross wrote an article from the Economist that depicted Ireland as poverty-stricken and bureaucratic.[4][13] The article angered both the Fianna Fáil government of the time and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, who believed the article, published in an influential magazine, "did serious damage to the image of Ireland overseas".[4]

Comments on Waterford Glass[edit]

During an industrial dispute at Waterford Glass in 1990, Synon wrote an article in the Sunday Business Post that called on the company's main shareholder, Tony O'Reilly, to relocate the company to Czechoslovakia. Synon added "Dr. O'Reilly will hereby earn more millions. And the men of Waterford will earn just what they have been asking for-unemployment."[14] Synon's comment was criticized by two regional newspapers, Cork's Evening Echo and Waterford's The Munster Express. The latter publication ran an editorial headlined "Mary Ellen, You're Wrong".[14]

Travelling Community[edit]

In 1996, Synon wrote an article claiming most rural crime in Ireland was caused by the travelling community and stated traveller life was "a life worse than the life of beasts, for beasts at least are guided by wholesome instinct"[15] An unsuccessful attempt was made by a Travellers Rights Group to initiate a prosecution under the Incitement to Hatred Act.[16]

US History[edit]

In 1995, Synon caused further controversy when she criticized the Reconstruction and defended Nathan Bedford Forrest's actions during the period, arguing the first version of the Ku Klux Klan was necessary for law enforcement during the time.[17] In the article, Synon praised Irish-Americans who fought for the Southern Confederacy during the American Civil War, saying "Surely no Irish emigrant ever found a nobler cause than the Southern Confederacy". Synon attacked Reconstruction as the mistreatment of white Southerners:

The North set up the plague of marshall law [sic] on the stricken Confederacy.[17]

Synon argued the Klan had been misrepresented by Northern historians:

Now the Klan is misunderstood on this side of the Atlantic. Yankees lie about the purpose and activities of the Klan,just as they lie about all the finest Southern things...The Klan fought against the oppression of innocence and when Nathan Bedford Forrest determined that the end of Negro and Yankee brutality had been accomplished, he disbanded the Klan.[17][18]

Synon also suggested the Klan had been modeled by Irish-American emigrants on the Irish Whiteboys, and argued that the post-1915 KKK was a betrayal of the organisation's original principles.[17] In response, several Sunday Independent readers wrote in, claiming Synon was denying the Klan's racist and terroristic nature, and that Synon's view of Reconstruction was based on the work of the Dunning School (which is no longer accepted by most American historians).[18] Some other readers also expressed offence at the comparison of the Klan to the Whiteboys.[18] Synon responded to the criticism by writing "I see that the ignorance of my fellow Irish on these matters remains profound".[18]

Synon also defended George Wallace after his death, saying Wallace was not a racist. "I knew George Wallace... what he was, was a man who supported the American Constitution and the guarantee in that Constitution of the right of the States to sovereignty." Synon stated "segregation by race is not racism, any more than the religious segregation in the education of this country is religious bigotry".[5] When several Sunday Independent readers wrote in to object to Synon's article on Wallace, she responded by saying "Brown v. Board of Education was the most disgraceful and unconstitutional decision ever reached by the disgraceful and unjust Warren Supreme Court".[19]

In an article for the Daily Mail, Synon attacked Abraham Lincoln as racist and corrupt. Synon also claimed Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to deal with the Great Depression, and "was the worst president of the 20th century."[20]

Paralympics article[edit]

Her tenure culminated in an article penned in 2000 attacking the Paralympics for blind and disabled athletes in Sydney.[21]

In the article, she wrote: "It is time to suggest that these so-called Paralympics...are – well, one hesitates to say 'grotesque'. One will only say 'perverse'...Surely physical competition is about finding the best – the fastest, strongest, highest, all that. It is not about finding someone who can wobble his way around a track in a wheelchair, or who can swim from one end of a pool to the other by Braille.[11] She advised the disabled and blind to 'play to your competitive advantage' and added: 'In other words, Stephen Hawking shows his wisdom by staying out of the three-legged race.'[22]

The article, which was criticised by the National Union of Journalists, was subsequently discussed in the Irish Senate where Maurice Hayes, a senator, director of Independent News & Media, which owns the Sunday Independent, and acquaintance of the controlling shareholder, said it was indefensible, indecent and hurtful: 'It should not have been written and if written, it should not have been published. I know that my views are shared by my colleagues on the Independent board and in particular by the chairman.'[22] The chairman, Tony O'Reilly, and his son, Gavin O'Reilly were both attributed opinions in the matter.[22] As a result of the controversy, Synon left the newspaper.[22]

Other viewpoints[edit]

Synon has repeated expressed opposition to any form of socialism in her articles, and has referred to Marxism as "evil". Synon has described the socialist policies of Salvador Allende in Chile as a front for Soviet control of the country, saying that was "just what the evil Allende was up to in Chile". Synon also praised Augusto Pinochet for staging the coup that ousted Allende, saying "It was a noble coup, General".[23] Synon has also stated there is no difference between Marxism and Fascism and cited George G. Watson's book, The Lost Literature of Socialism as proof of this thesis. She added, "There is no polarity between Nazis and Marxists. They are the same people".[24]

