RTE bias complaint

By Anthony Sheridan

I have submitted the following complaint to RTE regarding the broadcaster’s disgraceful and disturbing bias against Sinn Fein.

To Whom It May Concern:

Please find complaint submitted for breach of Section 39 [1] [a], [b] of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

Substance of complaint:  RTE News and Current Affairs is heavily biased against Sinn Fein.

This bias takes several forms, for example:

Stacked discussion panels where Sinn Fein representatives/supporters are ambushed not just by opponents of Sinn Fein, but invariably, by RTE presenters.

The creation of fake news stories which generate a damaging impression of Sinn Fein.

Minimising or completely ignoring stories that favour Sinn Fein, for example, good poll ratings.

Giving precedence to those opposed to [and fearful of] Sinn Fein’s electoral success particularly the centre parties in the republic and unionism in the North.

The following is an example of the creation of a fake news story that was then used to ambush Sinn Fein representatives.

During an interview with the Irish Examiner [5 Jan 2022] Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald expressed the following view regarding reform within the civil service

There is immense talent in our civil service, our public service, and our public administration, that’s the first thing that needs to be said.  But we have, in many respects, a system that is constipated, a system that is slow, and a system that needs to be jolted into more efficient actions.

This is a perfectly legitimate and reasonable comment for a politician to make. Nobody can seriously deny that the civil service is in need of radical reform.  It is in no way a major story that would warrant further coverage and comment from a national broadcaster such as RTE.   

But somebody of authority within RTE, ignoring the positive elements of the comment,  made a decision to select one word, ‘constipation’, and weaponise it to cast Sinn Fein in a bad light – For example:

Today with Claire Byrne [7 Jan] – Ms. Byrne upbraided Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly for the potential offence caused by use of the word. She [Byrne] then invited the [stacked] panel for their opinion, all of which, predictably, condemned Sinn Fein. 

News at One [10 Jan] Bryan Dobson, ignoring Ms. McDonald’s reasonable account, repeatedly badgered her with the question – Do you stand over those remarks?

My specific complaint against RTE is as follows:

On Friday May 20 last,  An Taoiseach Michael Martin travelled to Belfast for talks with all political parties concerning the crisis surrounding the refusal of the Democratic Unionist Party [DUP] to partake in the newly elected Assembly.

The dramatic result of the election saw Sinn Fein become the largest party in the North, a truly historic moment in the history of the province.  The Sinn Fein victory was, at least partly, the reason the DUP refused to participate in the new assembly leading to the crisis that saw An Taoiseach travel to Belfast.

Despite the central and important role played by Sinn Fein in these developments, somebody of authority in RTE decided to severely restrict the party’s access to the airwaves over the three days the story remained live.

Friday 20 May

Morning Ireland – RTE journalist interviewed by RTE journalist on the issue. No Sinn Fein [27 MLAs].

Today with Claire Byrne – No Sinn Fein [27 MLAs].

News at One – No Sinn Fein [27 MLAs]. The programme featured much analysis and opinion with An Taoiseach, Jeffery Donaldson of the DUP [25 MLAs] and Doug Beatty of the Ulster Unionist Party [UUP] [9 MLAs].

Drivetime – No Sinn Fein [27 MLAs]. Programme featured An Taoiseach, a journalist and an interview with the leader of the SDLP [8 MLAs]

Six One News – No Sinn Fein [27 MLAs]. Programme featured DUP leader Jeffery Donaldson and An Taoiseach

Nine News – Ditto for Six One News – No Sinn Fein

Saturday 21 May

Saturday with Philip Boucher-Hayes

DUP MLA Gregory Campbell facilitated with an 8 minute uninterrupted interview.

This was followed by a brief interchange with the panel which included SF TD Darren O’Rourke.

The last word was granted to Campbell in a two minute, uninterrupted, summing up of his party’s position.

Sunday 22 May

Brendan O’Connor Show – The issue completely ignored.

This Week – Extended interview with Bertie Ahern – No Sinn Fein

The Week in Politics Relatively brief chat with panel of politicians including Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly.

It is reasonable to conclude from the facts outlined above that Sinn Fein was deliberately excluded particularly on Friday 20 May when the issue was the main news story of the day. 

