Breaking news – Bertie Ahern is not dead. He’s just the latest in a long line of Fianna Fail politicians who have been forced to resign because of their dodgy activities.
Some, however, see the event as a death. Here are some excerpts from an interview with Senator Harris on The Last Word today.
Matt Cooper – How do you feel about this?
Harris – I feel sick, I’m going through the death thing, denial first and then anger. I think the public is going to go through the same series of shocks. There’s going to be a lot of grief about Bertie Ahern.
A few days ago when I spoke about him here there was an extraordinary amount of vitriolic texts and this has been par for the course across the media.
I don’t know whether put in by Fine Gael or a group of sour heads in Sinn Fein. There’s a virulent group of people out there helping this campaign, especially on the internet, the blogs reached an incredible level of abuse in the last ten to fifteen days, and I mean really bad stuff.
I think we should stand back for a minute now…I’m not here as a priest delivering a funeral oration, he’s not out yet. I see myself more as a detective, I want to know how he was murdered I want to know what was done to bring a man like that to the point where he felt he had to step down.
Cooper – Why do you think the media would bring him down?
Well, that’s very simple. The most vindictive section of the media campaign began around 2006 with a series of systematic leaks to and by Frank Connolly who has very strong republican and radical sympathies. They were crucial in creating a climate.
I think the media were shocked when Ahern won the election; they have a vested interest in proving that there was something wrong.
Michael Clifford of Sunday Tribune joins the discussion
Cooper to Clifford – Has the media hounded Ahern out of office?
Clifford. Well, in the first instance Matt, you and Mr. Harris there referred to the media.
Harris – Senator Harris, like, you know.
Clifford – Excuse me.
Harris – No, that’s the kind of degrading kind of thing, you know. You did it to Bertie Ahern but I’m not Bertie Ahern, I can answer you back and I will to.
Clifford – Oh, I’m very sorry for not applying your correct title.
Yes, the media had more interest in this story than the general public did and to my mind there’s a very good reason for that.
First of all, the story was very complicated, therefore people tuned out, secondly,, there was an awful lot of spin going on around the story much of which we’ve just heard for the last 15 minutes and thirdly the media has a public interest element in it.
If anybody is suggesting that there was not a public interest in a serving Minister for Finance receiving in one year, two and a half times his salary and over two years in excess of three times his salary and then coming into an inquiry and presenting what the majority of the public according to opinion polls believes was implausible evidence.]
If Senator Harris is suggesting that there’s not a major public interest in covering that story then I don’t know what the public interest is then.
Harris – I regard you as one of the leading scurrilous journalists in the campaign to hound Ahern. I’m not going to deign to answer your constant quotation marks over my title but I’ll tell you something you are going to have to find a real job as a real reporter soon because you’ve run out of road on this one.
Clifford – Senator Harris, on the Late Late Show, said he believes Mr. Ahern is telling the truth – as he sees it. That’s the strangest definition of giving evidence under oath that I have heard. Could you explain what that means?
Harris – I can explain it by the image of a car crash. Anyone who has ever seen two cars crash on the road knows that six witnesses will each see their own truth.
Clifford (Speaking about Ahern’s evidence) – I would challenge anybody to look at the facts and say that they believe him because the main defence both from Senator Harris and other people who have defended the Taoiseach, they begin each defence with the words – I don’t know much about the tribunal but… In other words it is not the facts that they’re interested in, it’s Mr. Ahern’s reputation.
Harris – I think that when somebody is giving evidence about their private affairs before a tribunal and when they’re convinced as Bertie Ahern is convinced that he wasn’t corrupt, I think they don’t give a full picture and I don’t thing they have any obligation to give a full picture of all the details of their finance.