Malachi O'Doherty

Malachi O'Doherty (born Co Donegal, Ireland, 1951) is a journalist, author and broadcaster in Northern Ireland.

He is the producer and presenter of the audio blog Arts Talk [1].

He was, perhaps, the longest running commentator/columnist on any Irish radio programme, having been a regular on Radio Ulster's Talkback from its creation in the mid 1980s until a revamp of the programme in 2009.

He provides political and social commentary for BBC NI's Hearts and Minds programme, and reports frequently for BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence.

His political journalism has been published in many Irish and British newspapers and periodicals, including The Irish Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Scotsman and The New Statesman. In the mid 1990s he worked on and presented several television documentaries on Northern Irish culture and politics, for Channel Four, The BBC and UTV, all of them with independent production companies, chiefly Observer Films, DBA and Chistera. He is a former columnist for the Belfast Telegraph and former Managing Editor of Fortnight magazine. He writes for the Guardian's "Comment is Free" blog.

He writes most frequently now in the Belfast Telegraph [2].

His favourite themes are religion and terrorism. He frequently writes through memoir.

He has published two memoirs. One, I Was A Teenage Catholic (2003), deals with the development of his thinking on religious issues and the other, The Telling Year (2007) recounts his work as a young, and inept, journalist in Belfast in the worst year for deaths (1972) of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

He has been publishing vignettes about his father, Barney, in The Derry Journal, in preparation for another book due to be published by Summer Palace Press before the end of 2009.

He has dabbled in fiction and drama. He wrote comedy sketches for a controversial BBC television cabaret called The Show in the early 1990s and he scripted a history of the Dominicans in Ireland for a nationwide schools production in 2007.

O'Doherty has avoided expressions of party-political commitment though he has been more critical of the IRA than of any other party to the conflict, frequently accusing it of having been the prime irritant. But he has supported the Good Friday Agreement, which was endorsed by both the IRA and Loyalist groups and most political parties.

He has addressed political groups from across the spectrum, including the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP. He has twice been a keynote speaker at the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland's annual conference. He gave a major speech at the Irish Association's annual conference in 2003 examining the future of nationalism.

O'Doherty appears frequently at literary festivals in Northern Ireland and Scotland (Aspects and Wigtown, for example) and has also read at The Blue Met in Montreal (2004) and the Ottawa Book Festival (2008).

On March 16, 2007, O'Doherty delivered a lecture to the French Society for Irish Studies on the life and thinking of Margaret Noble, a Tyrone born Methodist who had taken the name Sister Nivedita, when initiated into the Ramakrishna Mission by her Guru, Swami Vivekananda.

O'Doherty may have felt that Nivedita's experience resonated with his own. He has lived outside Northern Ireland on several occasions. In the 1970s for four years he was in India, in the ashram of Swami Paramananda Saraswti. He has written about this in I Was A Teenage Catholic.

He befriended there the Austrian playwright, Gerlinde Obermeier.

He also, in the early 1980s, worked for a time as a language instructor with the Libyan Air Defence Forces.

Books by Malachi O'Doherty

Telling cover copy.jpg
  • The Trouble With Guns: The Trouble With Guns: Republican Strategy and the Provisional IRA (The Blackstaff Press, 1998). Described by the former leading IRA volunteer and informant Sean O'Callaghan as "An honest and decent book . . . It is lucid and accessible, and is the most subtle analysis of the modern-day republican movement that I have read . . . one of the most valuable books to emerge from Northern Ireland in recent years.'
  • I Was a Teenage Catholic (Mercier/Marino, 2003). An account of Malachi O'Doherty's upbringing in west Belfast, his experiences of Catholicism and his eventual rejection of the church's beliefs. The book also narrates his travels in India and his encounter with a Hindu swami.
  • The Telling Year: Belfast 1972 (Gill and Macmillan, 2007). A memoir of living and working as a journalist through the worst year of the Troubles, 1972. This was also the year O'Doherty was approached by an RUC officer in Northern Ireland and invited to become an "informer". He declined.
  • Empty Pulpits: Ireland's Retreat From Religion (Gill and Macmillan, 2008). An account of the rapid secularistion of Ireland. O'Doherty attracted the wrath of humanist groups for his own attacks on the 'new atheists' and his claims that their critiques of religion were flawed by a failure to comprehend religious motivation.
  • Under His Roof (Summer Palace Press, 2009).


Malachi O'Doherty was born in 1951 and raised as a Roman Catholic in nationalist west Belfast. He trained as a journalist at the College of Business Studies in Belfast and as an amateur student in 1990, took a master's degree in Irish Studies from Queen's University, Belfast. In June 1995 he married the poet and broadcaster Maureen Boyle.

External links

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