It is also reasonable to conclude that the exclusion of the party was not accidental or due to incompetence.  Preparations for such programmes are carefully planned, meetings are held with presenters, producers and other decision makers.  Decisions are made about content, questions/issues to be explored and what person[s] parties should be included.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

Junk journalism attack on Sinn Fein spreads to Europe

By Anthony Sheridan

On Monday 25 April last, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, filed a writ against RTE in response to comments made by an RTE presenter on Morning Ireland.

This is a newsworthy story because it involves the leader of the Opposition and the national broadcaster but it is a single issue story – prominent politician sues national broadcaster. 

But Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy did not report it as such.  Instead, he effectively created a fake news story around the core facts.

Without evidence he strongly suggested that Sinn Fein was operating a policy of encouraging its members to pursue media outlets in the courts.  The trend is unmistakable, he writes.

Later, in a disgraceful example of junk journalism, he went on to suggest, again without evidence, why Sinn Fein was operating such a policy. 

Sinn Féin’s political opponents – and many people in the media – see all this as part of a strategy to muzzle criticism of the party by trying to generate a “chilling effect” to dissuade opponents and the media from robust criticism and investigation of the party, its members and its controversial history.

If so, it is a tactic often used by powerful people and institutions to discourage scrutiny.

The next day, this junk journalism was parroted in an Irish Examiner editorial. [owned by the Irish Times].  The anonymous author patronisingly suggested that perhaps it would be best if the electorate were informed of this ‘belligerency’ by Sinn Fein.

This kind of low grade journalism is now common throughout the establishment media particularly when it comes to Sinn Fein.  But what’s really disturbing in this instance is the response of the National Union of Journalists [NUJ], a response curiously appearing in the same edition of the Irish Times as Leahy’s hostile article.

The secretary of the NUJ, Seamus Dooley, took the same line as the Irish Times

“Defamation proceedings can have a chilling impact on press freedom. It’s important that media organisations are not inhibited by libel threats, from whatever source and that editors and journalists continue to ask awkward questions.”

Here’s a few awkward question for Mr. Dooley:  Why is the NUJ questioning the right of any citizen to take legal action for alleged defamation?  Why does the NUJ think it appropriate to lecture any citizen on how they should proceed when the believe they have been defamed and, most worryingly, why is the NUJ supporting junk journalism that appears intent on damaging the reputation of a legitimate political party?

But the story becomes even more bizarre.

The Index of Censorship, a media freedom NGO based in London, filed a media freedom alert known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation [SLAPP] with the Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform, in response to Ms. McDonald’s legal action.

A SLAPP is, according to the Index of Censorship:

A strategy used by powerful actors in an attempt to stop individuals or organisations from expressing views on issues of public interest. Although they are disguised as ordinary civil claims, such as defamation or privacy, they are not intended to succeed in court.  Instead, their goal is to saddle critics with prohibitively expensive, time-consuming, and nerve- wracking  legal processes.  SLAPPS threaten not only freedom of expression and media freedom, but access to information, rule of law and our very democracy.

This is a very strong and, in my opinion, dangerous generalisation.  It suggests that those with power and wealth, who feel they have been defamed, should be treated differently under law, that they should not enjoy the universally accepted principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

And that, in effect, is what the Safety of Journalists Platform has done in response to Ms. McDonald’s action.

They have issued a formal alert notice with the heading:

Ireland

Sinn Fein Leader Files SLAPP against RTE – No. 175.2022

Created 25 May 2022

Harassment and intimidation of journalists

Source of threat: Non-State

Level 2

This is untrue, McDonald did not file a SLAPP against RTE.  She has filed a writ against the broadcaster for alleged defamation – nothing else.

The alert, among other things, claims that McDonald’s legal action against RTE is a disguised strategy to attack the broadcaster and therefore poses a serious threat to media freedom, offline or online.

[See end of article for details of a Level 2 charge]

Here’s Jessica Ní Mhainín, policy and campaigns manager with Index on Censorship.

“We are alarmed at the legal action that has been filed against RTÉ by the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald as we believe the action is characteristic of a strategic lawsuit against public participation…

…fundamentally they [SLAPPS] involve powerful people making legal threats or taking legal actions against public watchdogs – such as media outlets – in response to public interest speech that may be inconvenient to them or their interests.”

To my knowledge no evidence has been provided by The Index of Censorship, The Safety of Journalists Platform or the Council of Europe to back up the SLAPP charge.  