Among other people she has criticised are the two female presidents of Ireland: 'that other ambitious small-town lady lawyer', Mary Robinson, who worked for the 'headquarters of moral corruption, the United Nations'; and the 'arrogant Mrs McAleese'.[25] She has also criticized Nicolas Sarkozy.[26]

Synon has also expressed admiration for the American philosopher Ayn Rand.[27][28] During the 2008 Presidential Election, Synon repeatedly championed Sarah Palin as the politician best suited to represent conservative values and govern the US.[29] Synon has been a strong critic of the Obama Administration, arguing Obama's administration is politically corrupt and is not doing enough to reduce the United States deficit: "Obama will destroy America with this debt. Apologies to Prof. Wilson, but I am already finding it hard to keep my sense of humour".[20]

In 2015, Synon gave a speech to the Bruges Group where she criticized David Cameron's policy on the European Union, arguing Cameron was not doing enough to take the UK out of the E.U.[30] In an interview on the TV show Pat Kenny Tonight , Synon said she was pleased with the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US Presidential Election, adding that she was "beyond thrilled" that Trump became President.[31]


  1. ^ Liz Hunt, 'Can O'Bama bask in the luck of the Irish?', Daily Telegraph (15 March 2007), p. 27.
  2. ^ a b c d "Mary Ellen:Ice Maiden of the Right". John Maher, Irish Times, 22 March 1995 (p.6)
  3. ^ "John J. Synon (Obituary)" Rappahannock Record, 13 April 1972, (p.3)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Sam Smyth, "Mary, Ellen, Quite Contrary". Sunday Independent, 13 March 1990.
  5. ^ a b "Wallace Embodied The Heart of Dixie". Mary Ellen Synon,Sunday Independent 27 September 1998, (p.13)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Reliable Rupert leaves Old Lady in disgrace[dead link]
  8. ^ Mistress of her own destiny[permanent dead link] Sunday Tribune, 27 August 2000
  9. ^ Clark, Andrew "Scandalous" The Guardian, 28 October 2006; Retrieved 27 February 2009
  10. ^ Cheryl Stonehouse and Andrea Hubert, 'A-Z of Sex Scandals', Daily Express (24 January 2006), p. 19.
  11. ^ a b Leonard, Tom "Athletes outraged as Paralympics called 'perverse'" Telegraph, 27 October 2000; Retrieved 23 September 2007
  12. ^ Simon Goodley, "The Good Life. Hop on: we are taking sex tourism global", Sunday Telegraph (16 March 2008), p. 8
  13. ^ "Paying Tax" The Irish Times, Monday 25 September 1989 (p.9)
  14. ^ a b "City Chatter", The Munster Express, Friday 16 February 1990, (p.15)
  15. ^ McCarthy, Dave (2004) Time to get tough on tinker terror ‘culture’ Sunday Independent, 28 January 1996 (Independent Media Centre Ireland) Retrieved 29 December 2006
  16. ^ "Traveller anger as charges dropped", Irish Independent, 3 September 1996.
  17. ^ a b c d Mary Ellen Synon, "Klannish Nature of Our Emigrants", Sunday Independent, 15 January 1995
  18. ^ a b c d "Letters", Sunday Independent, 22 January 115, (p.27).
  19. ^ "Letters", Mary Ellen Synon, Sunday Independent, 4 October 1998.
  20. ^ a b MARY ELLEN SYNON: Obama will destroy America with debt - and already I'm finding it hard to keep my sense of humour Daily Mail, 17 January 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  21. ^ Dundon, Mary "Pressure on Times to say sorry for Myers[permanent dead link]" Cork Examiner, 10 February 2005; Retrieved 23 September 2007
  22. ^ a b c d Synon's rant backfired and did some unintentional good". Irish Independent 11 December 2000.
  23. ^ Mary Ellen Synon Sunday Independent 24 January 1999, (p.9).
  24. ^ Mary Ellen Synon, Sunday Independent 9 May 1999, (p.13)
  25. ^ Quit, Mary, the Cooing is Turning into Booing Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 18 February 2006
  26. ^ Euroseptic: Mary Ellen Synon More vanity from the Frenchman with the shoe lifts Mail Online, 16 February 2009
  27. ^ "Let the philosopher Ayn Rand, writing in the 1960s about American Federal controls on broadcasting,give the solution to our current "outrage". "Another Fine Mess the State has gotten us into", Mary Ellen Synon, Sunday Independent, 23 July 2000.
  28. ^ "Is this the Woman who can save the Tories?" Mary Ellen Synon, The Mail on Sunday, 18 August 2002
  29. ^ "Sarah Palin is a real threat to the left-liberal hold on America, John McCain is not." "Palin is Wonder Woman", Mary Ellen Synon, Daily Mail (Irish Edition), 4 September 2008, (p.12).
  30. ^ EU Referendum: breaking the Brussels code. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  31. ^ Brendan O'Regan,"Political Correctness From The Echo Chamber"[permanent dead link]. The Irish Catholic, 16 February 2017. Retrieved 6th May 2017.