At the time Martin was taking a lot of flack from his Parliamentary Party over his leadership style. Not only did McInerney defend the Fianna Fail leader but gave him strong advice on how to deal with those challenging his leadership.
Her advice could have come from the mouth of the Taoiseach’s most loyal 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.
Remember, this is one of the most prominent Current Affairs presenters in RTE whose 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 McInerney is not alone. It is clear when listening to RTEs News and Current Affairs presenters/journalists that professional standards of objectivity and integrity have been abandoned, particularly when interviewing left wing or anti-establishment politicians.
[RTE] makes mistakes and misjudgements – but they are failures of performance, not of intent.
Liveline presenter Joe Duffy gives the lie to that naïve statement. On yesterday’s show [June 26] the following question regarding his contract was put to him by a caller.
You have the same agent [as Tubridy], your signature goes on it, your agents signature goes on it, who signs off on it for RTE?
Duffy waffled and waffled, continuously cutting in on the caller’s attempts to get an answer. In the end Duffy succeeded in his dishonesty, the question was not answered.
This was not, as O’Toole tells us, a failure of performance rather than intent. Duffy deliberately barracked and interrupted the caller until he successfully avoided answering the question.
Like Tubridy, Duffy is not a broadcaster that can be trusted. He dissembled when asked to tell the truth, he insulted the intelligence of the caller and listeners. He is, in a word, a typically dishonest RTE presenter, the station is full of them.
Tubridy’s response to the scandal was naïve to the point of idiocy. He blamed RTE, complained that he had been taken off air for a week and looked forward to resuming his job very soon. This is the mindset of a man living in a bubble of delusion.
Joe Duffy lives in the same bubble of delusion and dishonesty and Fintan O’Toole thinks that, in time, all will be well in the cesspit of lies, arrogance and dishonesty, that is RTE.
This idiocy, delusion and dishonesty paints an accurate picture of the state of Ireland’s establishment media.
The estimated cost to the taxpayer would have been 2 million a year and 20 million if Dr. Holohan remained in his post for ten years.
Neither Watt nor Holohan had the authority to create this position. No civil servant, no matter how senior has the authority to spend such sums of taxpayer’s money without the knowledge and permission of his minister.
My complaint against Watt is based on his misbehaviour and failures as a senior civil servant.
After a number of enquiries to SIPO on the progress of my complaint I was informed that no action would be taken until after the publication of an independent report ordered by the Minister for Health into the scandal.
I have submitted the following complaint to RTE regarding the broadcaster’s failure to abide by its editorial principles.
To Whom It May Concern:
Please find complaint submitted for breach of Section 3, RTEs Editorial Principles – Trust, Accuracy and Impartiality.
This complaint consists of two parts:
The Taoiseach Michael Martin, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and other Fianna Fail and Fine Gael politicians have accused Sinn Fein of operating a strategy of exploiting the legal system by taking or threatening to take defamation actions in order to hamper investigative journalism and stifle political debate.
Taoiseach Michael Martin: Sinn Féin was placing restraints on freedom of speech because people feel that they could be sued or threatened by legal threats.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe: Sinn Féin’s use of the courts is having a chilling effect on democracy and the free media.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar: The strategic use of legal action to try and stifle debate is worrying.
No evidence has been provided by these politicians to verify their claims that Sinn Fein is engaged in a strategy of using the courts to undermine democracy and free speech.
In other words, all the accusations against Sinn Fein are hearsay, that is, information received from other people which cannot or has not been substantiated.
Professional journalists and media outlets, particularly national broadcasters, usually dismiss such unverified claims until such time as at least one reliable source is identified and quoted.
RTE has been reporting the claims without the usual caution to the public that there is no evidence to back up the charges.
By reporting the story without a source or verifiable evidence RTE is in breach of its own editorial principles of trust, accuracy and impartiality [Section 3, RTEs Editorial Principles – Trust, Accuracy and Impartiality].
This is particularly relevant to Section 3 [3.4] on the matter of sources which states:
3.4 Sources of Information We normally identify sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status. • We normally require two sources before we broadcast something as a fact. • We must be very confident that the information is accurate and the source is reliable if we have to rely on a single source. • We should acknowledge when we have been unable to verify material sufficiently and attribute the information.
This complaint is specifically centred on a question put to Sinn Fein TD Eoin O’Broin by Sarah McInerney on Drivetime on Monday 17 October last.
Sarah McInerney: I want to ask you about comments by Leo Varadkar today saying that he’s aware of at least three Fine Gael politicians who have received legal letters from Sinn Fein and he questioned if Sinn Fein was underwriting the financial cost of those legal actions saying if they were it was a strategy to stifle public debate.
I just wanted to ask you – does SF underwrite the financial cost of legal actions that their members take against other people or other organisations?
The following issues of trust, accuracy and impartiality arise from this question:
One: RTE/McInerney failed to state if they had asked Mr. Varadkar for the names of the Fine Gael TDs to confirm the source.
Two: RTE/McInerney failed to state if they had verified the claim that Sinn Fein may be underwriting the financial cost of claims taken by party members.
Three: RTE/McInerney failed to state if they had verified the accusation that Sinn Fein was engaged in a strategy aimed at undermining investigative journalism and public debate.
Four: RTE/McInerney did not, at any point while putting the question, utter a caution to listeners in respect to the accusations such as ‘alleged’ or ‘ claims were made without evidence’.
This failure by RTE/McInerney to abide by the most fundamental professional standards of broadcasting is a clear breach of RTEs Editorial Principles of Trust, Accuracy and Impartiality
The leader of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, is currently suing RTE for defamation. That action forms an element of the unverified, unsourced accusations made by the above named Fine Gael and Fianna Fail politicians against Sinn Fein.
For RTE/McInerney to engage in questioning a Sinn Fein member on the basis of the unverified, unsourced accusation that Sinn Fein is underwriting the financial cost of legal actions by its members while the leader of Sinn Fein is currently engaged in a legal action against RTE is reckless and unprofessional.
Such interference by RTE/McInerney in a live legal case involving RTE could reasonably be seen as an attempt to influence the case in favour of RTE.
Such interference is a clear breach of RTEs own editorial principles of trust, accuracy and impartiality [Section 3, RTEs Editorial Principles – Trust, Accuracy and Impartiality].
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].
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
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.
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.
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.
“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?
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.
Sinn Fein Leader Files SLAPP against RTE – No. 175.2022
Created 25 May 2022
Harassment and intimidation of journalists
Source of threat: Non-State
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]
“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?]
Council of Europe
Safety of Journalists Platform
Index on Censorship
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.