Elaine Byrne: Lacking moral courage to name names

By Anthony Sheridan

Establishment commentator Elaine Byrne believes Mary Lou McDonald and her party are lacking in moral courage and are therefore unfit to govern.

Sinn Fein does not deserve a pass until Mary Lou and her leadership demonstrate genuine moral courage.

Byrne is not alone in holding such an intolerant, undemocratic and hypocritical view.  The entire horde of establishment journalists have been scrambling around in panic ever since polls indicated that Sinn Fein have become a major force in Irish politics.

This development comes as no surprise to ordinary citizens who have suffered catastrophe after catastrophe as a direct result of political corruption in Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.  

The very fact that Ms. Byrne obviously believes that these two parties are in possession of any semblance of moral courage destroys her credibility as an objective commentator.  

But Ms. Byrne will not recognise this criticism because, like all establishment commentators, she operates from within the extremely restricted realm of the political establishment.

Looking out from that bubble Ms. Byrne can see and is indeed very angry at the massive damage inflicted on Ireland and its people by the disease of political corruption.

We know this because she wrote a book outlining in great detail every major incident of political corruption perpetuated principally by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael since the formation of the state.  

Unfortunately, Ms. Byrne does not, for whatever reason, possess the moral courage to name the guilty.

Instead, she falls in with the rest of the baying mob of ‘journalists’ in passing judgement on those who challenge the power and privilege of our corrupt ruling political class. 

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Ms.Byrne

The poor standard of Irish political journalism

By Anthony Sheridan

The standard of political analysis within Irish journalism is disturbingly poor.  There is one simple but very troubling reason for this. 

Most journalists are loyal members of the establishment and as a consequence refuse to even acknowledge never mind actually write about the dark, underlying reality that lies at the heart of Irish politics. 

The dark reality is that the three centrist parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, are not separate political parties struggling to attain power in order to implement policies for the greater good of Ireland and its people.   

The dark reality is that these three parties constitute a corrupt political class that, for the most part, works to enrich itself and those who support its agendas. 

The economic catastrophe and consequent extreme austerity inflicted on the people of Ireland by this ruling political class since 2008 has resulted in very serious damage to its credibility and as a consequence to its power. 

Labour has been virtually wiped out by an angry electorate while Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have been so damaged they have been forced into a coalition of desperation where they are engaged in a life or death struggle for political dominance.

The establishment media plays a major role in propping up the power of this corrupt political class.  Journalists do this by simply ignoring political corruption altogether or by retreating into a parallel reality.

A recent article by Irish Times journalist Pat Leahy provides us with a good example of how establishment journalists ‘analyse’ politics from within this parallel reality.    

In the article Leahy is making the point that the Left in Irish politics is not serious about achieving its political goals.  They prefer talking to doing, he says.  He goes on:

If power is impossible without compromise and personal sacrifice, they prefer the empty dance of politics without the prospect of power.

This, of course, is a ridiculous conclusion.  But such silly opinions are not unusual among journalists like Leahy because, while they can see the rot in the political system, they are not, for whatever reason, prepared to expose it. 

Clearly, Leahy doesn’t realise that the three centrist parties are a political class masquerading as separate entities.  We witness his ignorance by his use of the term  ‘go figure’  when describing how Fianna Fail and Fine Gael can operate on any point of the political spectrum without apparent scruple.

Political parties of integrity and principle do not do this.  They avoid associating with parties of opposite ideologies altogether or lay down very strict conditions for any coalition deal. 

A single ruling political class, particularly one infected with the disease of corruption, has no scruples about moving to any position on the politcal spectrum if it suits its purpose.  That’s why, for example, the Labour Party had no difficulties in collaborating with Fine Gael’s extreme right-wing austerity policies. 

Leahy further demonstrates his ignorance of the political landscape by asking the following question:

What, exactly, is the difference between the Labour Party and the Social Democrats apart from the fact that they cannot get along together at a personal level?

The answer, of course, is that the Labour Party is a loyal member of the corrupt ruling class.  The party sold out on its socialist principles and political integrity in 1992 when Dick Spring went into coalition with the criminal politician Haughey shortly after [accurately] describing Haughey and Fianna Fail as ‘a cancer on the body politic’.