I’m no legal expert but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Sinn Fein president is considering her options in response to this arrogant, self-righteous and, potentially, false charge.

[Personal note: While writing and researching this article I couldn’t help noting the apparent interweaving between The Irish Times [and other Irish media], the NUJ, Index of Censorship and the Council of Europe.

Could it be, I wondered, that all this feverish activity was somehow connected to the democratic challenge posed by Sinn Fein to the power of the ruling regime in Ireland?]

Copy to:

Sinn Fein

NUJ

Council of Europe

Safety of Journalists Platform

Index on Censorship

Irish Times

Irish Examiner

Level 2

Covers all other serious threats to media freedom, including but not limited to physical assaults causing actual bodily harm, acts of intimidation and harassment; use by public figures of threatening or severely abusive language towards media members; unwarranted seizure or damage to property or equipment; laws and regulations that unduly restrict media freedom or access to information; actions that jeopardise the confidentiality of sources or the independence of the public sector broadcasters; abusive or disproportionate use of legislation; misuse of governmental or other powers to direct media content or to penalise media or journalists; interference with media freedom through ownership, control and regulation; and other acts posing a serious threat to media freedom, offline or online.

Irish Examiner and fake news

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.

Copy to:

Irish Examiner editor

RTE gives balance – accidentally?

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?

Copy to:

Alison O’Connor

Claire Byrne Live/RTE

Fintan’s pain

By Anthony Sheridan

It appears from a number of recent articles by Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole that he is suffering from a very special form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. 

His PTSD is special because it is, apparently, only triggered by flashbacks to republican violence during the Northern Ireland conflict which ended 24 years ago. 

Fortunately, Fintan is not burdened with memories of the violence carried out by unionists and agents of the British government.

He recently expressed his anguish to Irish Times colleague Deirdre Falvey.

I can’t vote for Sinn Féin, because I remember too much stuff, that was so cruel, so inhuman. Planting bombs in cafes and pubs just to kill as many young people randomly as you possibly could. I just can’t deal with it, until they’ve dealt with it.

It seems that PTSD has also affected Fintan’s memory because, to my knowledge, the IRA never pursued a policy of blowing up as many young people as they could. The IRA did, in common with Unionists and British government agents, carry out acts of violence but the age of victims was never a specific policy.    

Cynics might say that Fintan was engaging in a strategy practiced by other less sensitive journalists of portraying Sinn Fein as evil incarnate to young voters in the hope of halting the ongoing decline in support for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. 

Of course that just couldn’t be true because, according to Fintan, the Irish Times is the most unbiased newspaper in the entire world.  In an astonishing revelation he says:

I don’t think there’s any other journalist in the world who can say what I can say now. I’ve worked for 34 years for a newspaper, and nobody’s ever told me what to write, or what I couldn’t write. The lawyers might get involved. But an editor has never said to me, stay away from that, or we don’t agree with that, so you’re not allowed to say it. Never, ever, ever. That’s really precious. l don’t know of any of my colleagues in America or Britain who could say that, even people working for really good respectable newspapers

So, you see, nobody can accuse Fintan’s Irish Times of political manipulation because, as he says, it’s the most perfect newspaper in the whole world, a newspaper that would never, ever, ever tell a journalist what to write.

In another article Fintan again revealed the absolute torment he continues to suffer as a result of the war that ended 24 years ago when he strongly suggested that Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane shouting ‘up the Ra’ after the 2020 election could lead to renewed slaughter on the streets of Northern Ireland.

Shouting “Up the ‘Ra” is not a performance by historical re-enactors – it is a live device, primed to explode into contemporary reality.

Surely there’s no better argument for outlawing Sinn Fein, introducing internment and tearing up the Good Friday Agreement.

Ok, that would probably have the side effect of saving Fine Gael/Fianna Fail from political extinction but that would not be Fintan’s intention.  His only wish is to recover from the trauma he has suffered throughout the decades.

He wants to be in the same place as the countless thousands of actual victims who have accepted that the war is over, that Sinn Fein is not planning a return to war, that it’s ok to vote for the party. 

He longs to join with the United States of America, the United Nations, the European Union, the vast majority of citizens of the Republic, the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland and even the British Royal family, who were direct victims of the conflict, in accepting Sinn Fein as a legitimate political party.

But Fintan can’t deal with the pain, not even after 24 years of peace, not yet – he remembers too much.

