ARTICLE: In Ireland
Challenging the Arch Druid:
A statement by Janet and Stewart Farrar and Gavin Bone
We first heard about 'Arch Druid' (Michael McGrath) about two years ago. We were warned about this time about him by a Gard (policeman) who told us about the right wing connection. He had appeared on RTE TV claiming to be head of an exteme racist right-wing Party, and the fact that he kept appearing in court for Drunk and Disorderly behaviour and assault - SEE NEWSPAPER CUTTING from the Leinster/Munster Express 1996.
He wrote to us, direct, inviting us up to Tara for Summer Solstice 1995. We decided that we needed to meet him personally before judging him. When we got there we were met by him; he was dressed in paramilitary dress and told us how he was shocked about the 'black Druids' who were coming from England. He also said that he wanted Janet to do the ritual and that he had called the press who were sending a photographer, even though we had said quite explicitly stated that we were coming as 'observers'. We exited very quickly giving no reason for our leaving.
Last year a fundamentalist [Christian?] in Cork trying to sell anti-Pagan Halloween videos appeared in the tabloids claiming that there was going to be a human sacrifice at Halloween by Satanists and that the Gards were 'investigating'. We were contacted by the Garda inspector in Cork who wanted information, as this was news to him! We sent him a video on the 'Child Abuse and Sacrifice Myth' and generally put his mind at rest that it was just a fundamentalist trying to sell videos. Unfortunately, the next week, Michael McGrath appeared in the same paper saying how he was going to turn the full resources of his Order (the Irish order of Druids) against these nasty 'Satanic witch covens'. He therefore supported the fundamentalist in his claim by doing this, and we weren't very happy about his use of the word witch.
He got a gathering of Druids together at Tara last Solstice, this included the British Council of Druid Orders, who sent a representative. One of the groups we were involved with under the PINE banner sent an observer, as we didn't want to actively support him. He has only been claiming to be a Druid for the past four years, so in no way has he the experience (about 21 years!) to claim the right to be 'Arch-Druid', which he has started doing recently, and more worryingly is being recognised as such by the Press. We had generally ignored his activities up until then, but one thing I can say is that his actions have united alot of Pagan groups here who are all agreed that his claims are going to far and who worry that his right wing activities would taint them, particularly the Druidic Groups here.
At Lammas he decided to Crown a High King at Tara. At this point we decided to draw the line. We felt that this would be an insult to the Republic and those that fought for Ireland's independence over two hundred years. So we went up to Tara. When we got there we got several surprises. First of all, we weren't alone in our opposition - there were members of the Druid Clan of Danu (FOI), Ancient Order of Hibernians (Republican equivalent to the Orange Orders), Society of Irish Re-enactors ('the Clans') and several others. Secondly, he had been banned from the Book and Coffee shop there because he was so drunk, by the owner! There were only about seven of his group (including his two cousins) there, and by this time McGrath was so drunk he was unable to communicate coherently! The members of his 'order' had decided to call it off anyway because of his alcoholic state.
We made our statement in a peaceful manner anyway (as did the others there) stating that we felt his actions were an insult to the memory of those that had died for the Republic, particularly as the site chosen for the crowning was were O'Connell read out the 1916 declaration of independence. We also stated that we did not recognise his title of 'Arch-Druid of All Ireland and Tara'; but I think he was to drunk to notice, to be honest!
We got the first letter from him three days later. He threatened us with a list of organisations, including OBOD, ADF, CAW and Green Egg etc. etc. He made it clear that he thought that this was a plot by Janet and organised completely by us - it was nice to get the credit but it just wan't true!
The second letter we received was very abusive and was from 'The Knights of Tara', an organisation linked to Michael McGraths Irish Order of Druids. We are unable to comment on this letter for legal reasons.
The following Sunday we opened up the national tabloid to find he had written to them claiming that he had been 'put upon' by naked witches on Tara - SEE NEWSPAPER CUTTING! He also said that we were banned from his organisation!!! The article was generally tongue in cheek about him - referring to him as 'Monarchist' and us as 'Republican' - not a bad thing in this country!. It also states that there were '150' members of his organisation when there was in fact only seven (including the two candidates for 'High King' and his two cousins)! They did not refer to us by name (we successfully sued a paper here and that has left them edgy about us). We are pretty sure he just sent them a letter. Unfortunately, we ourselves were contacted by the same paper for a reply so had no choice but to say something. They have chosen to ignore (so far) the information we have passed on to them on Mr McGrath, and concentrate their article on 'Witch V's Druids', which is patently untrue as we are acting with the support of the sensible Druid community here.
As Mr McGrath made the decision to go the Tabloid Press our reply is to go to the Pagan Press and keep this out of public view. His need to court the media is like to cause problems for all the genuine Witches, Pagans and Druids in Ireland. He has made his views quite clear in the article (and in the letters to us) on how he feels about the Wiccan community. We know of no genuine Druids anywhere who hold such a view, infact most of the ones we know work actively alongside the Wiccan community for the benefit of the whole of the Pagan community.
Janet and Stewart Farrar, and Gavin Bone, August 1997