The Social Democrats, on the other hand, represent the complete opposite of what Labour has become.  The Social Democrats came into existence as a direct result of exposing corruption within the ruling class. 

The party’s leadership know very well that they would be signing their political death warrant if they were to associate themselves with any of the parties that constitute the corrupt political class.

It is incredible and deeply disturbing that a journalist such as Leahy, who is considered an expert on political analysis, is not aware of this obvious political reality.

But, as I said at the beginning – the standard of political analysis within Irish journalism is very poor.

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Pat Leahy

RTE bias: A failure of objective journalism

By Anthony Sheridan

Falling revenue coupled with a serious challenge from social media has in recent times prompted the establishment media to emphasise how important professional, objective and well researched journalism is to society  [See here and here for examples].

Unfortunately, these claims of high quality journalism are more fake news than fact particularly when the establishment media is reporting on those who pose a threat to the interests of the ruling political centre made up of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.

Sinn Fein represents the greatest threat to this exclusive political club and for that reason is frequently targetted by establishment media.

RTE in particular has effectively abandoned all pretence of objectivity when it comes to interviewing Sinn Fein representatives. 

A comparison between an RTE interview with DUP leader Arlene Foster and what can only be described as the interrogation of Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald on the day of the funeral of murdered journalist Myra McKee clearly exposes the blatant bias of the national broadcaster.  

Foster was interviewed on Morning Ireland in a carefully  choreographed piece that portrayed her and her party, the DUP, in a largely positive light. 

First we heard a short 37 second clip of Foster speaking earlier on BBC Radio Ulster in which she expressed her feelings during the funeral of murdered journalist Myra McKee.

RTE reporter Tommie Gorman was then invited to respond and proceeded to give a glowing account of how the DUP was ready to engage in talks but [unfortunately] Sinn Fein was adopting a strategy of caution.  

Arlene Foster was then respectfully and professionally interviewed by RTEs Gavin Jennings without interruption or bullying but also without any serious challenge of her views.  She was allowed to promote the view that she and her party were very willing to sit down with Sinn Fein [if only they would cooperate] and sort out any issues they had.  

Tommie Gorman was again invited to give his assessment of Foster’s views. He proceeded to give another glowing account of how the DUP was eager to get politics back on track in Northern Ireland and, again, concluded his analysis with a negative description of Sinn Fein’s election strategies North and South of the border.

Later on in the morning, and in stark contrast, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald was interrogated, bullied and insulted in a disgraceful display of bias by Miriam O’Callaghan/RTE on Today with Sean O’Rourke.

The interrogation was preceded by yet another clip of Arlene Foster speaking as if her only wish in life was to bring peace and harmony to the whole world.

In the fifteen minute interrogation that followed McDonald was agressively interrupted no less that 31 times.  She got to answer just one question without a bullying intervention. 

It was clear to any objective listener that O’Callaghan/RTE was not in the least bit interested in McDonald’s views but rather in trapping her into expressing a negative opinon on the question of resolving the political stalemate at Stormont. 

It was also clear that O’Callaghan/RTE were not interested in informing listeners that the DUP were responsible for the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly.  That it was the DUP who initially accepted but then walked away from a compromise agreement with Sinn Fein in 2018.

In her efforts to trap McDonald, O’Callaghan didn’t bother too much with facts.  For example, she claimed that in his sermon Fr. Magill was asking people to compromise when in fact he did no such thing.

McDonald, rightly, upbraied O’Callaghan for putting words into Fr. Magill’s mouth.

The moment of ‘victory’ for O’Callaghan/RTE came when McDonald said that Sinn Fein would not be capitulating to those [DUP] who wish to hold back progress in every form.

Triumphantly, O’Callaghan crowed:

So am I hearing – ‘Sinn Fein says NO’?

This was the whole point of the interrogation, to extract a negative soundbite from McDonald that would portray Sinn Fein as the party that was refusing to compromise on talks to restore the Assembly.

But there’s a bigger, more important reason for the constant attacks on Sinn Fein by the establishment media and that is the threat that Sinn Fein, as an outsider, poses to the power of the ruling centre of Irish politics. 

