Declining standards in Irish journalism

By Anthony Sheridan

In 2018 Stephen Donnelly Fianna Fail TD was refused permission to erect a fence around his home.  In 2021 a fence was erected around his home at taxpayer’s expense.   

Just two things changed between 2018 and 2021- Donnelly became the Minister for Health and sometime between the end of January and early Feb this year, a number of incidents were alleged to have occurred at the Minister’s home. 

But this article is not about the Minister or the alleged incidents. It’s about declining standards in Irish mainstream journalism. These declining standards are clearly evident in how this particular story was reported.

The story broke on 20 Feb last when Irish Examiner journalists Paul Hosford and Aoife Moore reported they had received an anonymous tipoff that a security fence had been erected outside the Minister’s home as a result of the incidents.

An unidentified source said the fence was erected after items were thrown at windows and left on the minister’s doorstep.

An unidentified spokesperson for the Minister declined to comment except to say the fence was for security reasons.

The story was accompanied by an outraged [anonymous] editorial condemning the alleged attack on the minister’s home.

So, what have we so far?

An anonymous tipoff followed by an unidentified source, followed by an unidentified spokesperson alleging, without providing any evidence, that at some point in the recent past, persons unknown threw items at the windows of the Minister’s home and left items on his doorstep.

In other words, what we have so far is – hearsay

Later that day Ms Moore was interviewed by Damien O’Reilly on RTEs Brendan O’Connor Show where RTE had upped the language surrounding the story from ‘incidents’ to ‘an attack’ on the minister’s home.   

Unfortunately, Ms Moore did not provide any additional information but did expand on what she did not know – some examples.

Is there any evidence that this is related to his work?

It appears it is but we can’t go into detail.

Do we know what was thrown at the house?

We don’t know.

Did it involve an individual, a group, was it over a prolonged period?

We don’t know. The advisor didn’t really want to go into it in any more detail.  I think they would rather if the story was a private family matter.

So here we have a journalist reporting an [alleged] attack on a government minister and happily accepting that such a serious event can be treated as a private family matter.

Ms. Moore was however very supportive and even emotional on behalf of the minister.

He has three young children…and obviously he’s up in Dublin for a lot of the time…and of course he’d be really concerned about his children and his wife.  It’s just really rotten to be honest. I think everyone is really disgusted that politicians can’t go to work without having to worry about the safety of their families.

Staying with the emotional angle O’Reilly/RTE linked this alleged attack with the perfectly legitimate, peaceful protests held outside the then Minister for Health Simon Harris’ home in 2019. 

Ms. Moore was also happy to go along with this unprofessional linking of two completely different stories. 

He had a very young baby at the time, his wife and daughter were at home, it was very scary.

O’Reilly concluded the interview with a strong note of outrage:

Who would want to go into politics when you hear stories like that?

That appeared to be the end of the story but then, curiously, a full seven weeks later, on April 9, the story was resurrected when Newstalk journalist Ciara Kelly interviewed Minister Donnelly in his constituency in Greystones Co Wicklow. 

Listening to the interview it was clear Ms. Kelly is a great admirer of the minister, excitedly telling listeners that both of them were locals and even attended the same school. 

The form of the interview was very similar to that on RTE between journalist Aoife Moore and journalist Damien O’Reilly.  Very friendly, no challenging questions and buckets of sympathy for the minister for the alleged attack on his home.

Does it frighten you that your family is being swept up into all of this?

Obviously, but I don’t want to get into it too much details for reasons you’ll understand. 

If Ms. Kelly did understand why a government minister would want to keep the details of an alleged attack on his home secret, she wasn’t telling her listeners.  Just as journalist Aoife Moore was happy to accept that such an attack could be treated as a private family matter.

Ms. Kelly’s co-presenter Shane Coleman concluded the piece in a similar manner as Damien O’Reilly did on RTE by angrily asking:

Why would anyone go into politics and subject themselves to such abuse.

So here we have five journalists reporting a story as fact without any real evidence.  Apparently cooperating with anonymous sources and the minister to keep details of the story secret and expressing strong support and sympathy for the minister’s unsubstantiated claims. 

This is not journalism, it’s hearsay bordering on false reporting.  Journalists cannot retain credibility when they publish stories without corroborating evidence. 

Respect for their profession is also seriously damaged when they take sides, particularly when they take the side of a government minister who stands to gain from such media support.