Copy to:

Fintan

RTE: Don’t mention the police investigation

By Anthony Sheridan

One of the most memorable clips from the hilarious BBC comedy Fawlty Towers involved Basil [John Cleese] upsetting a group of German diners by constantly making references to the war.

Blissfully unaware of the upset he was causing he warned staff member Polly:

Listen, don’t mention the war! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

‘Don’t mention the war’ has since become a byword for those wishing to avoid discussing embarrassing issues.

But, it seems, RTEs London correspondent Sean Whelan has never heard of it. 

Reporting on the scandal surrounding Boris Johnson, he had this to say on RTEs News at One:

He’s the only Prime minister in Europe as far as I’m aware that’s being investigated by the police and that’s just not a good look.

Here you have somebody who is making the rules for the rest of the country and the police force, the people who investigate crime, are now going to be investigating him and his immediate staff and that just looks dreadful, doesn’t it?

Bryan Dobson, immediately realising that Whelan was blissfully unaware of the embarrassing parallels between the UK prime minister under police investigation and our soon to be Taoiseach, Varadkar, also under police investigation, studiously avoided responding to such a dangerous question.

I suspect that somebody from RTE/Fianna Fail/Fine Gael has since had a word in Whelan’s ear to castigate him for being the only journalist to breach the mainstream media bias protecting Varadkar.

Copy to:

RTE News and Current Affairs

Sean Whelan

Irish media mote in the eye

By Anthony Sheridan

Here’s a quote from today’s editorial in the Irish Examiner criticising ethical standards in UK politics:

The sane, sensible and, at times, sedate manner in which politics is generally conducted in Ireland makes us ill-prepared to understand how otherwise civilised nations can tolerate the most outrageous shenanigans of their political leaders.

Here’s a reality check for this publication:

Leo Varadkar is due to become Taoiseach again within months.  He is still the subject of a criminal investigation.  There has been practically no recognition, analysis or outrage from mainstream media to this impending disgrace on our country.

In the UK, the ‘outrageous shenanigans’ of political leaders are mercilessly scrutinised and condemned.  In Ireland, mainstream media is ultra-selective about which political parties are to be condemned.

Michael Clifford: low standards in journalism

By Anthony Sheridan

‘Please note, although this controversy occurred over a month ago and was the subject of an excellent article by Vanessa Foran, I believe the hostile reaction by mainstream media to Paddy Cosgrave’s anti-corruption campaigning deserves as much coverage as possible.’

On November 6 last, Irish Examiner journalist Michael Clifford wrote an article that can only be described as gutter journalism at its very worst.

The target of Clifford’s attack was entrepreneur and anti-corruption campaigner Paddy Cosgrave. 

Cosgrave is co-founder of the hugely successful Web Summit and used that platform at this year’s event to highlight very serious allegations of corruption against then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. 

The allegations, published by Village Magazine, claims that Varadkar illegally leaked a confidential document related to negotiations for a new General Practitioner contract.  The allegations are so serious that Varadkar is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Cosgrave brilliantly used the event, attended by 43,000 people from 128 countries, to expose to the world the rot that lies at the heart of Ireland’s governance. 

After projecting a giant image of the Village Magazine cover that described Mr. Varadkar as a ‘law breaker’, Cosgrave invited the whistleblower, Chay Bowes and the editor of the magazine, Michael Smith, onto the stage. 

Clifford focused his attack on Cosgrave and whistleblower Bowes.  He openly questioned Bowes integrity by comparing his courage to the guest of honour at the event, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

To present the whole farrago as an introduction to Ms Haugen, a genuine, courageous whistleblower, was arguably insulting to her.

Clearly, Clifford does not believe that Bowes is a genuine whistleblower despite the fact that his revelations triggered a criminal investigation into the then prime minister of our country.  

The journalist then attacked Cosgrave by inaccurately claiming he linked the notorious activities of Weinstein and Epstein with Varadkar’s alleged crime.

Clifford wrote:

To leave open the possibility to an uninformed audience that whatever he did could be bracketed in notoriety with the activities of Weinstein and Epstein is contemptible.

Clifford then, hypocritically,  did exactly what he had just [falsely] condemned Cosgrave of doing.  He linked the notorious journalist, Gemma O’Doherty with Cosgrave’s actions.

