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

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.

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Irish Times

Harry McGee