Copy to:

Aoife Moore: Irish Examiner journalist

Paul Hosford: Irish Examiner journalist

Damien O’Reilly: RTE journalist

Ciara Kelly: Newstalk journalist

Shane Coleman: Newstalk journalist

Stephen Donnelly: Minister for Health

Mainstream media: Failing to speak truth to power

By Anthony Sheridan

A deep and disturbing malaise has taken hold of journalism right across mainstream media.  The infection stems from the decades long close and  inappropriate association of journalists with the rotten centre of Irish politics principally composed of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.

For a long time the sickness was hardly noticeable but the brutal austerity implemented by the political centre in response to the 2008 economic collapse opened the eyes of many Irish citizens.  And not just to how power was wielded in the interests of the powerful, but how mainstream media provided unquestioning support for the actions of the political establishment.

The unhealthy relationship between mainstream media and the ruling political class has become so close that the journalists themselves seem to be genuinely unaware of it.

A recent political podcast by the Irish Times, in which readers were invited to submit questions to journalists, provides a startling example of how mainstream journalism has become a parody of what good journalism should be all about.

I submitted the following question to the podcast which was selected for discussion:

Why is the link between the rise of Sinn Fein and the ongoing disintegration of the political centre ignored by mainstream media? 

Almost all comment and analysis surrounding this historic development focuses on attacking Sinn Fein on behalf of and in defence of the political centre. 

There is virtually no analysis or comment as to why this is happening.

Harry McGee, the Irish Times political correspondent, responded but failed to adequately address the question.  Instead, he unwittingly revealed the true nature of the tainted relationship between mainstream journalism and the political establishment.  

We’re working in an environment that is like a big boarding school and the thing is, you do forge relationships with politicians.  And journalists depend on politicians especially when they’re looking to get stories in advance.  And that makes it slightly problematic when it comes to criticising politicians – suddenly you have to pounce and bite the hand that feeds. 

Effectively, McGee is making the shocking admission that Irish mainstream journalists do not observe one of the central principles of international journalism – the obligation to speak truth to power.  

He is candidly admitting that mainstream journalists do not come down hard on establishment politicians because they depend on them for stories.

It is, of course, true that journalists line up like ducks in a pond to be fed tit bits by politicians in return for favourable reportage but it is rare to witness a journalist actually admit to this reality.

McGee went on to deny that there was any concerted attack on Sinn Fein feebly claiming that the problem lay with Sinn Fein’s reluctance to make itself accessible to media.

It’s not so much that there’s any attempt to attack Sinn Fein.  I think there’s just been a difficulty of getting access to Sinn Fein but that has become less of a difficulty in recent years.

The notion that Sinn Fein is shy about engaging with media is almost as ridiculous as claiming that there’s no concerted campaign against the rise of that party.

So here’s the truth that McGee and his colleagues in mainstream media are so fearful of confronting.

The political centre is on a death spiral after decades of corruption, incompetence and arrogance wrapped in a blanket of delusion that they have a divine right to rule. 

This is not opinion, it’s fact.  Labour are in the waiting room to extinction, Fine Gael effectively lost the last three elections and Fianna Fail are struggling to remain relevant as the the party begins to tear itself asunder in an internal civil war.

All of this has come about for one simple but powerful reason – the Irish electorate, in election after election, has rejected the old corrupt regime and is demanding radical change.

But this ongoing revolutionary shift across the entire political landscape is practically ignored by mainstream media.  Instead, in an increasingly desperate effort to defend and preserve the old regime, we see an avalanche of ‘end of civilisation’ type articles and broadcasts warning of the dangers of populism, Trumpism, the so-called evils of social media and increasingly bizarre anti-Sinn Fein propaganda.

The sickness that has resulted in mainstream media abandoning its obligation to speak truth to power is best summed up by McGee’s mindset:

‘We fear criticising politicians in case they stop giving us stories’

This dangerous mindset is in stark contrast to the highest principles of the profession as expressed by the French philosopher Michel Foucault:

Only the courageous may pursue the truth-to-power course as they risk losing their friends, their liberty, even their lives.

Copy to:

Irish Times

Harry McGee

Sarah McInerney and political impartiality

By Anthony Sheridan

23 Sep 2020

Sarah McInerney is one of RTEs top news and current affairs broadcasters.  As such she is required to exercise strict impartiality on all matters controversial but particularly in relation to political issues.