Once upon a time, Gemma O’Doherty held a similar role in the public square before she took a sharp turn to the right. There is no reason in the world to believe that Paddy would follow her but you have to wonder what exactly he will do next.

So why the hypocrisy, why would Clifford insult and condemn one whistleblower and his supporter and praise another?

The answer, I believe, depends on who the whistleblower is and who they are exposing. 

Ms. Haugen is an American citizen, she’s an outsider.  Her whistleblowing poses no threat to those who rule the roost in Irish politics. 

But, in the eyes of an establishment journalist like Clifford, Cosgrave’s relentless and effective anti-corruption campaigning is a direct threat to the power of the ruling political class that he and his newspaper so strongly support.

And Clifford himself, helpfully, provides the evidence for the truth of this claim.

In defence of Varadkar he writes:

He [Varadkar] was stupid rather than corrupt and he may have broken the law but there was no personal gain in it for him. 

If it was just a case of stupidity on Varadkar’s part then surely we can expect the Gardai to drop their criminal investigation now that this journalist has delivered his judgement on the case? 

It also appears that Clifford does not believe that political corruption is a crime.  How else can we reconcile his view that ‘Varadkar may have broken the law but he’s not corrupt’? 

Even more bizarre, particularly for a journalist, is Clifford’s suggestion that there should be no accountability if there was no personal gain in the crime.

But Clifford doesn’t operate alone in the establishment media bubble. His boss, political editor of the Examiner, Daniel McConnell expressed similar views in defence of that other stalwart of the political establishment, Simon Coveney, during the Zappone cronyism scandal.

Coveney is not a crooked politician, McConnell told the nation adding –

The true scandal here has been Coveney and Fine Gael’s utter failure to kill this off long before now. 

Here we have a journalist, the political editor of one of the most influential newspapers in the country suggesting that the ‘killing off’ of a serious scandal involving cronyism and possible law breaking should take precedence over political accountability.

I wrote before about the disturbing malaise that’s eating away at standards in Irish journalism.  Clifford’s intemperate and biased rant is a particularly nasty example of that malaise.

Copy to:

Michael Clifford

Paddy Cosgrave

Chay Bowes

Michael Smith

Daniel McConnell

Establishment media and delusional analysis

By Anthony Sheridan

There’s a constant stream of articles by mainstream journalists struggling to explain why the political establishment they so loyally serve, continues to lose popular support.

The articles all take similar form.

A brief history of the failing fortunes of their favoured party, be it Fine Gael, Fianna Fail or Labour.  Sometimes we’re presented with bizarre reasons for the collapse in support for these parties but more often than not, no explanation whatsoever is given.

In place of truth and reality these journalists invariably resort to delusional analysis.

Harry McGee, the political correspondent with the Irish Times, provided one such example recently.

Writing about Fianna Fail’s continuing decline, he makes the following points without providing any explanation or analysis.

The rapidly changing nature of Irish society [forced] Fine Gael and Fianna Fail into coalition.

The 85% vote received by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in the 1982 election was halved by 2020.

Sinn Fein leader, Mary Lou McDonald, will almost certainly be the next Taoiseach.

So here, briefly, is the reason for the above developments which McGee fears to address.

It was not the changing nature of Irish society that led Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to form a coalition.  It was an act of desperation by both parties to hold onto the power and privilege they have enjoyed for decades. 

The continuing fall in support for the parties of the centre between 1982 and 2020 is a direct consequence of the incompetence, arrogance and corruption of the ruling political class.

McDonald is likely to be the next Taoiseach because the people are desperate to get rid of the current corrupt political class. The people want radical change, that’s what they have been voting for over the past several elections. 

Establishment journalists do not see this because they operate within the same bubble occupied by the ruling political class.

So, instead of exposing the rot at the centre of Irish politics, journalists such as McGee resort to attacking those who are challenging the old, dying regime.  Sinn Fein, because it poses the greatest threat to the power of that regime, is usually the prime target.

McGee’s analysis is both amateurish and delusional. He claims that a section of the electorate is strongly opposed to a Sinn Fein led government because of

 The horrible, inhumane and cruel things the republican movement did during the troubles for which there were no grounds to claim justification.

There is no doubt that there are many opposed to a Sinn Fein led government because of what happened during the troubles but for a journalist to make such a political point without a balancing context, is to indulge in cheap propaganda.

For example, an unbiased journalist would balance the activities of the republican movement with the ruthless apartheid system operated by Unionists over a period of 50 years. 

