Friends of Tom O’Gorman speak warmly of murdered man

“He didn’t fit neatly into left or right”


Friends and former colleagues of Tom O’Gorman spoke yesterday of his warm and engaging personality, his commitment to his religious faith and of their horror and disbelief at the manner of his death.

Mr O’Gorman died on Sunday in his home in Castleknock, Dublin. He was subjected to a violent attack and his body was mutilated.

Saverio Ballante, whose address was the same as Mr O’Gorman’s, appeared yesterday in the District Court where a garda said that when he was charged with murder, he replied: “I am guilty”.

Mr O’Gorman was a committed Roman Catholic and a lay activist. He worked as a researcher for the Iona Institute, a conservative lobby group that seeks to defend and promote traditional Catholic teaching on issues such as marriage and homosexuality and defend the place of religion in society.

He was an also occasional contributor to the Irish Catholic newspaper and had been involved in the short-lived 2004 newspaper, Voice Today, founded by Simon Rowe, a former editor of the Irish Catholic.

Last night, a friend and colleague at Iona, Breda O’Brien (who is also an Irish Times Saturday columnist), spoke of Mr O’Gorman as a witty man who was committed but not overbearing in his adherence to his beliefs.

“He didn’t fit neatly into left or right,” said O’Brien. “He would have been very aware of the need for social justice. He was an orthodox Catholic and lived that out in his life but he was in no way strident.”

Describing Mr O’Gorman as “a very, very nice man”, she said he lived his faith every day.

“He was involved in his faith. He was involved in the Focolare Movement, which emphasises spirituality for the everyday.”

She said an indication of Mr O’Gorman’s values was his use of a photograph of Pope John Paul II showing the pope with Mehmet Ali Agca, his would-be assassin, as an example of forgiveness. “That’s the kind of Catholic he was . . .

“This is like something apocalyptic visited upon an innocent individual. The idea that he would die by violence is beyond belief. It’s a horrific nightmare and I can’t get my head around that at all.”

David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, referred yesterday to Mr O’Gorman’s sense of humour and his mimicry.

“He did fantastic impressions of the politicians of the day and he did a note-perfect impersonation of Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny.”

Mr Quinn and Ms O’Brien both noted his strong interest in history, which he studied to master’s level at University College Dublin. It was while at university that Mr O’Gorman became involved in anti-abortion campaigning but friends also noted his enthusiasm for a range of activities – sport, music, film, history, politics and current affairs.

“He did not fit the stereotype of either the ‘devout’ or ‘conservative’ Catholic,” Ms O’Brien said. “Neither do justice to his offbeat wit, his vast knowledge, his sense of justice.

“He could start a raging debate on social media about arcane aspects of EU debt and yet be just as likely to ‘like’ a picture of a small son of a friend solemnly wearing a balloon hat. We miss him very much.

“Horrifyingly violent”
Sarah MacDonald, news editor at, wrote yesterday of the “horrifyingly violent nature” of Mr O’Gorman’s death and how it was “so contrary to our gentleman colleague and friend”.

“[We are] shocked because he was a young man with plenty of life ahead of him and plenty to offer the world and that was snatched brutally from him.

“Shocked because he won’t be part of the world of Catholic journalism any more. It feels an emptier place for his absence.

“Shocked because someone with whom we had regular interaction will no longer be bringing his formidable brain and intellectual acuity to the debate . . . .

“A Catholic by conviction, he had thought about the issues and grappled with them in a way most Catholics never do.”