For years now, in election after election, this ruling political elite, that has done so much damage to Ireland, has been losing the trust and consequently the votes of Irish citizens. 

The weaker the political centre becomes the more strident and more blatant the attacks on all outsiders who pose a threat to its political power.  Over recent years RTE has drifted from a position of relative objective journalism to a point where many see the station as nothing more than an obedient mouthpiece for the ruling political class.

I would recommend listening to the O’Callaghan interrogation of McDonald to obtain a true sense of just how biased RTE has become.  Alternatively, take a quick scroll down the reproduced interrogation below which signposts every interruption by O’Callaghan.

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O’Callaghan/RTE

Mary Lou McDonald

O’Callaghan:  Has anything changed in terms of policy, from any party including Sinn Fein?

McDonald:  Service for Lyra McKee was incredibly moving…those who murdered Lyra do not represent the people of Creggan…

INTERRUPTED…

O’Callaghan:  Ok, let me come back in there Mary Lou McDonald.

Fr. Magill directed very strong comments against  all politicians in the North who have responsibility for the vacuum that has arisen since the Assembly has not sat.  You as president of Sinn Fein are one of those seriously responsible he was pointing a finger at.  Do you accept that the vacuum that has been created has led to that kind of violence in Creggen?

McDonald: Well Fr. Magill hit the nail on the head yesterday. He articulated in the clearest and most uncompromising way the fact that politicians myself included need to roll up our sleeves and get cracking…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan: So what are you going to do?

McDonald: People want the institutions back, people want power-sharing and there’s no gainsaying the fact either and this isn’t an Orange or Green issue. People want equality and people…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But Mary Lou McDonald, with respect, we all know that but for people listening this morning that is just frustrating.  Let’s be specific, are you still holding out for a stand alone Irish languge act?  Is that what’s holding up everything?

McDonald:  Can I just say Miriam…

INTERRUPTED

Callaghan:  Well I’d like you to answer that question if that’s ok.

McDonald:  I will of course answer and can I also suggest to you that the issues at play here aren’t triviliaties. I’m sure you didn’t miss the fact that those saying their goodbyes to Lyra were carrying the rainbow flag, I’m sure you haven’t missed the fact that Lyra herself was a very passionate and very effective advocate  for…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  Of course not but Mary lou McDonald, a stand alone Irish language act is trivial compared to the death of Lyra McKee.

McDonald:  Miriam, there is nothing trivial in a society that has been fractured by conflict, in a society where we need sustainable power- sharing. There is nothing trivial at all on insisting on equality and rights for every citizen…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  So you haven’t changed an iota of your position is what I’m now gathering?

McDonald:  We stand by the Good Friday Agreement and we’re not going to resile from that position and here’s the reason why.  The worst possible scenario, worse than where we are now…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  What can be worse than the murder of a 29 year old woman Mary Lou McDonald?

McDonald:  I’m not and please don’t insinuate on any level that I have in any way suggested anything other than the loss of Lyra to be absolutely outrageous, to be condemned…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  I hear that.

McDonald:  Well then if you wouldn’t mind Miriam.  You’ve invited me on to state my position…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But you’re not answering any of my questions with respect,  I’m asking you specifically Mary Lou McDonald.  That priest yesterday Fr. Magill directed his comments at Arlene Foster, at Sinn Fein.  He wants there to be movement in the political process so murders like Lyra McKee don’t happen so I’m just asking you politely. Have you changed your position at all for instance in relation to a stand alone Irish language act?

McDonald:  And you’ve asked me policy and I assume you will allow me to politely answer.

O’Callaghan:  Yes, if you answer that question.

McDonald:  Yes, we need an Irish language act.  That comes as no surprise, that has been the case since the St. Andrew’s agreement.  Fr. Magill laid down a very, very serious challenge for us, a challenge not just to talk, not to tick boxes but a challenge to get power-sharing up and running again in a way that serves the whole community…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But that involved compromise, doesn’t it, on everyone’s part?

McDonald: Yes, of course it does and if you listen to him Miriam you would have heard him say…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  I did.

McDonald:   …You would have heard him say that politicians need to get to work, we need sustainable government and that we need to fix the dysfunction that has marked goverance in the past, now the…

INTERRUPTED.

