Government and media launch major propaganda campaign against water protesters

Yesterday, the Government in cooperation with its many friends in the media, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Irish Water, launched its first major propaganda campaign of 2015 aimed at defeating those who are refusing to pay water charges.

The message was simple: The water is poisoned, the infrastructure is about to collapse any minute with dire consequences for ‘customers’. The only thing that will prevent the greatest catastrophe since the famine is – investment, lots and lots of investment.

One million homes at significant risk from contaminated drinking water

screamed the Irish Independent headline.

And just in case readers didn’t get the fear message, there’s a picture of two lovely children brushing their teeth, great to get the emotions going.

Other dire warnings included: health risk to babies, e-coli, cryptosporidium, lead poisoning, endless water notices, risk to thousands of jobs.

‘Customers’ were warned that if they wanted a modern water system they would have to pay for it. €500 million per year for ten years – minimum.

Also in the Independent (partly owned by Denis O’Brien) John Tierney, Managing Director of Irish Water, was afforded an article all of his own in which he made this dire revelation:

There are now people in Ireland who cannot drink their water because it will make them ill.

His solution: Slap a bill for €2.3 billion on ‘customers’ to pay up or risk getting sick.

We want to become an organisation trusted by people to deliver every time they turn on their tap.

What he means is, of course – trusted to deliver a bill every time a ‘customer’ turns on a tap?

To be fair to Newstalk’s (fully owned by Denis O’Brien) Breakfast presenters, Ivan Yates and Brendan Donoghue, they didn’t even bother with balance.

They got stuck in right away – 20,000 on boiled water notices, nearly one million at risk. They interviewed a spokesperson from EPA asking him comfortable, leading questions that were very helpful to Irish Water.

Again we had all the dire warnings that the sky was about to fall in unless Irish Water ‘customers’ stumped up a couple of billion. At the end of the piece, in case ‘customers’ still weren’t on song, Ivan Yates hammered home the message:

There’s no avoiding the fact if we want to retain our water quality for almost a million people very significant investment needs to take place.

RTE also played its part in the Government’s propaganda campaign.

Here’s part of the written introduction on the Sean O’Rourke website to an interview with Head of Asset Management at Irish Water Jerry Grant.

In the face of opposition to water charges, the response from government and from Irish Water has remained steady. If we want to ensure a sustainable and clean supply of water into the future, charging for water is the way forward.

In fairness to RTE, this clear and dramatic abandonment of balance in favour of supporting Government policy is courageous. At least listeners now know where the national broadcaster stands on the question of water tax.

On RTE’s Late Debate presenter Cormac O’hEadhra nearly had a heart attack at the sheer horror of what was revealed in the EPA report.

Funny, all this hysteria, because Irish citizens (as opposed to customers) have been aware for decades that the water system is Third World standard, at best.

They know they’re being poisoned, they know political incompetence and corruption is at the root of the problem, they know major investment is required.

They also know, and this is where they depart from the position of the Government and its friends in the media, that this time they are not going to be screwed because of the greed and corruption of politicians.

Copy to:

Dept. of Environment
Irish Water
Environmental Protection Agency
RTE
Newstalk
Irish Independent

O'Brien's victory likely to result in a media cowering before the shadows

I’m truly astonished that a jury found an article in the Irish Daily Mail had defamed Denis O’Brien.

In what appears to be a contradictory decision the jury accepted that the article was based on the honest opinion of the writer but that it was not an opinion based on fact and was not in the public interest.

Not in the public interest – Feck.

O’Brien is a man who had very serious adverse findings made against him in the Moriarty Tribunal report, findings that could potentially cost Irish taxpayers several millions in compensation. It was in connection to this tribunal report that the article was written.

In response to the jury’s decision O’Brien said that while freedom of expression was part of our democracy everybody had a right to his or her good name.

So what are we to make of the comments by O’Brien after the Moriarty Tribunal report was published?

There’s a ring of steel around Moriarty because they knew, the judiciary knew, that he was never up to the job, he’s a Circuit Court judge.

You’ve got to separate the wider judiciary from Justice Moriarty. I believe I was stitched by Justice Moriarty but I’m not in any way critical of the wider judicial community.