The general public should not be able to tell the personal views of broadcasters such as McInerney.  So my question is, why is she allowed to express strong personal political opinions in her column in the Sunday Times? 

Just last Sunday, for example, she expressed the opinion that the Taoiseach’s debilitating amiability is a liability in government

Martin has been too nice for too long; she thundered before going on to say that his softly, softly approach to challenges from his Parliamentary Party and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar was not good for Fianna Fail.

Her final paragraph could have come from the mouth of the Taoiseach’s most worried advisor:

You have to play the political game, no matter how distasteful it may be. If Martin wants to survive two years as Taoiseach, with his party still intact, it’s time for a mini makeover. No more Mr Nice Guy.

RTEs guidelines on impartiality are crystal clear: [Section 8.4 Impartiality]

Our audiences should not be able to tell from our output the personal views of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.

And, more precisely:

…may not express personal views in RTÉ output, online or elsewhere, [my underline] and must be careful in their use of social media to avoid any perception of partiality.

Everyone who read the article now knows that McInerney is concerned about Michael Martin’s performance as Taoiseach and the continuing drop in support for Fianna Fail.

This is damaging to her credibility as a news and current affairs broadcaster.  Any robust questioning of opposition TDs will be seen as support for Fianna Fail.  Any perceived soft interview with Fianna Fail TDs or ministers will be seen in a similar light.

As one of the most popular and admired news broadcasters in the country McInerney has the potential to wield enormous political influence. 

She should not be allowed to do so.  Time RTE management had a word in her ear.

Copy to:

Sarah McInerney

RTE management

Did RTE journalists collude against Sinn Fein?

By Anthony Sheridan

In an interview with Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald on RTEs This Week programme, David McCullagh quizzed her about the use of the word ‘collusion’ in the Dail during nominations for a new Taoiseach.

You said the Government parties colluded in frustrating the voice of change, in what way was it collusion?

McDonald confirmed her belief that there was collusion between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael but she didn’t get much further before being interrupted by McCullah who declared triumphantly that he had looked up the word in the Oxford English dictionary.

Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy in order to deceive others.

This type of ‘journalism’ is bizarre and disturbing.  McCullagh/RTE picked out one word, from one person in one political party and went to the bother of researching the exact meaning of that word with the obvious intention of embarrassing the leader of that party.

McDonald made the reasonable and correct argument that the word ‘collusion’ has a far wider application in the English language.

But McCullagh was determined in his attack:

Some people would see the use of the word as almost Trumpian.

McDonald, rightly, berated him:

Don’t be ridiculous.

The grilling was continued the next day on Today with Sarah McInerney.

Speaking with Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly McInerney demanded to know why McDonald had used the ‘collusion ‘ word.

As with Mary Lou McDonald, O’Reilly didn’t get far in her reply before being interrupted by McInerney who expressed her personal opinion that the word was used deliberatly by Sinn Fein.

The use of the word and this impression being given, deliberately, I think by Sinn Fein that the two parties were plotting.

O’Reilly, stating the obvious fact that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael did work together to keep Sinn Fein out was again interrupted by McInerney in her eagerness to support the establishment parties.

How do you know that, I mean they would say they came together because their party policies were more aligned than they were with yours.

As McDonald said, the word ‘collusion’ has a broad application in language but if we take McCullagh’s strict definition and apply it to his and McInerney’s behaviour we can see that the definition fits perfectly.

Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy in order to deceive others.

Any objective observer could be forgiven for concluding that this was a [non] story generated behind closed doors by RTE journalists with the intention of deceiving listeners into believing that Mary Lou McDonald had done something wrong.

This is not journalism, it’s not professional reporting or analysis. It appears to be the deliberate targeting of a political party that poses a challenge to the fading power of the ruling political class.

Copy to:

David McCullagh

Sarah McInerney

Irish Examiner bias

By Anthony Sheridan

Irish Examiner journalist Michael Clifford believes there is an organised social media campaign by some in politics to discredit mainstream media.

Increasingly in some quarters of politics, social media is used to attempt to systemically discredit the media. This is designed to encourage the public to ignore anything negative that appears in the media about a particular politician or party.

This attack on the media, according to Clifford, encourages people to ignore facts and blame the messenger.  And, he warns, the tactic is undermining the media’s role in holding power to account.

Specifically, Clifford is writing about Sinn Fein supporters who allege that mainstream media is biased against the party.  He goes on to accuse those supporters of using the bias claim to discredit negative scrutiny of Sinn Fein.

