Irish journalism: Suffering from a serious malaise

demand-real-journalism-logo

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.

 

Breaking: New minister for investigative judges to be appointed

 

hqdefault

By Anthony Sheridan

Letter in today’s Irish Times regarding the latest Garda scandal.

 

Sir,

Surely the time has now come to appoint a minister for investigative judges. The said minister would be responsible for keeping us informed of the progress being made by the growing legions of such judges and, crucially, would create yet another firewall for politicians to hide behind.

Otherwise the consequences could be an extremely serious outbreak of democratic accountability.

Yours etc,

Anthony Sheridan

Cobh, Co Cork.

Irish media should be fighting gagging law

 

d01

By Anthony Sheridan

I have submitted a complaint to Newstalk management against presenter George Hook for breach of Section 42 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 (See complaint below).

This is my second complaint in recent times against Mr. Hook for breach of this particular code.  This complaint is under investigation by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and I am hopeful that a decision will be forthcoming soon.

In June 2014 I outlined my reasons for making such complaints against Mr. Hook and other broadcasters.  Here’s some of what I wrote:

The actual opinion expressed by Mr. Hook is of little importance.

What is of huge importance is to witness the implementation of a draconian, anti-democratic law specifically designed to repress what, in functional democracies, is the norm – the free expression of opinion.

Of even greater importance is the disturbing reality that this oppressive law was introduced and is being enforced with hardly a whimper from the media.

Before commenting further on the media reaction I am going to express my opinion as why this law has been introduced.

It was not introduced to protect the sensitive ears of Irish citizens from the personal opinions of broadcasters such as George Hook. It was not introduced to protect listeners from being led astray by broadcasters and it was not introduced as a result of any public demand.

It was introduced to stop outright or at least have a severe chilling effect on the media questioning of powerful people and in particular powerful politicians.

The legislation is, I believe, principally aimed at RTE because of its powerful position in the media and because of its vulnerability to political manipulation.

 

Complaint submitted to Newstalk on 29 Sep 2016

To Whom It May Concern:

I wish to lodge a formal complaint against George Hook, the presenter of the Newstalk radio programme High Noon for breach of the Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs, which came into effect on 1 July 2013 under Section 42 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

On 28 September last Mr. Hook made the following comments in response to the wearing of T-shirts in Dail Eireann by a number of politicians.

Well, in the Dail you had six Left wing TDs wearing T-shirts.  The Anti Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit TDs wore ‘Repeal’ T-shirts on the issue of the amendment of the Constitution.

This has nothing to do with the repeal in my mind.  They could have been wearing T-shirts for free to air, for rugby, for free childcare.

The point is that once again this group of Lefties have no respect for our Constitution, have no respect for our traditions, have no respect for our history in the Dail because nobody but nobody in Dail Eireann is allowed wear an emblem.

That’s the way it is, you can’t do that.  As was pointed out to these Lefties, children who came into the public gallery were wearing T-shirts and they were asked to remove the T-shirts before they were allowed into the public gallery.

Everybody else conforms except these six loonies.  And what’s even more annoying about it is, unless they are clamped down and strongly clamped down by the appropriate committee on performance then what’s next?  Water, vivisection, it could be anything.

Everybody now with a half-baked idea that they’re upset about will be able to come into the Dail and wear a T-shirt or carry a flag or whatever.

And I have to say that Paul Murphy, Richard Boyd-Barrett, Gino Kenny, Brid Smith and Mick Barry are a disgrace to the position they hold as elected members of Dail Eireann.

It is clear that Mr. Hook is expressing very strong personal and partisan views and is therefore in breach of section 4.22 of the Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Current Affairs.

I include the relevant section of the Act below for your convenience.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

4.22. It is an important part of the role of a presenter of a current affairs programme to ensure that the audience has access to a wide variety of views on the subject of the programme or item; to facilitate the expression of contributors‘ opinions – sometimes by forceful questioning; and to reflect the views of those who cannot, or choose not to, participate in content. This being so, a presenter and/or a reporter on a current affairs programme shall not express his or her own views on matters that are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate such that a partisan position is advocated.

