In his column, O'Toole claimed that above all else "a republic is constructed around a single, central and immutable value -- equality". He would like to think so. He'd like the public to think so, and he'd certainly like Fianna Fail to think so. But he's wrong.
The fact is that republicanism is an extremely malleable concept. Probably the one and only thing that the various types of republicanism have in common is a rejection of monarchy. After that, it's pretty much open season because there are right-wing versions of republicanism, there are left-wing versions, and there are even theocratic versions.
Communist North Korea calls itself a republic, and so does capitalist South Korea. The USSR called itself a union of 'socialist republics'. East Germany called itself a republic. France and the United States call themselves republics. So does Ireland and Italy. Iran, where the Ayatollahs rule, calls itself a republic.
All of these polities differ from one another in important and sometimes very radical ways, but nonetheless they all call themselves republics. But among these types of republics, the ones that would have said republicanism "is constructed around a single, central and immutable value -- equality", would have been the past and present communist countries.
As the experience of those countries ought to show anyone, making equality the "single, central and immutable value" is anti-freedom. Depending on how far you push it, equality erodes or entirely destroys freedom of property, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.
To the extent that these freedoms are seen to undermine equality, they are pushed aside.
Equality is important, but it should never be made an absolute. It has to be held in balance with other rights.
Even the French Revolution recognised that. Its slogan wasn't 'Equality, Equality, Equality', it was 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'.
In practice, of course, the French Revolution destroyed liberty in the name of equality.