Intellectually lazy and ignorant media are part of the problem

Former leader and founder of the Progressive Democrats, Des O’Malley, was recently interviewed (Saturday, 27th June) by Marian Finucane.

The interview was revealing in that it told us as much about the ignorance of journalists/broadcasters like Marian Finucane as it did about the incompetence of politicians.

The following is analysis and comment as the interview progressed.

On Haughey

Finucane: Do you admire Haughey?

O’Malley: I admire certain aspects of him but fundamentally the man was flawed.

Finucane: But aren’t we all?

O’Malley: It’s an awful pity, he could have been so successful but he chose to carry on in a really silly way.

It’s difficult to believe that these people are talking about the most corrupt politician in the history of the state. They are talking about a man who, for decades, plundered the state of its wealth for the benefit of himself, his family and his friends.

A man who took Irish politics down into the sewer where it remains to this day, a man whose legacy is a country where corruption, incompetence and arrogance are the defining features of the ruling elite.

They are talking about a man who was so bereft of honesty and ethical boundaries that he had no scruples whatsoever in robbing a fund set up to save the life of his best friend.

The But aren’t we all flawed comment by Marian Finucane demonstrates a deep ignorance of the reality and consequences of corruption in Ireland.

Apparently, Finucane sees the corrupt Haughey as just another ordinary citizen who made a couple of mistakes during his lifetime. She appears to be completely ignorant of the massive damage done to Ireland and its people by this criminal.

She also seems to be completely ignorant of how the Haughey corruption virus has spread to every level of Irish society and in particular to the white collar sector.

A caller to the show expressed astonishment at Finucane’s comment saying:

I doubt Marian has failings similar to Haughey. If she did I hope she can expect her P45 waiting for her as she leaves the studio.

Finucane was not pleased with this upbraiding by a mere listener.

Well, I think it’s always very dangerous for anyone to be going around adjusting their halo and saying that they’re holier than thou.

Again, Finucane is demonstrating a dangerous ignorance of the reality of corruption. I say dangerous because, as Haughey was no ordinary citizen, neither is Marian Finucane.

She is one of the most influential broadcasters in the country, every week hundreds of thousands of citizens listen to her words and opinions with close attention.

Most of these listeners take her views/comments as gospel and act/think accordingly. For that reason alone she has an obligation to properly inform herself of the realities of what’s going on in Ireland today.

And Finucane is not the only journalist/broadcaster who seems to live in a parallel world of ignorance. Joe Duffy, Pat Kenny, Charlie Bird and many other RTE current affairs staff are far too close to members of the body politic.

In recent times it has become increasingly evident, to even the most casual observer, that the interaction between most elements of the Irish media and the political/business sectors has become disturbingly unhealthy.

Many of these so called unbiased journalists appear to be personal friends of politicians; they travel together, stay in the same hotels, eat in the same restaurants (often at taxpayer’s expense) and drink in the same bars.

On Mary Harney and the Department of Health

O’Malley praised Harney for having the courage to take on such a difficult job.

This is rubbish; the real story here is not the so called courage of one politician but rather the cowardice of so many others. What would happen, I wonder, if they were asked to lay down their lives for their country – the mind boggles.

O’Malley goes on to wonder what sort of catastrophe would befall the country if Harney decided to give up her job.

I think all sorts of vested interests would ride roughshod over us again.

What is this man talking about? Ok, I accept that O’Malley is getting on a bit but he must still retain enough brain cells to know that the Department of Health/HSE is a vested interest in itself; that its bureaucracy acts at all times in its own interests and certainly not in the interests of patients.

People’s lives are regularly put at risk to cover up gross incompetence and some even die. You can’t get more roughshod than death through incompetence.

On being back in a recession

According to O’Malley we’re back in recession because there wasn’t sufficient supervision and regulation of what went on.

Hang on, wasn’t it his party, the party that promised to clean up Irish politics and make other parties and government officials accountable, in power for most of that time led by none other than his heroine Mary Harney?

On the high moral ground

Finucane: One of the things that got up the nose of Fianna Fail but also of ordinary people was the high moral ground, the holier than thou attitude….It seems to me that the high moral ground can be a lonely enough place to be.

O’Malley: The high moral ground is not just a lonely place it’s also a dangerous place because you can only come down.

Finucane: A silly place, a silly place.

O’Malley: Yes, and that’s why we tried to avoid that, we got painted with that.

My God, we were worn out from trying to stop things happening (corruption). But the more you went at it the more you were accused as being on the high moral ground.

There’s a limit, you have to coexist with people, get on with the job and not let every big or little problem deflect you completely from it.

For years this Irish attitude to the high moral ground has bothered me. It seems that the Irish are the only nation in the world who regard the striving for high moral principles in public life as a bad thing, a silly thing as Finucane says.

This, I believe, is a symptom of our denial of what we really are as a nation. If we all agree that the high moral ground is a bad place, a place where the holier than thou go to adjust their halos then it’s legitimate for everybody to avoid this ground.

This warped attitude to morality in public life also makes it possible to ‘forgive’ any crime. It makes it possible for an apparently intelligent woman like Marian Finucane, and many others in the media, to equate Haughey’s crimes with the minor infringements of morality common in the everyday, it brings us all down to the sewer.