Copy to:

Newstalk

BAI

 

 

Water protester convicted on trumped up charge

 

all-oppression-creates-a-state-of-war-quote-1

By Anthony Sheridan

This week witnessed one of the most disgraceful acts of political oppression this country has ever seen.

Water protester Derek Byrne was found guilty and fined €300 for shouting abuse at another citizen.

The only reason Mr. Byrne was convicted was because his insults were directed at a member of the ruling elite – The president, Michael D Higgins.

Mr. Byrne did not directly address Higgins; he was not even in his presence at the time. The insults were merely directed at the president’s car as it sped past a group of protesters.

Mr. Byrne was convicted on a trumped up charge for political reasons, to send a message to all those uppity peasants out there that the state will not tolerate any challenge to its power.

But in a way it was a victory for those of us who reject that corrupt power because the weaker a corrupt state becomes the more oppressive its forces become in response to those who challenge its power.

Increased oppression is an indication of failing power.

 

The people now know what you are Mr. Ross

 

image

By Anthony Sheridan

For decades Shane Ross has campaigned against political corruption. Here he is angrily attacking the system over the (corrupt) political appointment of judges.

Now what does that tell you about the system here? It tells me one thing, that you’re as bad as the ones that came before you…

What I see here today is you and your senior cabinet colleagues putting up some sort of a smokescreen but basically what you’re trying to do is defend the (corrupt) system as it always has been.

Ross was elected to challenge the corrupt political system. His decision to support the Government’s Apple appeal has betrayed that trust.

His once in a lifetime opportunity to do real damage to the corrupt system that he has fought against for so long – has evaporated.

He is now just another gombeen politician who will support the corrupt system until the people throw him out.

His betrayal is copper-fastened by his abandonment of the passionate, angry and articulate attacks on the system (as quoted above) to be replaced by the standard gombeen language of insulting, patronising platitudes.

I’m very, very keen from now on that multinationals should be seen to be paying their fair share of tax.

The people now know Mr. Ross that you too are as bad as the ones who came before you.

Copy to:

Shane Ross

Independents must decide: The people or the corrupt political system

 

power-of-the-people-quote-wael-ghonim-revolution-2

By Anthony Sheridan

Despair and extreme anger over the level of political corruption is the only reason Katherine Zappone and members of the Independence Alliance were elected to public office.

They now hold power within that corrupt political system and are facing the exact same dilemma that other political entities faced in the past – to support the corrupt system or to challenge its power and fight to bring it down.

The Progressive Democrats under Des O’Malley and Mary Harney promised the Irish people that they would rid our country of political corruption – They lied and were removed from power by the people.

Labour under Dick Spring promised the Irish people that he would rid our country of political corruption – He lied and was removed from power by the people.

The Green Party under John Gormley promised the Irish people that he would rid our country of political corruption – He lied and was removed from power by the people.

Labour under Eamon Gilmore and Joan Burton promised the Irish people that they would rid our country of political corruption – They lied and were removed from power by the people.

Now Katherine Zappone and members of the Independence Alliance have to make the same decision – the people or the corrupt political system.

If they fail to support the people they too will be removed from power and the fight will go on to rid our country of the disease of political corruption.

Ultimately, the people will win.

Copy to:

Katherine Zappone

Independent Alliance

 

Independent Alliance TDs must decide: The people or the corrupt regime

 

 

corruption (1)

By Anthony Sheridan

Every Irish citizen elected to public office and in particular those who are granted ministerial power have a decision to make:

Support and cooperate with the corrupt political system that has evolved over the past number of decades – or – challenge that system and risk having to pay a high price.

Sadly, the vast majority of elected representatives have so far opted to support and cooperate with the corrupt system resulting in enormous damage to the well being and interests of Ireland and its people.