Next, he praises the openness of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail’s weekly parliamentary meetings and condemns the so-called secrecy of Sinn Fein meetings, suggesting that the party is acting undemocratically.  

Of course, McGee knows very well that all political parties strive to keep their weekly meetings private.  The only reason we know what goes on at FG/FF meetings is because they leak like a sieve.  He also knows that the leaks are a reflection of the rancour and disunity within these two parties while Sinn Fein’s success in keeping their deliberations confidential is an indication of the party’s unity of purpose.

The purpose of this fake analysis is, of course, to throw mud in the hope that some will stick. It’s an effective propaganda tool but one that is spurned by professional journalists.

McGee ends his article on a note of high arrogance when he wonders how Sinn Fein will deal with sensitive security departments if they enter government. 

How will it deal with the Department of Justice, the Defence Forces and the Garda? Sinn Féin is an erstwhile enemy, there is no other way of putting it.

Actually, there is another way of putting it. 

Sinn Fein is a 100% legitimate political party with massive and growing support.  That support stems from the democratic power of the people who are more than willing to trust Sinn Fein representatives serving in any department. 

It is the height of paternalistic arrogance for a journalist to take upon himself the notion that the people’s democratic choice should be conditional or limited in any manner, in forming a government. 

In his unquestioning loyalty to the rotten centre of Irish politics McGee is blind to the fact that the people are increasingly seeing his beloved political class as the enemy and Sinn Fein as the only hope for an accountable democracy.

This type of journalism is not without consequences.   Good quality political analysis is critical in a democracy.  When journalists speak truth to power, political behaviour improves and democracy remains healthy.

When politicians are confident that journalists will not only defend their errant behaviour but actively attack those who challenge the rotten status quo, the political system and democracy is exposed to serious damage.

That is exactly what is happening in Ireland today.

Copy to:

Harry McGee

The day Eoghan Harris went bad

By Anthony Sheridan

Any rational person listening to Sarah McInerney’s interview of Eoghan Harris could be forgiven for thinking that he suffers from an illness known as Delusional Disorder. People suffering from this mental illness are incapable of telling what’s real from what’s imagined. 

In this context it is pointless responding directly to his ramblings with any seriousness.  However, the failure of the establishment media to unequivocally condemn the behaviour of Harris and his collaborators is another story altogether.

Take communications guru Terry Prone for example.  Writing in the Irish Examiner she was in no doubt where the blame lay.

In 50 years, nobody stopped Eoghan Harris. That’s our shame, not his.

This bizarre attempt to exonerate a favoured son of the establishment by blaming everybody, except him, suggests that Prone may also be experiencing a touch of Delusional Disorder. 

But for the record and for Ms. Prone’s information somebody did notice the moment when Harris went off the rails as a journalist.  Here’s an article I wrote six years ago in response to Harris’ refusal to criticise Denis O’Brien, the then owner of Independent Newspapers, during the Siteserv scandal. 

Eoghan Harris: A ‘journalist’ with little integrity

16 June 2015

In response to the ongoing Siteserv scandal Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris has effectively admitted that he’s a coward and a man/journalist of little integrity.

On prudent reflection, I decided to take the advice of the Kerry sage, Tommy the “Kaiser” Fitzgerald: Don’t say anything, and don’t write anything, because when you put the black on the white, you are fucked boy.

What a sad end for a man who, wielding a razor sharp brain, used to tear strips from the hypocritical, arrogant and corrupt gangsters who misrule our country.

Now he’s a fully signed up toady of the rotten culture he once so brilliantly challenged. Whatever dulled his rapier like pen over the years has also dulled his mind to a state of stupidity where he effectively admits that he’s an intellectual slave to Denis O’Brien.

At least his many colleagues at ‘Independent’ Newspapers, also toadies to the master, make some effort, no matter how pathetic, at journalistic integrity.

The rest of Harris’ article accurately reflects the only ‘talent’ he still possesses – chief cheerleader for the establishment’s anti-Sinn Fein propaganda campaign. He begins this section of his article with the words:

Let me turn to a safer topic.

Propaganda is, of course, always a safe topic for a journalist because there’s no need for truth or honesty but how sad to witness any journalist actually write, in black and white, the words

‘Let me turn to a safer topic’.

Copy to:

Terry Prone

Eoghan Harris