McCarthy, Timothy (1868–1928), journalist, was born in Cloghroe, Inniscarra, Co. Cork, where his father, Denis McCarthy, ran the family farm. He was educated at the local national school and later his studies continued under a private tutor. While still in his teens McCarthy began his journalistic career on the Cork Herald and Cork Weekly Herald and often covered the activities of the National League. Most notably he was in attendance at one of the most notorious political meetings of the 1880s, in Ennis, Co. Clare, when William O'Brien (qv), Michael Davitt (qv), and other parliamentary representatives were ‘dragooned’ by the military and ‘the streets ran red with the blood of the people’ (Irish News, 31 Dec. 1928) after disturbances took place. In 1893 he left Cork to take up an appointment in Dublin with the Freeman's Journal, the leading Irish nationalist paper of the time and a fervent supporter of John Redmond (qv). His stay was, however, brief; he went on to edit the Dublin Evening Telegraph and then was invited to London by T. P. O'Connor (qv), who was later to describe him as the ‘greatest political and most versatile journalist in the country’ (Irish News, 31 December 1931), to work as a sub-editor, news editor, and leader writer on the staff of the Evening Sun. On the occasions of O'Connor's trips to Ireland and the USA in support of the cause of home rule, McCarthy's expertise and abilities were recognised, as he was entrusted with sole responsibility for the publication of the paper along with its stablemate the Star. Then, after an offer from the noted journalist W. T. Stead, who had begun to publish the Daily Paper in London, he took up a position on it, becoming one of Stead's principal assistants as well as contributing a series of articles on Ireland. In 1897 he finally returned to live and work in Ireland, first as editor of the Belfast Northern Star, the paper of Joe Devlin (qv); then as acting editor of the Irish People, the official journal of the United Irish League. This was followed in 1904 by his appointment as editor-in-chief of the North West group of newspapers (1904–6), based in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, and by 1906 he was back in Belfast when he was made editor of the Irish News, the leading nationalist daily newspaper in the north of Ireland, a position he held till his death in 1928.
Throughout his long journalistic career McCarthy was a committed Irish nationalist, and his commitment on occasions brought him into conflict with the authorities. For instance, his strong attack in the Irish People on a royal visit by Edward VII to Ireland in 1903 led to the paper's being suppressed and his receiving a six-month prison sentence. His own political philosophy was based on support for a strictly constitutional approach and he was, therefore, a fervent supporter of the Irish parliamentary party (IPP) and its campaign for home rule. This became clear in his editorials in the Irish News as the prospects for home rule grew after the return to power of the liberals at Westminster in 1906. Along with other nationalist papers and journals of the time, the Irish News poured scorn on the threats of Edward Carson (qv) and other unionists, especially their threats to use bodies such as the UVF to oppose the introduction of a devolved administration. He also ruled out the prospect of partitioning Ireland as a possible solution to the crisis. On the outbreak of the first world war he joined with the IPP in calling for the people of Ireland to assist the British war effort, on the basis that the fight was for the ‘freedom of small nations’ (Phoenix, A century, 22).
While he had shown some sympathy for the objectives of the Gaelic revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, McCarthy was less benevolent to the physical-force tradition of the IRB, and hostile also to the objectives of Arthur Griffith (qv) and Sinn Féin, even though both he and Griffith were at first committed to non-violent means. Instead, he viewed Sinn Féin and similar political movements as causing unnecessary division among nationalists in the quest for home rule. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that along with other spokesmen for constitutional nationalism, McCarthy attacked the motives and intentions of those behind the Easter rising in Dublin in 1916. However, he warned the British government that the policy of executing the leaders was allowing public sympathy for the rebels to grow. In the wake of the rising, McCarthy and his paper played a crucial role in ensuring that nationalists in the north of Ireland backed Lloyd George's proposal for home rule to be introduced immediately, with the proviso of the temporary exclusion of six Ulster counties. It was not long after these events that constitutional nationalism came under threat from militant republicanism by way of the growing electoral strength of Sinn Féin and its demand for an independent Irish republic. In the general election of November 1918 the Irish News remained loyal to the IPP cause, but (as in the rest of Ireland) nationalist opinion was now badly divided. As the Anglo–Irish war erupted in the rest of Ireland after 1919, McCarthy recorded the plight of the minority catholic community in the north, especially in Belfast, and described their ordeal as a ‘concerted pogrom’. He roundly condemned the formal introduction of partition with the election of the first Northern Ireland parliament (May 1921), but backed the Anglo–Irish treaty in the hope that it would pave the way for unification. As for the position of nationalists after the collapse of the boundary commission in 1925, McCarthy suggested the time had come for them to accept the political reality of the situation, and to unite within one political movement in order to defend their interests against perceived unionist domination. By the time of his death this objective had not been achieved, but more alarming was the precarious financial state of the Irish News due to falling sales. Partly this was the impact of partition, cutting it off from some of its readership, but more importantly the paper's support of constitutional nationalists such as Devlin had alienated many with a more radical approach.
After a long battle against illness McCarthy died at his own home on the Antrim Road, Belfast, on 30 December 1928. He was survived by his wife Katie, daughter of Denis McLynn of Sligo; they had no children.