By Anthony Sheridan
Irish Examiner columnist Alison O’Connor found herself all alone on Valentine’s night last. Claire Byrne/RTE had invited her to participate in a discussion on the dramatic rise in Sinn Fein’s popularity.
As a favourite of the establishment media and strident anti-Sinn Fein commentator Ms. O’Connor probably expected that she would be joining the usual RTE anti-Sinn Fein panel.
But, amazingly, that didn’t happen, the panel was balanced and fair. O’Connor seemed to be genuinely confused with the situation. She began by telling the nation that, given how bad things are, even an opposition of chimpanzees would find it easy to pick it [the Government] off.
This crude and insulting political analysis was followed up with the usual tired guff about Sinn Fein being a ‘strange, cultish party’ that could cause a lot of offence if it got into power.
But then, O’Connor ran out of words. It was as if she suddenly realised that nobody was really listening to her, that they had heard it all before, and, of course they had, ad infinitum
So, in desperation, she did something that no establishment journalist has ever done before – she criticised RTE for imbalanced broadcasting.
I would say about some of the debate I heard tonight…that there was some imbalance there. Listening to some of it you’d think we live in a banana republic and that’s not true… I think balance is important.
O’Connor was confused because by the time she joined the panel, the anti-Sinn Fein side had been routed.
Passionate, articulate Sinn Fein members backed up by others such as Martin Ward and Tony Groves dismantled every argument put by supporters of the political establishment.
Property developer Michael Flynn’s condescending claim that people were being ‘over simplistic’ on the housing crisis, and Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeil’s defence of the private sector’s role in solving the crisis was torn to shreds by a well-informed opposition.
The opinions expressed by the eccentric financial advisor and failed politician Eddie Hobbes provided some light relief. Anybody tempted to take Hobbes seriously has only to recall that after co-founding the far-right party Renua Ireland, he refused to stand for election because he was too busy with other stuff.
And then there was the Fianna Fail politician, Cllr. Briege Mac Oscar who said parties should be judged on their record. Let’s just repeat that – a Fianna Fail politician thinks that parties should be judged on their record. Surely, if that was true, Fianna Fail would be struggling for its very survival…oh, wait.
So what happened in that RTE studio on Valentine’s night when Ms. O’Connor, at one point, found herself all alone in her titanic struggle against the evils of Sinn Fein?
Could it be that RTE was testing out a new producer who was unaware of the station’s long-established policy of packing discussion panels with anti-Sinn Fein commentators?
Or…could it be that the national broadcaster has finally conceded that Sinn Fein is a legitimate political party and the 500,000 plus citizens who voted for the party deserve a fair hearing?
Claire Byrne Live/RTE