Look, do you know a lot about the legal profession, the judiciary and the Law Society. There’s a code amongst them all that they don’t take each other on, they don’t criticise each other.

Are these comments based on fact?

Judge Moriarty was never up for the job? This is O’Brien’s opinion of which, I’m sure, Justice Moriarty would not agree.

I was stitched by Justice Moriarty. Is this fact or just O’Brien’s opinion? Would a jury conclude that it was just opinion or defamatory?

Here’s how legal expert Professor Gerry Whyte of Trinity Law School responded to O’Brien’s criticisms:

If criticism of the judiciary went so far as to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice then we’re talking about an offence called scandalising the court.

This case has potentially serious consequences for press freedom.

Every editor, every journalist will be looking over their shoulders to check for the shadows of very powerful individuals before they express an opinion.

It is very likely that many will decide to cower before the shadows.

O'Brien defamed by Irish Daily Mail? I don't think so

I will be amazed if the jury in the O’Brien v Irish Daily Mail case finds that the newspaper defamed O’Brien.

Mr. O’Brien is claiming the article, about his appearance in RTÉ news reports on the relief effort after the earthquake in Haiti, accused him of hypocrisy motivated by self-interest.

Senior Counsel Jim O’Callaghan:

To say he was involved for his own self-interest was unfair and grossly defamatory.

Unfair? Perhaps. Grossly defamatory? I don’t think so.

If the precedent of being accused of hypocrisy motivated by self-interest is established we will see a stampede of politicians into the courts claiming damages against the media, ordinary citizens and their fellow politicians.

Sam Smyth responds to Lowryland

Journalist Sam Smyth wrote the following very interesting letter in today’s Irish Times in response to a recent article (Welcome to Lowryland) in that paper.

Sir,

The feature on the cover of the Weekend Review (May 5th), “Welcome to Lowryland”, assumes that a legal action taken against me by Michael Lowry has still to be heard.

The legal action against me was finally dismissed in February this year when the president of the High Court ruled against Mr Lowry’s appeal of a decision in my favour made in the Circuit Court.

There is no legal forum open for him to lodge a further appeal.

Mr Lowry is also liable for my legal costs in both defamation hearings.

Mr Lowry chose to launch his legal action against me personally rather than litigate with the newspaper and television station that published the remarks he claimed were defamatory.

His decision not to sue Independent Newspapers suggests that his priorities were to silence me rather than seek compensation.

Yet in “poor me” pleadings in his interview with journalist Colm Keena, Mr Lowry claims that Independent Newspapers led a campaign against him.

Mr Lowry was a senior government minister, the most successful fundraiser in Fine Gael’s history, a potential leader and perhaps even a potential taoiseach when I wrote a story in 1996 telling how he had taken secret payments worth £395,000 from the country’s biggest retailer.

He had to resign from office in disgrace in November 1996, and in March 2011 the final report of the Moriarty tribunal detailed findings of various clandestine attempts by Denis O’Brien to enrich Michael Lowry by more than £900,000.

I wrote the original story in 1996 and enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the then editor of the Irish Independent, the late Vincent Doyle, because I believed that the facts then known showed Mr Lowry was not a fit person for high office.

Further revelations such as Mr Lowry’s €1.4 million settlement with the Revenue Commissioners and Mr Justice Moriarty’s findings of fact in his tribunal’s final report have confirmed my opinion of the Independent TD for Tipperary North.

In his interview with Colm Keena, where the truth plays hide-and-seek with wishful thinking, Mr Lowry made many curious remarks and none more self-serving than his assertion that Mr Justice Moriarty was wrong in his findings.

In the interview, Mr Lowry said: “The Moriarty report will not withstand a judicial test.” Mr Lowry (and others against whom adverse findings were made in the final report of the Moriarty tribunal) had the option of taking a judicial review to challenge the chairman’s findings.

None chose to challenge in the courts the findings of fact in Mr Justice Moriarty’s final report.

Yours, etc,

Sam Smyth

Irish Independent,
Talbot Street,
Dublin 1.