O’Callaghan:  But what are you going to do…[McDonald tries to finish her point…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  I hear you, but what are you going to change, in what way will you compromise and I’ll ask the same questions of the DUP.

McDonald:  The only way that you’re going to get to sustainable government is to hardwire equality.  So therefore let me tell you what needs to happens next…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  No, tell me what you’re going to do?

McDonald:  Well let me tell you what I have done and more importantly what needs to happen next…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan: No, what are you going to do in Sinn Fein?

McDonald:  Miriam, we are going to stand by the Good Friday Agreement.  I’m sure you’re listeners don’t want a rehash of the past two years…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  No, but I want to know if there’s going to be any compromise?

McDonald:  But Miriam, sorry. I obviously have to remind you that February twelve months ago there was a compromise and there was an accomodation on the table and we had landed on what I believe was a fair and balanced accomodation and unfortunately the DUP walked away from that.  So your suggestion that Sinn Fein haven’t engaged and that we haven’t been constructive is just inaccurate.  You’re…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But just let me come back for a moment Mary Lou because it’s an interview.

So, in other words, as you said February last year those talks fell apart.  Many know at the end of the day it was because the grassroots of the DUP have a red line about a stand alone Irish language act.  Can you not in some way shift on that?  They were going to try and incorporate it perhaps in an overall arching act, is that not acceptable?

McDonald:  [Puzzled] Sure that’s what we agreed last February.

O’Callaghan:  Yeah, but as Arlene Foster said, her DUP supporters do not accept that so can you shift a little on that. 

McDonald:  So Miriam, perhaps you might observe that anything that moved the dial towards equality and inclusion and by the way none of these issues, marriage rights, language right, they’re not the sole preserve of Sinn Fein or of Nationalism.  These are equality issues and people in Northern society now understand that sustainable government is based on equality…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  So is the DUP position on marriage equality a red line issue for you in Sinn Fein as well Mary Lou McDonald, I’m just trying to clarify. 

McDonald:  I’ve heard some of the commentary around this and I challenged it before and I’m going to challenge it again.  This isn’t a football match where we chalk up one nil, two nil, five nil.  These are issues that citizens in the North really, really care about because the…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  Yeah but let me come back.  Mary Lou McDonald, to be honest, you saw the reaction yesterday, there was a standing ovation for Fr. Magill.

McDonald:  Yes…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  No, let me speak.  He wanted the politicians to get up and get the Assemply going, that requires compromise.  So all I’m trying to do this morning is try and work out your red lines.  The stand alone Irish language act obviously remains a red line.  I’m just asking you.  The DUP position on marriage equality, is that now also a red line for Sinn Fein?

McDonald:  I’m not even describing them as red lines, these are issues that need to be resolved.  I don’t think you need to dramatise it Miriam…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  Well we need a resolution, I’m trying to work out where a compromise can come.  

McDonald:  Well I was about to share my idea with you if you will allow me.  The fact that marriage equality, equal language rights, the Stormont House apparatus, that those matters need to be resolved is not new to anybody.  My god we’ve talked about these issues for months and months and months and we did land on a compromise.  We landed on a compromise and unfortunately the DUP couldn’t bring it over the line.  Those issues still need to be resolved before Lyra was murdered, before Fr. Magill spoke it was my view in any event that the DUP aren’t prepared to lift these issues and resolve these issues with us.  The governments now need to step in, they need to meet urgently.  I believe in the…INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan: No, no, let me come back. Fr. Magill spoke…

McDonald tries to continue with her point but is…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  Ok, let me come back on that.  He wasn’t speaking to the Governments, he was speaking to the politicians.  We all know that the DUP grassroots could not accept that compromise in February 2018.  What I’m trying to work out is that if you do go back even into parallel talks with the DUP will you accept that an Irish languange stand alone act even incorporated within other acts is not going to be acceptable and can you shift on that?

McDonald:  Well if you’re asking me are we going to capitulate on behalf of citizens in the North to people who wish to hold back progress in every form, to people who do not wish to make room for others in an open democratic society then the answer to that is no Miriam.  We will not capitulate on that and I would suggest to you this business of parallel processes doesn’t actually meet the challenge as articulated by Fr. Magill because the challenge is, was and remains to talk certainly…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:   So am I hearing ‘Sinn Fein’ says NO?