Michael Clifford is wrong, as wrong as only an establishment journalist can be when faced with the uncomfortable truth of rampant mainstream media bias. 

There are any number of examples of this bias not just against Sinn Fein but against any person or organisation, such as the water protesters, who threaten the power of the ruling political establishment.

The following is just one example from Clifford’s newspaper, The Irish Examiner.

A few weeks ago the leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan used the ‘N’ word during a speech in the Dail.  Ryan was referring to an article in the Irish Times by the writer Sean Gallen in which he described how racist abuse during his childhood affected his whole life.

Here’s how the political editor of the Irish Examiner, Daniel McConnell, responded: 

Daniel McConnell: Questionable rush to condemn Eamon Ryan

Eamon Ryan is not racist.

The reaction to {Ryan} was astonishing and, in places, downright nasty.

On social media, the great online sewer, he was slammed.

Was Ryan wrong to use it as opposed to saying ‘the N-word’ or some other variation when making his point?

Or was he justified in saying it within the context of highlighting the abuse suffered by Gallen?

The rush to condemn did on one level smack of the disturbing pattern of the left to preach to everyone as to what speech is acceptable and which is not.

The moral high priests and priestesses who seem to go out their way to take offence do little to progress the cause of inclusivity or equality.

Four years ago, in May 2016, the then leader of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams also used the ‘N’ word in the exact same manner as Ryan.  That is, he used the word in the context of the suffering of the nationalist population of Northern Ireland under British/Unionist rule, just as Ryan used it to highlight the abuse suffered by Gallen. 

The bias of the Irish Examiner is exposed for all to see when the favourable [and justified] defence of Ryan is contrasted against the damning judgement of Adams by an anonymous Irish Examiner journalist, hiding behind an editorial, for the very same thing.

[I have underlined what I consider to be the contradictions between the two responses]

While Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has defended using a racist word for a black person in a tweet, his judgement must be called into question.

As leader of a political party, he has a duty to guard against making gratuitously offensive references.

Whether he likes it or not, his Sunday night use of the six-letter N-word is the kind of word that is synonymous with the attitude towards black people in America’s deep south. Whether used unwittingly or not, it a deeply offensive term.

It is simply not good enough to tell his followers on the social media platform Twitter that he was watching a Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained, comparing the struggle against slavery in the US to the struggle by Irish nationalists.

If it had been a film about US president Barack Obama, he would hardly have used such a racist term. So why did he use it? Having drawn criticism on both social media and the Washington Times, that is the right question which Mr Adams must ask himself.

The bias and hypocrisy of Irish Examiner journalists to the two incidents is clear to anybody with an ounce of objectivity.

Mr. Clifford tells us that the so-called tactic by ‘some quarters of politics’ on social media to discredit mainstream media is undermining the media’s role in holding power to account.

There’s no need of such a conspiracy. A declining standard of professionalism coupled with an obvious bias against those who challenge the ruling political establishment are doing more than enough to undermine trust in and credibility of mainstream media.

Copy to:

Michael Clifford

Daniel McConnell

RTE: Propaganda ambush of Sinn Fein

By Anthony Sheridan

Former RTE broadcaster Sean O’Rourke never made a secret of his contempt for Sinn Fein.  At times his contempt bordered on outright hatred as he interrogated and insulted members of that party at every opportunity.  For O’Rourke, journalistic objectivity was never as important as keeping Sinn Fein away from the levers of power.

Sarah McInerney, O’Rourke’s replacement, seems intent on continuing in his biased footsteps.

We witnessed the latest example of this unprincipled journalism in what has become a regular RTE strategy when it come to Sinn Fein – the propaganda ambush.

The ambush followed an interview of the Sinn Fein leader by the Sunday Independent.  The Independent is a propaganda newspaper with a rabid hatred of Sinn Fein so it was no surprise that the interview was manipulated to demonise Mary Lou McDonald and her party.

Someone in RTE then, apparently, decided to follow up on the Independent’s rogue journalism by setting up their own propaganda ambush, Sarah McInerney was more than happy to cooperate.

I should make clear, this article is not about Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein or the IRA.  Those interested in how McDonald handled the interview can listen back here on the RTE website.

This article is about how media organisations with a particular agenda, such as RTE, set out to damage the credibility or reputation of certain people and organisations who are considered a threat to the political status quo.