If we’re all living like rats in the sewer of corruption and incompetence then we can all live safely in denial, we can all pretend that Ireland is a normal functioning democracy and any attempt to improve ethical standards, any notion of occupying the high moral ground will receive instant condemnation from the likes of Finucane and O’Malley not because it’s a bad thing but because it threatens their delusional world of ethical ignorance.

For one brief shining moment the PDs were truly revolutionary in their challenge to the swampland of Irish political and business corruption but that corruption is too deep, too all pervading within the Irish system of government to be rooted out easily.

When Mary Harney became leader of the PDs she realised that ethics/accountability was a mugs game and quickly reverted to her Fianna Fail roots and has been living there happily ever since.

On O’Malley’s greatest achievement

The stopping of the Irish aviation bill in 1984 which would have imposed a fine not exceeding £50,000 and/or imprisonment for two years on anybody who sold airline tickets at less than the price which Aer Lingus had fixed in coordination with its cartel partners.

Finucane expressed shock at such extreme law.

Quite extraordinary, it sounds like another country given where we are now.

Given where we are now?

Clearly, Finucane believes that Ireland has moved on, has become a modern accountable democracy and believes that the Ireland of draconian/Tammany Hall type law is dead and gone.

Here’s just a sample of recent laws or proposed laws that Finucane obviously feels are in no way draconian or ‘extraordinary’.

The Employment Equality Act 1998. This act was introduced to bring Ireland into line with EU equal employment rights directives but the main churches were granted an exemption which allows them to hire and fire on the religious beliefs and moral behaviour of employees and potential employees.

There is no difference between this law and the religious laws enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In February this year the Irish government enacted a law which makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card not authorised by a Catholic bishop.

Contained within the Act is a presumption of guilt until proved innocent. This runs contrary to Article 48 (1) of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Government is in the process of inserting a blasphemy clause into the Defamation Bill which will see citizens liable upon conviction of a fine of up to €25,000.

The proposed Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009 will, among other measures, do away with the right to trial by jury and provide for secret detention hearings and detention on the unsupported word of a single Garda.

Allow hearsay as admissible evidence and permit information to be given in the absence of a suspect and his or her legal representative.

Ireland is a much more corrupt, much more unequal country today than it has been at any other time in its history.

A major contributing factor to that corruption and inequality is the intellectual laziness and ignorance of broadcasters like Marian Finucane.

Copy to:
Marian Finucane

4 thoughts on “Intellectually lazy and ignorant media are part of the problem”

  1. At the bare minimum, a Minister of Health should look healthy. Mary Harney does not look healthy. She is obese. She is obviously unhealthy.

    How does the HSE expect us to fight obesity and incipient diabetes when we have Madame Harney’s visage to contemplate?

  2. Your comments about morals are interesting in light of the government’s spin on the settlement agreement with the Church over compensation for the victims of abuse in the residential institutions.

    The government’s spin is that the orders have a moral obligation to their victims rather than a legal obligation. Isn’t it odd that members of the legislator should be appealing to morals rather than laws?

    In fact it was the trumping of laws by morals that allowed the morally superior church to continue it’s illegal abuses for many decades and insulated from answering to the law.

    In the same vein, opposing corruption is not a moral issue, there is no higher moral ground, it’s a question of the rule of law. The rule of law is not something that exists in the moral sphere.

    Morals are malleable, you can balance the “good” done by Haughey against the “flaws”. Sins can be forgiven and apparently wiped clean in the act of confession. On the other hand the law does not balance good versus bad apart from the determination of sentences or compensation.

    Politicians should stick to the law.

  3. I enjoyed your article. I’ve often wondered how people continue to blindly vote for FF considering their track record. The re-election of Fianna Fáil demonstrated either the astute marketing and spinning capabilities of FF or the shameful ignorance of the electorate – it was probably a combination of both.

    The usual argument is that the opposition are incompetent. My response – if the country is being run so badly, just vote for anyone but those already in power. We need to keep the incumbents on their toes to avoid the development of the incestuous relationships between politicians, developers and banks that has caused so much damange to the country. They should not enjoy comfortable complacency safe in the knowledge that they will be re-elected regardless.

    Why do (influential) people not talk openly about the devil that was Haughey? Perhaps it’s an indication that politics and the press / media in Ireland is not yet as mature as in other European countries. What we really need is someone with vision. Harney did not have courage. A politician appointed as Minister for Health should undertake a root and branch reform by replacing the entire management of the HSE and eliminating layers of middle management fat. Patients and first line services should be the top priority – not civil servant privileges!

    The only point i’d take exception to concerns the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009. Unfortunately, organised crime in Ireland has reached worrying levels and needs to be dealt with accordingly. A jury trial does not work as mafia-type organisations have the capacity to realistically threaten the jurors. I support the Bill, although it does require careful oversight to prevent abuse of the newly granted powers.

  4. The laziness of the Irish Press is somewhat legendary at this point. Any target shooter can tell you stories of misrepresentation and blatent lying that would normally be grounds for libel bar for the fact that they never mention a specific individual – they just claim all target shooters, from the olympics to the local club, are kiddy-fiddling dunblane fetishists.

    Unfortunately, since there’s no alternative media really, there’s no possibility of correction.

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