Today members of the Cabinet will meet to discuss the European Commission’s decision that Ireland granted illegal tax benefits of up to €13 billion to Apple.

A decision by the Government to appeal the Commission’s conclusions will not serve the interests of the Irish people.

Fine Gael ministers will, as always, support the corrupt system.

Members of the Independent Alliance, as listed below, will have to decide whether to support the corrupt system or act in the interests of the Irish people.

Copy to:

Denis Naughten

Shane Ross

Katherine Zappone

Finian McGrath

John Halligan

Sean Canney

Principle of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ does not apply universally in Ireland

 

guilty-until-proven-innocent

 

By Anthony Sheridan

There seems to be a great deal of worry amongst Irish establishment figures that the Brazilians may not grant Pat Hickey the protection of the almost universal principle of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’.

Here’s former CEO of the FAI Fran Rooney on RTE yesterday.

It’s a real concern that the men’s presumption of innocence is being ignored… the whole presumption of innocence is a key issue here.

In light of the above comments it will no doubt come as a great shock to barrister Fran Rooney to learn that the ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ principle does not apply universally in Ireland.

It will come as an even greater shock to anxious establishment figures like Rooney to learn that the principal was abandoned to protect the multi-million Euro Mass card monopoly enjoyed by the Catholic Church.

Any Irish citizen who sells (even one) a Mass card without the express permission of a Catholic bishop is guilty of an offence which may result in a ten year prison sentence and/or a fine of €300,000.

This law is even more draconian than that enacted to combat ruthless drug lords. If (Catholic) Brazilian politicians were to enact such a law Irish establishment figures like Ryan Tubridy, for example, would be choking on their breakfast cereal.

To copper-fasten the law and ensure no citizen dares challenge the financial interests of the Catholic Church Irish politicians inserted the following section into the Charities Act 2009:

Section 99:

(2): In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.

So there you have it – in Irish legislation – in black and white – Guilty unless you can prove you are innocent.

Irish journalists: Puzzled by nasty treatment of elites

 

th (1)

By Anthony Sheridan

RTE journalist Aine Lawlor introduced a report on the ongoing Olympics ticket scandal in Brazil as follows:

Mr. Hickey and Kevin Mallon are both being held in the high security Bangu prison. They’re sharing prison space with convicted murderers, drug traffickers and gang members.

There are two reasons Irish journalists make such comments.

One: It tends to degrade the reputation of the police, prison service and civil service of the country involved suggesting that officialdom in that country does not operate to the high standards of a Western democratic country like Ireland.

Two: Establishment journalists like Lawlor are puzzled when powerful elites are forced to share prison space with ‘ordinary’ criminals. They are disturbed by this treatment of the elite because they never witness it in Ireland and therefore think it’s abnormal, barbaric behaviour.

Shane Ross: Breaking the rules of his own political class

 

 

austerity

By Anthony Sheridan

The first rule of Irish mainstream media when it comes to corruption is – under no circumstances whatsoever should the issue be actually addressed, analysed or even mentioned.

So we had the usual conservative pro-establishment packed panel on the Marian Finucane Show last Sunday discussing the Olympic ticket corruption scandal.

But, sticking strictly to the rule, the issued of corruption was completely ignored as the panel focused on attacking the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross over his handling of the scandal.

The reason for such attacks on Ross is clear. Although he is an establishment insider himself, he has been breaking another golden rule of the ruling elite – he actually investigates and reports on the rampant corruption within his own political/media class.

This is an unforgiveable sin and attracts vicious rants laced with lies from people like former Labour minister for State Aodhan O’Riordan.

The issue here is that anybody who shared the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with Shane Ross over the last five years know exactly the way he operates. There is no reputation that he is not happy to have a complete go at in order to get five minutes publicity out of, this is the way he has operated for a long time.

Copy to:

Marian Finucane Show

Aodhan O’Riordan

Shane Ross