An open letter to the advisory board of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival

To:

Charles Fanning

Katherine Hastings

Caledonia Kearns

Daniele Maraviglia

Linda Norton

Miriam Nyhan

Nancy Quinn

Peter Quinn

James Silas Rogers

Tim Sullivan

 

Sometimes, our heroes turn out to have feet of clay and even when they were responsible for establishing valid and worthwhile institutions, it can be difficult for those institutions to avoid being contaminated with the scandal associated with a toxic founder.

In the case of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, it rebranded itself as the Livestrong Foundation when Armstrong was exposed as a drugs cheat. It continues to raise money but it is not as successful as it was. Its new name suggests a link to Armstrong (L – strong) but the information on its website gives no indication of the organisation’s history or Armstrong’s role in it.

In the case of the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust, when the shit hit the fan, it initially considered rebranding itself to remove all links to the serial rapist and paedophile who founded it but a few weeks later, it declared that it was shutting up shop. The scandal and the stigma were just too great.

As for the New College of California, the exposure of its founder as a predatory paedophile came shortly before the wheels came off the institution itself. The exposure of John Leary as a sexual predator was not responsible for the collapse of the institution but it probably didn’t help. Had the college survived, it would have been necessary to remove or rewrite material like this about its founder to reflect the fact that Leary was kicked out of Gonzaga for a sexual assault on a young boy: “Jack, a Jesuit priest and teacher of philosophy, had recently resigned as president of Gonzaga University in Washington state because of his dissatisfaction with the current American model of undergraduate education. He wanted to start over. And so New College of California began as a handful of students and teachers meeting in Jack’s Sausalito living room.”

The San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival was founded by Daniel Cassidy, a ‘professor’ at New College in 2004. After Cassidy’s book was published, Cassidy was criticised immediately by genuine scholars for his poor research but it is only in the last few years that the full extent of Cassidy’s dishonesty and criminality has come to light.

As I have said before on this blog, the In Memoriam section of the Festival’s website gives a fictional and sanitised account of the founder’s life. According to this account, Cassidy had degrees from Columbia and Cornell. In a radio interview with Myles Dungan, Cassidy talks about his Bachelor’s degree from Cornell and taking some ‘graduate’ classes at Columbia. Cornell University has stated that Cassidy was removed from Cornell without gaining a degree and his sister has stated here that he never went to Columbia. This in itself is clear evidence that Cassidy was a fraudster. Cassidy had no degrees or qualifications at all. He was not a real professor.

His book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is one of the most dishonest, ignorant and badly-researched books ever written. Far from being a revelatory work of etymology, it is an insult to the world of scholarship, to the Irish people and to anyone who cares about basic standards of honesty and fair play. This dim-witted collection of disinformation is totally antithetical to the mission statement of the Festival: “Founded in 2004, the Crossroads Irish-American Festival promotes the discovery and understanding of the Irish experience in the Americas to ensure that the richness of the arts, culture, history and traditions of this heritage are both held in great esteem and preserved for generations to come.”

I cannot force the people at the Irish-American Crossroads Festival to tell the truth about Cassidy. All I can do is to point out once again that Cassidy should be held to account for his fraud and criminality, not held up as an inspiration and a good example. Anyone who allows lies like this to be associated with their name is not a decent human being. If you wish to protect your reputation, demand that those responsible for the website remove the lies about Cassidy. If you support Daniel Cassidy and his insane theories, directly or indirectly, you are a willing accessory to this puerile, dishonest nonsense which has been used to swindle tens of thousands of people out of their hard-earned money.

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