Irish journalism: Suffering from a serious malaise


By Anthony Sheridan


A well-informed, objective media is one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy. Journalists in a healthy democracy do not just report news and current affairs; they also have a duty to be rigidly impartial in their analysis of events.

Disturbingly, Irish journalism comes nowhere near the standards necessary to robustly challenge the State and its agents particularly when it comes to political corruption.

The recent publication of Hell at the Gates by journalists John Lee and Daniel McConnell is just the latest example of the disquietingly close and frequently grovelling relationship between the media and those who wield power within the Irish political system.

John Lee, writing about an interview he conducted with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen as part of his research for the book provides us with a good example of this cringing, extremely deferential type of journalism.

The (Irish Mail on Sunday) article is not available online so I have reproduced it in full below.

The headline gives a good indication of the tone of the article:

An astute, self-aware, intelligent man

Before making further comment on the article I want to express my opinion of Brian Cowen, an opinion that I believe is held by the majority of Irish people.

At best, Cowen is a political idiot. I do not say this as an insult (although it obviously is); I say it because it’s a simple fact. Cowen is nothing more than your typical Fianna Fail backwoodsman, gombeen politician who never had to do anything courageous or visionary to reach the apex of political power.

As a privileged member of one of the many political family dynasties that have plagued Irish politics since independence he was effectively handed power following the death of his father.

He was literally enthroned as Taoiseach by the disgraced Bertie Ahern who was forced to resign after his true pedigree was exposed at a tribunal.

But when Cowen, for the first and only occasion in his mediocre career, was called upon to show courage and vision in leading the nation he failed miserably.

As one editorial put it:

The worst Taoiseach in the history of the State.

And yet a stranger reading John Lee’s article could easily conclude that Brian Cowen was a politically intelligent, insightful and courageous man whose overriding mission in life was to promote the best interests of the Irish people.

A stranger reading the article would not see what most Irish people see.

That Cowen is a loyal member of the most corrupt political party in Ireland, the party that promotes the interests of property developers, bankers and other members of the golden circle that feed off the wealth of the Irish people.

A stranger reading the article would not see that Cowen is a loyal member of the party principally responsible for the economic disaster of 2008 that destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens.

However, a stranger who informed himself of Irish history over the past several decades would immediately recognise the rampaging elephant in the room – which is:

The Irish political system is seriously corrupt. In reaction to this political corruption a significant percentage of Irish citizens have rejected the legitimacy of the State and are in open rebellion.

A disturbingly large proportion of Irish journalists are either blissfully unaware of this dramatic shift in the political landscape or are willing collaborators in defence of the corrupt system.

Either way Irish journalism is suffering from a serious malaise that is not only bad for the profession but is having a very serious negative impact on Ireland and its people.

Copy to:

John Lee

Daniel McConnell


John Lee’s article – judge for yourself:

When Brian Cowen agreed to meet me for an interview for the book my colleague Daniel McConnell and I were writing, I didn’t really expect him to give anything away.

We sat on straight-back chairs at a table in a quiet corner of the Tullamore Court Hotel. I drank tea he drank mineral water. We discussed family (his brother Barry Cowen had been pivotal in securing the interview for me), mutual friends in politics, and a shared interest in golf.

When the iPhone recorder went on, he was ready. What followed was an insightful, forthright and considered summing up of his years at the top of Irish politics.

It’s said of Lyndon Johnson, that he was at his best with an audience of one. I think this applies to Cowen. He uses your first name, looks you in the eye, is exceptionally articulate and sharp. In the fog of war that engulfed Ireland during his years at the top, much of this was forgotten. Yet he understands why that is.

He spoke about how he felt the day he became Taoiseach, the enjoyment of appointing a cabinet and the brief summer of calm before all hell broke loose.

Bright man that he is, he knew there were claims about him that he had to confront. As the interview progressed I merely pointed to where we were in the chronology, and without pause he would take on the issues that he has been given so much time to think about over those preceding four years. He happily accepted he had made a mistake in not addressing the nation.

When we got to the incident at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway in 2010, dubbed Garglegate, Mr. Cowen was also ready. He’s been crucified for it, and knew exactly what had happened – and was happy to tell his version of it, which was by no means self-serving. I had been at the Ardilaun too, and the press only asked questions about the previous night’s social session because Simon Coveney had tweeted critical remarks about Mr. Cowen’s performance on Morning Ireland.

Mr. Cowen blames Coveney for that debacle. But he proceeded for almost 10 minutes (a long time in an interview like this) to discuss his PR failures.

He revealed himself to an astute, self-aware and intelligent man.

The great pity is, perhaps, that when he was in charge he couldn’t find a way to reveal more of this side of himself to the Irish public.


Labour: In the same political sewer as Fianna Fail


By Anthony Sheridan

I see ex Labour TD/Minister Kathleen Lynch is claiming that her party was punished for putting the country first.

This puts her in the same camp as Brian Cowen and his gang of incompetents who also claimed they were punished for doing the right thing by the country.

It’s pathetic but not at all surprising that Labour, because of its betrayal, finds itself in the same political sewer as Fianna Fail.

Political buffoon Cowen still blaming others for his incompetence

I see political buffoon Biffo Cowen is still blaming others for the catastrophe he and his party visited upon Ireland and its people.

The prevailing advice from the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation in Europe, plus most domestic commentary with one or two exceptions was – ‘that this would not end the way it did’.

