Róisín Ingle

Róisín Ingle

HAD THERE been a category for ‘Misstep of the Year’ at yesterday’s national journalism awards, Róisín “Bungle” Ingle is likely to have snatched the prize at the very last minute.

The schadenfreude emanating from the Irish Times writer’s ill-judged take on the Blackrock College sexual abuse scandal has not impressed readers.

Having a pop at the “richer, posher and more privileged” past pupils of the fee-paying school was a rather unconvincing attempt by Bungle to portray herself as coming from the wrong side of the tracks.

Bungle attended Sion Hill in the well-heeled suburb of Blackrock, and claims some Blackrock College boys nicknamed it ‘Pill Hill’ in an attempt to shame the girls. “They thought we were all sexually active and on the pill, not being as well bred as them,” she wrote.

She then added that “us Pill Hill girls should have been looking down on that school.”

The latter may have been designed to show some sympathy. It fell flat as it was preceded by the suggestion that the boys lorded it over those who didn’t have parents who could afford to send their children to “schools that support social segregation, schools where the have-a-lots are educated away from the have-lesses.”

Poor old Ryan Tubridy and Eoin Ó Broin were dragged into the debacle, as Bungle wrote that Official Ireland sent its boys to the school to become “future leaders, future lawyers” and “future Late Late Show presenters and Sinn Féin TDs.”

As a 50-something woman writing about the abuse allegations, her assertion that “we now know” that the teenage boys who “sneered” and “looked down on” her own school “had nothing to feel superior about” has astonished readers and fellow hacks.

An abused child is an abused child, no matter how rich his parents are.

What is more surprising is that nobody along the editorial process seemed to notice that a piece about such a sensitive subject appeared to be written in part through the lens of a teenage girl with an axe to grind.

Even more puzzling from a purely commercial perspective is that Bungle showed such contempt for the exact cohort of readers the paper hopes will purchase the expensive kitchens and clothes featured in its Saturday magazine and The Gloss.

While many social media commenters mentioned complaining in writing to the IT about the incendiary article, two fairly mild rebukes – one of which the writer has since said was shortened – were published in the letters page.

Instead of an apology, today’s editorial in the paper attempted to compensate by lionising the “proud Blackrock College students and alumni,” and quoting the school anthem so often sung at rugby matches: “Rock boys are we/Our title is our glory.”

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic’s failure to grasp the nettle this early on in his tenure as new editor will have been noted.

Meanwhile Bungle’s article remains online and she has publicly ignored the whole debacle.

Her perspective was very different from that taken by her best mate Paul Howard, who writes the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly column. While his column is centred around a wealthy former rugby star from a fictionalised version of Blackrock College, readers recognise the world and are always in on the joke.

It is worlds apart from crowing about Sion Hill girls getting to have the last laugh over the Blackrock boys.

Bungle’s mistake was conflating issues of class with the abuse of children, a practice that doesn’t discriminate between rich or poor.