Eddie Holt had the misfortune all his life to insist in telling truth to power. For that reason, he lost his column in the Irish Times because he called the seamy underside of the Celtic Tiger what it was – a huge and dishonest fraud perpetrated on millions of Irish. That view did not suit the Zeitgeist at the paper at the time so off with his head.
Almost alone among journalists, Eddie Holt, who died on Tuesday at age 60, stood out with opinions that refused to bend to the contemporary groupthink.
He was my oldest and closest friend, a brilliant journalism lecturer, who won a prestigious scholarship to Boston University, a columnist and a seer who wrote not what was popular but what turned out to be true.
Celtic Tiger? An illusion. Iraq war? A disaster. Church scandals? Utterly inevitable and unforgivable at a time when cover-ups were still in force and the malign forces in the Church had many defenders.
He had unique insights. After all, in 2006, Eddie would write such searing truths about church and greedy business practices as follows: “The theocracy that was Ireland has been replaced by an economy. Half a century from now – say in 2056 – are we likely to view the tracker mortgage crowd as we now characteristically view, with a certain skepticism and arguably even mild disdain, the amassing of indulgences? Who knows? But as banks get bigger and wealthier while churches lose congregations and even close, it's as well to be aware of the transitory nature of ideologies.
“In today's Ireland, where the currency is loot not indulgences, will people not come to laugh at and be embarrassed by this age of gushy flogging of financial 'products'? Make up your own mind.”
His was a very lonely voice, one that took issue with the prevailing force ten hurricane winds that deemed that all that was good, saintly and holy belonged in the maw of the Celtic Tiger and the “responsible” leaders of Ireland and all else was old and out of fashion.
Eddie was always one to chip away at the alabaster saints, both secular and divine, of Irish life and to see the wooden and graven image underneath.
Here he is again waxing prophetic in 2006 on the Celtic Tiger, “I am afraid this time in Irish life will come to be seen as a bullying time ... there’s too much discrepancy between the wealthy and the poor now. Irish life is coarser than it was. It’s more unfeeling. Perhaps that is the inevitable price of an economic boom. However, you’re not meant to say that because the cheesy propaganda is meant to be only good.”
And here on the Iraq War and the media cheer-leading. The supporters of the Iraq war he noted:
“... have penetrated not only Iraq but Irish living-rooms and public places such as bars, banks and hotels. Their push is unprecedented in the history of media warfare. Flickering away as a constant backdrop to the US and British attack, these news channels offer 'war' as wallpaper. Nonetheless, we remain unable to discern what is really taking place in Iraq because, as ever, the media are a hugely significant weapon of war.
"They report lies willingly and inadvertently, but more often they report half-truths, limited truths and truth out of context because they can get nothing better.”
Such views against the mainstream made Eddie a very unpopular figure at times in the cheer-leading mainstream. It never bothered him.
Three weeks before he passed, he and his devoted wife, Dympna, came to New York on a farewell trip. He went to Strawberry Fields, in Central Park, and reminisced about John Lennon and “Imagine.”
Eddie was one of those old souls who wanted a better world and lived his life to try and make it so through insight and imagination. Farewell old friend, you truly did make that difference. To Dympna and to Joe, your brilliant son: you have both lost a champion and a giant.