By Anthony Sheridan
Hardly a week passes without a sermon from one mainstream media source or another reminding people of the vital role the sector plays in presenting news and current affairs with honesty and integrity.
The Irish Examiner is particularly strident in warning of the dangers posed by non-mainstream news sources. This example from an editorial marking the first anniversary of Marian Finucane’s death.
The importance of those attributes and the need for good journalism have never been more important at a time when fake news and groundless clickbait continue to flood our social media channels.
In the year ahead, accurate news from trusted sources will continue to play a vital role in dispelling the corrosive force of misinformation.
Unfortunately, for those who place their trust in the Irish Examiner, the ‘corrosive force of misinformation’ is often employed by the paper, particularly against those who pose a threat to the power of the ruling political establishment.
Just last week [20 April] the paper published what was, in effect, a fake news story, strongly suggesting that Sinn Fein was responsible for a violent parade by the dissident republican group Saoradh.
Despite the fact that Sinn Fein had nothing whatsoever to do with the parade, the Irish Examiner had no scruples about making a damaging link between the party and the organisers of the parade.
If Ms McDonald is serious about having companions on historic travels then Sinn Féin will have to address the law and order contradictions which allow extreme republicans to prematurely present an event which ended with petrol bombs and arrests as a “dignified parade” allied to a tone-deaf refusal to listen to a reasonable request from a family not to march on the anniversary of the murder of a young woman. A murder for which there has still to be a criminal conviction.
This cheap and obvious attempt to blame Sinn Fein for the parade and subsequent violence was all the more reprehensible for falsely linking the party with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019.
In a crude attempt to pretend the article was balanced, and not an attack on Sinn Fein, the anonymous author added:
Events such as masked parades incrementally take the shine off their [Sinn Fein’s] standing even where they are not seen to be the organisers.
This manipulation of news stories by the Irish Examiner is not new. An even more odious example occurred just before the 2020 election. Context is vital in understanding this disgraceful example of so-called professional journalism.
Seven days before the election on 8 February an Irish/Times MRBI poll reflected a dramatic rise in support for Sinn Fein over Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
The development sent shock waves through the establishment media. Here, for example, is how the political editor of the Irish Examiner, Daniel McConnell, began an article in response to the poll.
So, just what in the hell is going on?
Three days before the election, on Wednesday 5 Feb, there was an attack on the Glasnevin cemetery memorial wall. The monument commemorates those who died between the Easter Rising in 1916 and the end of the Civil War in 1923, including British soldiers killed in the conflict.
The vandals have never been identified but that did not stop the Irish Examiner from, effectively, blaming Sinn Fein for the attack.
It would be utterly wrong to link Sinn Féin to Wednesday night’s attack on Glasnevin cemetery’s memorial wall…
…However, it would be wrong too to pretend that strands of this election campaign, especially Sinn Féin’s online echo chambers, have not created an atmosphere if not encouraging such criminality then making it seem ordinary, almost praiseworthy.
This is sewer journalism at its worst and most dangerous.
In the lead up to this warping of a news story, the anonymous author wrote of:
the anger, poison and basic dishonesty associated with Sinn Fein supporters on social media.
Reading this journalistic garbage I can see only one difference between the standards practiced at the Irish Examiner and the anonymous trolls on social media – The trolls don’t preach and pretend they operate from the high moral ground.
Irish Examiner editor