The form and delivery of questions asked are crucial if such ambushes are to be successful.  In this case the strategy used by RTE/McInerney can be broken down into three parts.

One: Ask a question that’s impossible to answer.

Two: Repeatedly and forcibly put the question in pursuit of self-condemnation while ignoring all answers given in defence.

Three: Include a deeply emotional element to the question.

The impossible to answer question consisted of two parts:

Was the IRA justified in killing people, and, would you have taken up arms in the conflict? 

While repeatedly putting the question RTE/McInerney introduced the emotional element of the ambush by exploiting the death of a 13 year child in the conflict.

Do you really think it was justified to kill a 13 year old child?

Over three thousand people died in the Northern Ireland conflict. Tens of thousands suffered serious physical and psychological injuries. British soldiers, police officers, Unionists militia, the IRA and the British Government all engaged in the killing. 

In a propaganda ambush it is important to leave out this bigger picture because it provides objective context that could weaken the damaging impact of the strategy.

RTE/McInerney didn’t need or indeed expect McDonald to actually say the killing of children was justified in the conflict.  It was only necessary to repeatedly throw the deceitful question at her to create an impression in the minds of listeners that McDonald was being dishonestly evasive and therefore guilty in some way – damage done, mission accomplished.

We know this was a propaganda ambush because the Northern Ireland conflict ended 22 years ago with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.   To demand explanations from one party to the agreement so long after the conflict has ended without context and without demanding the same explanations from all other parties is clearly an exercise in propaganda.

Practically the entire world, including the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and the vast majority of citizens in the Republic and the United Kingdom, accepted the agreement and by so doing recognised Sinn Fein as a legitimate political party that was genuinely intent on pursuing its policies by peaceful means only. 

Only two groups rejected the agreement, the Democratic Unionist Party and the political establishment in the Republic.  Fianna Fail and Fine Gael along with fellow travellers such as right wing politician Michael McDowell have never accepted what the world has accepted, that Sinn Fein is a legitimate political party.  By so doing they are, effectively, rejecting the Good Friday Agreement.

Their motive is as cynical as it is self-serving – Sinn Fein, as an outsider, poses a major threat to the exclusive power the established parties have wielded since independence.  A power they have consistently abused at great cost to the quality of Irish democracy and the interests of Irish citizens.

The Irish media, led by RTE, is overwhelmingly conservative and pro establishment.  The historic and, for the establishment, shocking public endorsement of Sinn Fein in the recent election has panicked them into abandoning all semblance of objectivity and professionalism in defence of that establishment.

Copy to:

Sarah McInerney

RTE

Mary Lou McDonald

Oliver Callan: Back in his box

By Anthony Sheridan

Comedian Oliver Callan is a confused man and his confusion is getting him into all kinds of trouble.

He’s in trouble because he doesn’t understand the difference between harmless political satire and serious political comment.

If Callan was an ordinary Joe Soap comedian his confusion would not be a problem.  But Callan is not an ordinary Joe Soap, much of his income comes from powerful sources within the establishment such as RTE and the Irish Times.

The rule is simple:  If you work for the establishment, you don’t attack the establishment.

There’s just one exception to this rule. If you’re a comedian you can slag off the establishment if, and only if, your comments are made within the strict confines of comedy.

Clearly, Callan doesn’t understand this rule.  Recently he tweeted a very strong criticism of the leader of the establishment itself – Leo Varadkar. 

The arrogance is astounding.  As covid19 kills scores and puts 500k on dole, Taoiseach [on full pay & exp] alleges without proof that workers are seeking layoffs to exploit benefits.  The SF leader gloats the crisis proves she’s ‘’right’.  Are we in  this together or not??? FFS

Somebody must have had a word in is ear.  Perhaps a call from RTE or the Irish Times or maybe even a call from the Great Leader himself.

In any case, Callan quickly deleted the tweet with the following seriously pathetic excuse.

Ok ok, so I deleted my tweet referencing Leo’s comments on welfare applicants and Mary Lou’s opinion piece in IT.  I wasn’t fair to either of them and if we are in this together, I’ll have to simmer down too.

This wimpish but unstandably self-interested climbdown was rightfully torn to shreds on twitter.

So let’s have a look at the difference between Varadkar’s comments and McDonald’s Irish Times article.

