Mary Ellen Synon

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Mary Ellen Synon (born 1951) is an Irish-American[1] journalist currently based in Brussels. She is a columnist with the Mail on Sunday and a contributor to the Daily Mail in Britain and the Irish Daily Mail, as well as the Irish weekly, The Sunday Business Post. In addition she is a frequent contributor to Irish radio current affairs programmes.


Synon was born in Virginia.[2] After attending university in 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. 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. 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.[3] 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.'[4] She told The Guardian: 'I hate the bugger.'[5] '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.'[6] 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.[7] The then governor Sir Eddie George allegedly had the carpet cut up.[8]

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 Britain. Synon subsequently worked as Dublin correspondent, then Europe correspondent, and finally Britain correspondent for The Economist. She has also been a columnist in Ireland for the Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Independent, and has contributed to The Irish Times, the Irish Independent and the Irish edition of the Sunday Times.

Controversial writing[edit]

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, education and other controversial issues. After one such article[9] an unsuccessful attempt was made by a Travellers Rights Group to initiate a prosecution under the Incitement to Hatred Act. She also attacked Reconstruction and defended Nathan Bedford Forrest's actions during the period, in terms similar to the Neo-Confederate movement.[10] Her tenure culminated in an article penned in 2000 attacking the Paralympics for blind and disabled athletes in Sydney.[11]

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.'[7] 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.'

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.' The chairman, Tony O'Reilly, and his son, Gavin O'Reilly were both attributed opinions in the matter.

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'.[12] She has also criticized Nicolas Sarkozy.[13]

Synon has also expressed admiration for the American philosopher Ayn Rand.[14] During the 2008 Presidential Election, Synon repeatedly championed Sarah Palin as the politician best suited to represent conservative values and govern the US. [15]


  1. ^ Liz Hunt, 'Can O'Bama bask in the luck of the Irish?', Daily Telegraph (15 March 2007), p. 27.
  2. ^ a b "Mary Ellen:Ice Maiden of the Right". John Maher, Irish Times, 22 March 1995 (p.6)
  3. ^ Reliable Rupert leaves Old Lady in disgrace[dead link]
  4. ^ Mistress of her own destiny Sunday Tribune, 27 August 2000
  5. ^ Clark, Andrew "Scandalous" The Guardian, 28 October 2006; Retrieved 27 February 2009
  6. ^ Cheryl Stonehouse and Andrea Hubert, 'A-Z of Sex Scandals', Daily Express (24 January 2006), p. 19.
  7. ^ a b Leonard, Tom "Athletes outraged as Paralympics called "perverse"' Telegraph, 27 October 2000; Retrieved 23 September 2007
  8. ^ Simon Goodley, 'The Good Life. Hop on: we are taking sex tourism global', Sunday Telegraph (16 March 2008), p. 8
  9. ^ McCarthy, Dave (2004) Time to get tough on tinker terror ‘culture’ Sunday Independent, 28 January 1996 (Independent Media Centre Ireland) Retrieved 29 December 2006
  10. ^ "Klannish Nature of Our Emigrants", Sunday Independent, 15 January 1995
  11. ^ Dundon, Mary "Pressure on Times to say sorry for Myers" Cork Examiner, 10 February 2005; Retrieved 23 September 2007
  12. ^ Quit, Mary, the Cooing is Turning into Booing Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 18 February 2006
  13. ^ Euroseptic: Mary Ellen Synon More vanity from the Frenchman with the shoe lifts Mail Online, 16 February 2009
  14. ^ "Is this the Woman who can save the Tories?" The Mail on Sunday, 18 August 2002
  15. ^ "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).