McDonald:  No, you’re not hearing that, we’re not the nay sayers.  We’re the people that landed on the accommodation…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But that didn’t work at the end of the day.

McDonald:  Perhaps I’m not making myself adequately clear. Our review is not NO, our review is absolutely YES.  We need the institutions up but I am a realist…our aim is not just to tick boxes…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  OK, so just let me back in there Mary Lou McDonald.

McDonald manages to continue but is again…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  I hear that, let me come back in.  This is why I’m asking this question.  You just said you have a deeper responsibility for resolving these issues. Post that very moving ceremony yesterday, post the murder of Lyra McKee, Fr. Magill was almost pleading that all sides shifts position.  I am hearing from you if I’m correct Mary Lou McDonald that you have not shifted your position one iota.

McDonald:  No, what you heard yesterday was a call that has been made consistently right across the North in particular which is to get power-sharing back…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  That’s not what I asked you [McDonald managed to keep going]

McDonald: …and what we have said consistently…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But you haven’t shifted at all.

McDonald:  Miriam, you’re not asking us to shift, you’re asking us…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  But Fr. Magill was asking people to compromise.

McDonald:  Sorry, I don’t think you should put words into Fr. Magill’s mouth.  That’s not what he said.  He said that we need progress…he said we need to rid ourselves of the dysfunctional pieces that haven’t worked…

INTERRUPTED

O’Callaghan:  He said, Mary Lou McDonald, why did it take the murder of a 29 year old woman for the Northern Irish politicians to meet and talk to each other.

McDonald: Well, the reality is that for just about a year there hasn’t been a substantive engagement.

Alison O’Connor and professional deceit

 

By Anthony Sheridan

 

Even for a Fine Gael journalist Alison O’Connor’s portrayal of Brian Hayes is way over the top. Hayes, who’s abandoning politics for a more lucrative career in the financial services industry, is portrayed as a virtual Irish Nelson Mandela.

O’Conner writes of the terrible conditions Irish politicians such as Hayes have to endure in order to serve the people. Having to stand for election, having to put your face on a poster, having to survive on €100,000 plus generous expenses – my goodness, such horrors.

But like all establishment journalists O’Conner reveals her bias in the detail. She tells us that Hayes’ greatest talent lay in making the government look good.

I couldn’t understand at the time how the party, and then taoiseach Enda Kenny, felt he would be better off in the European Parliament than at home doing a fine job of making the government look good, despite the slashing and burning that was ongoing.

Note – not fighting for the health and wealth of the people, not badgering his party leader to do what was right for the victims of political and financial corruption, not insisting that corrupt bankers be brought to justice.

No, Hayes’ greatest talent, according to O’Connor, was his amazing ability to ‘make the government look good’ as it destroyed the lives, ambitions and wealth of millions of Irish citizens. In other words, Hayes was a brilliant political liar and propagandist.

And then there’s the accidental admission that Hayes is leaving politics so that he can accumulate even more money.

A politician of Brian Hayes’ experience and profile might stand to earn considerably more in the private sector.

So it’s not about selfishly serving people and country, it’s about who pays the most. And with Hayes’ many connections in politics, government and banking, his new career in the Irish Banking and Payments Federation is sure to make him a very wealthy man.

But there’s always a nagging problem for establishment journalists like O’Conner – how to explain the awkward logical gap between the catastrophic financial, psychological and social damage inflicted on the Irish people over recent decades and the claim that the political system responsible for the suffering is populated by people of high principles and integrity such as Hayes.

The answer – ignore the brutal reality and resort to professional deceit.

And the current choice of deceit is – blame social media.

Quoting a senior Fine Gael source O’Connor writes:

It is proving exceptionally difficult to get them [candidates] to stand because they see the abuse politicians get on social media and feel that a political career just isn’t worth that.

I’ll finish with this thought: Irish citizens will never see the extermination of the disease of political corruption for so long as establishment journalists like O’Connor are willing to loyally defend the rotten system.

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Alison O’Connor