McDonald wrote a well balanced, well informed article on the current political situation focusing particularly on the disgraceful, anti-democratic exclusion of Sinn Fein from government formation talks by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Varadkar, on the other hand, obnoxiously and without any proof accused citizens of exploiting layoff benefits.

But, according to Callan’s flaky logic, Varadkar’s vile accusation is no worse than McDonald’s reasoned political analysis. 

This is the mindset of a man running in fear of those with power to damage his interests.

All went quiet then…for a while.  Callan probably thought he was off the hook, that he was still in the establishment’s good books. 

But, once again, he made the massive error of mixing up satire with serious political comment.

In another tweet he described a speech delivered by the Great Leader as wooden and robotic. 

Clearly, Callan was not getting the message – If you work for the establishment you cannot criticise the establishment. 

To hammer home that message, the mistress of the establishment’s high moral ground was called into action, Irish Times columnist Kathy Sheridan.

Personally naming Callan, Sheridan did not mince her words:

Cheap, personal shots at politicians demean everyone involved.

Callan, at last, got the message.

In an article that would embarrass even the most toadying, most servile supporter of the establishment Callan prostrated himself in a spineless effort to regain favour.

The Great Leader, who just days before was described by Callan as  an arrogant robot, suddenly morphed into a man of passion for his country, a man who was going to deal with the [evil] ‘shinners’, a man who was determined to leave a legacy of greatness on history.  

Climbdowns as abject as this only happen after a serious slap on the wrist has been delivered.

And to copper-fasten his total allegiance to his masters, Callan jumped on the bandwagon that is the establishment’s hatred of social media, a hatred second only to its loathing for Sinn Fein:

Here’s Sheridan’s comment:

Just the kind of hot take that characterises the swamplands of social media along with idiotic #notmyTaoiseach hashtags.

And Callan’s servile parrot:

Social media…a place where the cringey hashtag ‘Not My Taoiseach’ trends with regularity.

Ah yes, I think we can safely conclude – Callan has definitely been put back in his box. 

Copy to:

Oliver Callan

Kathy Sheridan

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.

Copy to:

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.

Kathy Sheridan: Afraid to speak truth to power?

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

For ordinary Irish citizens, corruption is a dark, malignant everyday reality that causes endless loss and suffering. The political system, the financial sector, planning, property, you name it, corruption is rampant and routine among the top tiers of Irish society. The disease does immeasurable damage to the wealth, health and aspirations of ordinary people.

But in the warm, comfortable bubble where the establishment media happily coexist with the powerful and the corrupt, there is no such thing as corruption. Instead, there is a mysterious entity universally referred to as ‘culture’.

So, for example, there’s no corruption in our police force, our banks or our political system, just this inexplicable abstraction called ‘culture’.

And, apparently, all that’s needed to bring a halt to the massive damage caused by this mysterious ‘culture’ is the application of another magic word – ‘reform’.

So, basically, that’s all establishment journalists write or talk about, culture and reform and it’s off to the Dail bar for drinks – happy days.

But despite the availability of these magic, truth avoiding words, it can still be difficult for establishment journalists to write about corruption without actually using the dreaded ‘C’ word.

Take for example a recent article by Irish Times journalist Kathy Sheridan in which she reflects on the catastrophic economic crash of 2008 which occurred as a direct result of corruption in the political and financial sectors.

The corruption word does not, of course, make an appearance but, to her credit, the truth-avoiding ‘culture’ word only appears in the very last paragraph.

Instead, Ms. Sheridan falls back on another strategy commonly employed by those who are afraid of speaking truth to power. While ostensibly analysing the Irish economic catastrophe she focuses the bulk of her analysis on events in another country thus sparing the blushes of those who wield power in Ireland.

At the beginning of her article she accepts that the people are angry and have lost trust in the system. The bulk of the article is then filled with a long, meandering story about some American financial wizard before ending with a sermonising quote that’s probably meant, somehow, to bring  comfort to the countless victims of the rampant corruption here in Ireland.

It’s about trust, yes. It’s about culture, [oh, there’s that word] behaviour and accountability. But like almost everything that makes life bearable, it’s also about common decency.

Ah yes, common decency. Now if only establishment journalists like Ms Sheridan could bring themselves to speak truth to power, to actually use the ‘corruption’ word, to name those who peddle the disease of corruption to enrich themselves while destroying the lives of so many.

Then, I’m sure, life would be much more bearable for all of us.

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Kathy Sheridan