So there you go, nothing to do with his incompetence or his party’s history of corruption.

On the suffering caused by the economic crisis Cowen said:

It is very difficult, it has caused a lot of problems for people, I am very conscious of it. There is no one more sorry about this than I am.

Somehow, I’d say the thousands of citizens being thrown out of their homes as a result of this buffoon’s incompetence are a tad sorrier particularly when the witness the massive pensions he draws down as they burn.

Cowen delivers State of the Nation speech – a year after being thrown out of office

Some guy called Deaglan De Breadun wrote an article about some guy called Brian Cowen who was leader of some country called Ireland.

Apparently, this Cowen guy had some sort of leadership role in Ireland and has just delivered a state of the nation address on the major crisis evolving in that country – a year after being thrown out of office.

In the 8,400 word speech the Cowen guy blames the international financial crisis and the people of Ireland for everything.

He makes a strong case for a more orderly and better-regulated economic order instead of the anarchic greed and avarice that brought us (the world) to our present sorry state.

An electorate that has learnt to vote according to its pocket-book and local or sectional concerns rather than the broader national interest.

The De Breadun guy obviously has great admiration for this Cowen guy, which, in all sympathy, is a pretty sad way to live.

As for the Cowen guy – well, he’s just sad.

Cowen: A gombeen right to the end

Letter in today’s Irish Times.


It is frankly sickening that the caretaker Taoiseach, a man who did not even offer himself to the electorate and is not now a member of the Oireachtas, should dare to appoint a failed Fianna Fáil election candidate to the Senate (“FF’s Darragh O’Brien appointed to Seanad”, Breaking News, March 3rd). To the bitter end and beyond, they have learned nothing at all.

Yours, etc,

Hugo Brady Brown,

Stratford on Slaney,

Co Wicklow.

Cowen: Don't worry no one died

The outgoing Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, had the population of Killeigh in fits of laughter at the weekend as he unveiled a bronze statue of the famous 1920s greyhound, Mick The Miller (Irish Independent).

Chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board Dick O’Sullivan in defence of Mr. Cowen’s term in office said:

Every decent Irish person should feel angered and embarrassed by the treatment that has been meted out to him over the last 12 months.

Cowen responded:

Whatever we do, no one died as they say, and we won’t lose our sense of humour.

Recent report in the Irish Independent.

A preliminary hearing at Dublin City Corner’s Court into the death of Rachel Peavoy (30) was told that the young woman died from hypothermia and that continued appeals to turn back on her central heating fell on deaf ears.

The court heard that Housing Minister Noel Ahern made representations on behalf of Ms Peavoy, after she was told her heating would not be reconnected during the freak cold snap last January, which saw temperatures plummet well below zero.

The court heard that the council told the young mother that this was impossible because flats around her were vacant due to regeneration.

(Irish Independent)

Gombeens in the political pigsty

Deep anger and utter disgust was my reaction to the moronic behavior of our gombeen politicians (from all parties) in our national parliament last Wednesday.

We witnessed a gombeen Taoiseach, supported by his gombeen party, slagging off a gombeen Opposition.

It was all fun and games with laughter all around as if this gombeen body politic had nothing to do with the absolute destruction of our country.

Our idiot of a Taoiseach was so impressed with his performance that he instructed his staff to email an internet link of his moronic behaviour to supporters.

Amid all the pigsty politics the imbecile revealed the contempt in which he holds our national parliament when, having triggered a laugh from his supporters at the expense of Enda Kenny, he declared:

It’s worth coming in here for half an hour.

So let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening here.

Brian Cowen is a non entity; he’s nothing more than a drunken fool who managed to float to the top of a cesspool political party that operates within a corrupt political system.

His exit from politics will be a non event; the destruction of his corrupt party will be a non event and the succession of Fine Gael and Labour to power will be a non event because it will make little or no difference to what is urgently required before Ireland can become a genuine democracy – the complete destruction of our corrupt political system.

Copy to:
Fianna Fail

Cowen's last fan

For pure entertainment it’s worth listening to the giggling joy and admiration expressed by Sunday Times political reporter Sarah McInereny when asked by Matt Cooper what she thought of Cowen’s performance in the Dail last Wednesday (Today FM, podcast).

Positively exuberant, I mean I think he was just in the best form I think I have ever seen him in the last two and a half years since he became Taoiseach.

I mean everybody was looking at each other, it seems that the relief and tension of the last couple of days was spilling over into this joy really and excellent form really, he was laughing and looking at the press gallery and looking around the room and most relaxed I’ve seen him in a long time.

I think he’s happy to have the last couple of days over with and the tension and stress of the last couple of days.

I think everyone needed a laugh and everyone is willing to join in the laugh and have a bit of a good time.

Yes Sarah, we’re all going to have a laugh and a good time – On 11th March.

Cowen: The Mad Hatter

From an Alice in Wonderland website:

Although she understands the meanings of each individual word he (The Mad Hatter) uses, Alice is often unable to find meaning in a statement as a whole.

Cowen on recent events.

If he had any other dealings with Sean Fitzpatrick (Six One News)

From facts within my own knowledge I didn’t have any other dealings.

On denying he asked NTMA’s Michael Somers to intervene on behalf of Anglo Irish Bank (Six One News)

I suppose the best way of deciding whether it happened or not is to know whether I did (pause) and I didn’t.